Friday, 16 April 2010

2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption: its efffects on Air Transport

The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull yesterday has had a significant impact on air travel around the North Sea area and even extending across the Baltic and into northern Europe.

The ejection of tones of ash into the air space of the region has grounded air traffic.

The reason for this is the fear that ash particles can cause the Jet engines used in all (major) modern air passenger.

Exactly this situation (an engine shutdown) has been caused in the past when a 747 was diverted to Jakarta, causing Air Safety authorities to shut down air traffic in the effected air space now.

This makes me wonder about exactly how "robust" our present system is.

Sure, volcanic eruptions don't happen every day, but what if they became more frequent? Iceland is well placed (and a well know volcanic location) to essentially bring air traffic to a halt in Northern Europe.

Its an interesting question, more so to me sitting here now watching the chaos around me which I have just so narrowly avoided (we essentially got on about the last flight out of that airspace this morning).

Perhaps it is a design restriction of the Jet engine (which works using high velocity air intakes and high speed blades) which makes it inherently more sensitive to air quality. I'm uncertain right now if this has any effect on piston engine air craft, which work quite differently and have air filters before the air intake.

Back in the eruption of Mt St Helens similar problems were encountered, I believe for the first time in modern history. Since Jet aircraft are such new things, perhaps with our short experience (of depending on this type of technology) that this may become an important issue as we move forwards.

1 comment:

Noons said...

I'm starting to worry about this. My auntie is due to leave for Sweden via Bangkok and Copenhagen near the end of the month and this thing shows no signs of abating! Gonna start looking at her situation very soon. Last thing I need is for her to be stranded in Bangkok with all the civil unrest there!