Archive for May 16th, 2010

16
May
10

U.K. and Ireland shut some airspace due to ash cloud

NEWS
U.K. and Ireland shut some airspace due to ash cloud

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Earth

••• Several British and Irish airports have closed as the ash cloud returned, drifting south and east following fresh eruptions from the Icelandic volcano.

Manchester Airport in northwest England and Dublin Airport, among the 20 busiest in Europe, were among those affected by the cloud on Sunday, with the ash levels deemed too dangerous to fly through.

Manchester – Britain’s busiest airport outside London, where airports were so far unaffected – was among a host of northern British airports to shut from 08:00 am EDT to 02:00 pm EDT (12:00 pm GMT to 06:00 pm GMT), including all those in Northern Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland’s main airport, was to close from 02:00 pm EDT until at least 04:00 am EDT (06:00 pm GMT until at least 08:00 am GMT) on Monday.

Europe’s skies were closed for up to a week last month following the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano, in the biggest shutdown of the continent’s airspace since World War II.
The volcanic ash, which can cause serious damage to jet engines, has continued to cause disruption on a smaller scale in certain parts of Europe.

A vulcanologist from the University of Iceland said Eyjafjoell activity had worsened in recent days.

‘There is slightly increased activity for the past two days, there has been some ash fall around the glacier,’ said Bjoern Oddsson, who was travelling to the volcano to assess the new situation.

‘The column (of smoke) has increased and rises up to eight kilometres,’ he told AFP, as opposed to six kilometres in previous days.

As for the effect on European flights triggered by the rise in activity, that ‘all depends on the winds’, said the geologist from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland.

Travelling southwards towards the Atlantic Ocean, it should turn towards inner Iceland on Tuesday, according to weather forecasts.

In Britain, the other airports shut from 08:00 am EDT to 02:00 pm EDT as the no-fly zone extended southwards and eastwards were regional air hubs such as East Midlands, Liverpool, Leeds-Bradford, Doncaster and Humberside.

Some Scottish airports, including their fourth busiest, Prestwick, shut down, while all Northern Ireland airports closed for the period. Isle of Man airport also shut.

National Air Traffic Services, which manages British airspace, said the no-fly zone had moved east and south for the six-hour period, and it would issue further updates as necessary.

Britain’s Department of Transport had warned on Saturday British airspace was likely to face partial closures from Sunday until Tuesday due to the volcanic ash cloud.

London airports, including Europe’s busiest air hub, Heathrow, could be affected, it said.

Eurostar, which runs high-speed rail services linking London with Paris and Brussels via the Channel tunnel, said it was laying on extra trains to meet an expected surge in demand.

‘We’ve planned four extra trains on Monday,’ a spokeswoman told AFP. ‘Two between London and Paris and two between Paris and London. It’s because the trains are already very busy and have very little capacity left.’

In the Republic of Ireland, Cork and Shannon remain open until further notice, while Ireland West (Knock), Donegal and Sligo airports remain closed until at least 07:00 am EDT (11:00 am GMT) on Monday.

Kerry is open until further notice, Galway is closed until at least 04:00 am EDT (08:00 am GMT) on Monday and Waterford is to close from 06:00 pm EDT (10:00 pm) until at least 04:00 am EDT (08:00 am GMT) on Monday.

North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected.

In Scandinavia, the skies were open over Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and should remain so until at least Monday night.

There were no restrictions on German flights. Ash pollution should remain weak until at least Tuesday.
» Millions watch Iceland volcano online – Mila ehf – Lífæð samskipta
» Check your flight information here: American, Delta, United, Continental, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Aer Arann, easyJet, Flybe, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Iberia, TAP, Qantas, JAT
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.), Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), British Department of Transport (DfT), Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Sky News (BSkyB)
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16
May
10

BP: Mile-long tube sucking oil away from Gulf well

NEWS
BP: Mile-long tube sucking oil away from Gulf well

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Earth

••• BP has succeeded in capturing some oil and gas by inserting a mile-long tube into the main Gulf of Mexico leak, but did not say what percentage of the gusher was being contained.

A statement on the latest efforts to control the massive slick off Louisiana and stave off an environmental disaster said a tube had been inserted into the leaking pipe overnight and captured ‘some amounts of oil and gas’.

The process, which saw oil sucked up as if through a straw to a giant drill ship on the surface, comes after President Barack Obama blasted the companies involved for seeking to shift blame and shirk responsibility.

