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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On the air travel drama in the EU, 04. 2010

For the last few days, Europe is in complete chaos. People are stuck on all kind of airports around Europe and around the world, hotels abuse the situation and make sure they profit the most, trains are full, the drama is complete. We hear continuous voices about how the whole issues has been handled and ESPECIALLY on the closing of European airspace.
I can understand the frustration and the pain of so many people whose plans have been shattered and who have to survive stranded on places they no longer want to be, alone or with children, usually without money, trying to get from one point to the other, along with everyone else. It's hard.
What I cannot understand however is stupidity. Well manipulated one! Because suddenly everyone started blaming governments for their preventive and cautious measures. HELLO! YOU are ready to go trough a strip search or naked scanner just for the security of that air plane. Then how is it possible that you're unhappy with that measures? If chances are that every 5th plane will fall or endure dramatic failures during flight, will you go on that plane? If chances are that every 10th plane will fall?! Or ever 100th plane? Do you know how many flights are there in Europe each day? Thousands! So the chances that exactly your plane may be affected are quite BIG! And even if you're ready to risk, how could authorities be ready to risk it? If they allow air traveling and something like this happens, who will be the one to take the responsibility and go to court over his/her decision?!
I'm really amazed that people are ready so easily to sacrifice the security of their flights for REAL danger, when they are ready to submit to all kind of humiliating measures because of some virtual danger of terrorism.
And note - the volcano is still erupting, even more volcanoes joined yesterday (one in Kamchatka), meaning even more ashes in the air. Also note - the altitude of the ashes is >6km. Which means that they will be in the range of high altitude flights (which in Europe are most, I think). And that even if the planes fly higher, they will have to pass trough the ashes on ascent or descent meaning when the engines are going trough most strain. Does this sound safe?
And even if I'm wrong on this rough estimation, because I'm not a pilot myself or engineer, we know that British Airways did a test flight yesterday. I didn't hear of the results, but considering the fact that British Airports are mostly still closed, I think it's clear that the test flight didn't go so well.
So I personally cannot understand how could people possibly don't get it. And if that eruption is not going to stop, I think it's time air companies to consider re-routing of flights and then hiring buses or trains on their own. Because we know that Spain, South Italy, Bulgaria and Greece are ok for flying. Then it's nothing easier than just rerouting the planes to those airports and then taking another transport. It's not cheap, it's not quick, but if that volcano is not going to stop, then all those people have to have a safe way home. And since all of those countries are in the EU (and Serbia was kind enough to allow traveling only with IDs), it won't be too hard to arrange such trips. And it might be cheaper if governments regulate the prices of land-transport.
I can only hope that the situation will get better eventually, but not on all costs. I think it's crucial for us to take the moral of the situation and to make the land-infrastructure better, the engines of the airplanes tougher and everything else to ensure other similar situations won't affect us that much. Because the Earth is waking up, no matter how much they try to hide it. And in this case, it's up to us to find a way to survive without too much drama.

And yeah, finally. We heard that air companies voiced their concern and worries about over-reacting to the danger. They are worried mostly because of their missed profits, of course. But I wonder, do this concern has anything to do with the fact that oil companies lose ~$ 1mln. /a day (I think) because of the stopped flights. And I wonder why people's safety should depend on the whim of oil producers. I don't mind rich people, but I think human life is the most important!
Edit: Here's an article on the issue, it's not just me, obviously!

"There is a stark difference of opinion between experts in academia and airlines, but the European Union's top transport official said the EU would not compromise on safety. NATO took the threat seriously enough to limit military exercises after volcanic glass built up in fighter engines.

Few people dispute the damage that volcanic ash can wreak inside a modern turbofan engine, after a British Airways jumbo jet narrowly avoided disaster over Indonesia in 1982 when all four of its engines stalled at 37,000 feet due to ingested ash.

Volcanic ash contains minute particles of angular rock and silicates which can strip away the aerodynamic surfaces and instruments and deposit a glass-like coating inside the engine.

"

And here, you can find a stunning picture of the eruption!

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