‘The oil was stored on board the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship 5000 feet above on the water’s surface, and natural gas was burned through a flare system on board the ship,’ the statement said.

BP said it had been forced to halt the effort temporarily when the tube was dislodged from the leaking riser pipe, which connected the Deepwater Horizon to a subsea well until the rig exploded and sank last month, killing 11 workers.

‘While this is disappointing, it is not unexpected given the challenging operating environment,’ the statement said. ‘Technicians have fully inspected the system and have re-inserted the tool.’

BP, under increasing pressure to stem the flow of crude – estimated to be at least 210,000 gallons a day – did not say what quantities of oil and gas were being sucked up the tube to the drill ship.

‘While not collecting all of the leaking oil, this tool is an important step in reducing the amount of oil being released into Gulf waters,’ the statement said.

With sheen from the slick now washing ashore in three southern U.S. Gulf states, BP is under massive pressure from officials who have told the firm to clarify what costs it will pay for cleanup.

Fresh analysis of enormous plumes of oil just under the surface of the Gulf meanwhile suggested the spill was far worse than previously estimated.

One was reported to be 10 miles long, three miles wide and 300 feet thick.

Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology said the plumes were ‘perhaps due to the deep injection of dispersants which BP has stated that they are conducting’.

Response crews have so far used about 560,000 gallons of the controversial chemical dispersants, spraying them onto surface oil and also directly onto the leak to break up the oil.

Some environmentalists suggest this makes the oil sink but not dissolve completely.

‘There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,’ University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye told The New York Times.

Oxygen levels have meanwhile dropped 30 per cent near the plumes, in an ‘alarming’ trend that is endangering marine life, said Joye, who is on a scientific mission to gather details about the environmental disaster.

On Sunday a large concert in New Orleans was drawing crowds to support Gulf fishermen, whose livelihoods are threatened by the oil spill.

Rock musician Lenny Kravitz was to head a line-up of about 30 groups for the gig to benefit the fishermen who have seen vast swaths of their waters closed by the growing spill.

Obama on Friday accused executives from the three firms most tied to the disaster of creating a ‘ridiculous spectacle’ of finger-pointing and passing the buck.

Two of his top cabinet members have sought to hold BP to public promises it has made to pay all the costs of the containment and clean-up of the spill, which has run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a letter released on Saturday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called on BP chief executive Tony Hayward to provide ‘immediate public clarification of BP’s true intentions’.

They said BP’s public statements suggested the British energy giant would not seek to have a liability cap applied to claims against it, and would not ask for taxpayer dollars or tap into a liability fund.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard told AFP oil was washing ashore in at least two new locations – Whiskey Island, Louisiana and Long Beach, Mississippi.

‘We sent crews to assess what type of oil, and we determined it’s ‘soft patties’ on Whiskey Island and ‘tar balls’ on Long Beach,’ said Petty Officer Erik Swanson.

Oil has also washed ashore on barrier islands in Alabama.
• Source(s): AFP, AP and BP plc
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16
May
10

Volcanic ash risk and British Airways strikes threaten more air misery

NEWS
Volcanic ash risk and British Airways strikes threaten more air misery
Sunday, May 16, 2010

NEWS••• Travel chaos is set to return to Britain with fresh threats from an Icelandic volcano and of British Airways cabin crew strikes.

British aviation authorities on Sunday reintroduced a no-fly zone over parts of Northern Ireland as the volcanic ash cloud returned to the skies over the U.K..

They also warned some of the U.K.’s busiest airports, including London’s Heathrow, could close in coming days if the ash cloud drifts southwards as forecast.

The return of the ash cloud, which caused the mass closure of British and European airports in April, comes ahead of a planned five-day strike by British Airways cabin crew on Tuesday in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

British Airways will seek an injunction in the High Court in London on Monday in an attempt to stop the strike, which threatens the travel plans of thousands of the airline’s customers around the world.

If the strike goes ahead, it is likely to compound problems caused by the return of the ash cloud.

In Northern Ireland on Sunday, Belfast International and Belfast City airports as well as Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man all had flights cancelled until at least 01:00 pm BST (08:00 am EDT).

Britain’s Transport Department warned there could be further disruption across the country until the middle of the week thanks to ash blowing across from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoell.

The ash cloud is expected to reach London by Tuesday, threatening the cancellation of flights at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports.

Forecasters believe the ash cloud will begin to drift away from the U.K. on Wednesday when the wind direction is expected to change.

Air passengers travelling to and from Britain in coming days are being warned to check with their airlines before heading to airports to find out if their flights have been cancelled.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the government was carefully monitoring the situation and that passenger safety was its main concern.

‘We have taken the decision to publish five-day forecasts as we want airlines, other transport providers and the public to have the best possible information,’ he said.

‘However, the situation remains fluid and these forecasts are always liable to change.

‘NATS – the U.K.’s air traffic services provider – will advise of any airspace closures as and when they become necessary and I urge passengers to check with their airlines before taking any action.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond is preparing to intervene in the dispute between BA and its cabin crew in an attempt to avert up to 20 days of planned strikes in the next four weeks.

Mr. Hammond is to hold emergency talks with both sides on Monday.

British Airways insists that 70 percent of flights, will still operate if cabin crew walk off the job.
» Cabin crew will walk out from May 18 to 22, May 24 to 28, May 30 to June 3 and June 5 to 9, which will cover the school half-term holidays and a bank holiday.
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
» Check your flight information here: British Airways

• Source(s): U.K. Press & British Airways

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16
May
10

Volcanic ash cloud shuts parts of E.U. airspace

NEWS
Volcanic ash cloud shuts parts of E.U. airspace
Sunday, May 16, 2010

Earth

••• Volcanic ash from Iceland could disrupt air travel in both Britain and Germany in the next few days, officials say.

The British Department of Transport said on Saturday there’s a risk that parts of British airspace could be closed beginning on Sunday and those problems could continue until Tuesday. The predictions are based on the continuing eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano and current wind and weather conditions.

It said different parts of British airspace – including England’s southeast, home to Europe’s busiest airport at Heathrow as well as Gatwick, Stansted and other top airports – could close at different times through the next few days.

In Germany, air traffic control spokesman Axel Raab told The Associated Press that German air travel could face possible disruptions starting on Monday, but cautioned that indicators are still ‘very, very vague’.

Germany will send up a test flight on Sunday to measure the ash concentration, German Aerospace Center spokesman Andreas Schuetz said – a measure welcomed by Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, which last month criticised air traffic authorities for their lack of ash testing.

Any decision on German air space closures will be made after examining Sunday’s weather forecasts at an emergency meeting with meteorologists, Raab said.

In Iceland, civil protection official Agust Gunnar Gylfason said the intensity of the Eyjafjallajokul eruption has not changed but wind conditions have.

‘The winds in the vicinity of the volcano are not quite as forceful as they have been, so the ash plume is higher closer to the volcano,’ he said. ‘The weather patterns are the predominant factor in deciding where the ash goes.’

The Met Office, Britain’s weather forecaster, said on Saturday the wind is expected to change direction on Tuesday, which would lower the risk of travel disruptions.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said five-day forecasts are now being published to give airlines and travellers ‘the best possible information. However, he said the situation ‘remains fluid and these forecasts are always liable to change’.
British airport operator BAA said on its website on Saturday that all of its facilities are open, but the ash cloud ‘continues to cause occasional problems’. It said it will have a clearer idea of how the ash could affect southern England over the next 24 hours.

Airlines, including Lufthansa and British Airways, have criticised past air space closures as an overreaction by regulators.

The controversy over how to handle the flight disruptions led to the resignation of a top Lufthansa executive, news weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

Stefanie Stotz, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa, confirmed that chief security pilot Juergen Steinberg is leaving ‘by mutual agreement’ on August 1. He had criticised Lufthansa’s leadership for operating flights under visual flight rules while German airspace was still officially closed because of the ash cloud.

Steinberg represents about 4000 pilots and advises Lufthansa’s board on security issues.

In Rome, Italy’s civil aviation agency fined Ryanair about three million euros ($3.81 million) for failing to help 178 passengers stranded last month when flights were cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud. The ENAC agency said those Ryanair passengers didn’t receive mandatory assistance such as food, drink and lodgings during the April 15-22 flight shutdown across much of Europe.

Ryanair said the company hadn’t been informed of the fine.
» Millions watch Iceland volcano online – Mila ehf – Lífæð samskipta
» Check your flight information here: American, Delta, United, Continental, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Aer Arann, easyJet, Flybe, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Iberia, TAP, Qantas, JAT
» Important information – British Airways Industrial Action, travel to / from Thailand and Volcanic Flight Disruptions
• Source(s): EUROCONTROL, Met Office (U.K.), Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), British Department of Transport (DfT), German Aerospace Center (DLR) and ITN
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