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Western-European airspace closure in progress

Started by Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers, Thu, 15 Apr 2010 15:31

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Pretty impressive operation, due to the large ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano which drifts over Western Europe.

[edit] No, I won't post a certain picture of a flight deck of a 744 aircraft after such a hit  :mrgreen:


Certainly is impressive!

It has delayed my middle brother's flight tonight from LGW to Dubai and onwards to Australia. Next available flight Monday night!

Captain as was Moody has been in the news explaining how dangerous volcanic ash was and his experiences in a 747 that lost all engines!

Holger Wende


Aviation Weather -> High Level Significant Forecast.

Extension of the ash cloud is very impressive. Let's see how this will affect global mobility... :roll:

Regards, Holger

Holger Wende

Someone recently requsted not to mention that black stuff being blown out of that damn mountain...  :twisted:

Well, but this time Jeroen himself brought it up again.
Maybe just to tease us  :mrgreen:

Phil Bunch

What does the sky look like from the ground during the eruptions, from the affected areas of Europe?  Does it just look like a cloudy day or is it hazy, low-altitude or high-altitude clouds?  Is there much ash fallout onto the ground surfaces?  

I have visions of Europe being buried in 10 cm of gray/black ash!

Many of the US news stories are saying that some previous major Icelandic eruptions have continued for several years, which is hard to even think about...
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Peter Lang

Hi Phil,

the sky looks as usual this late afternoon in Würzburg. Light blue with some light yellow-grey stripes in the air, especially visible at the horizon, which may contain normal dust, smoke or volcanic ash..

Perhaps the sky is a little bit lighter blue than "normal". But if I did not know anything about the volcano, I would not mention it.

One thing is really strange:
no air traffic, no vapor trails, no approach or departure traffic from EDDF which normaly passes the Würzburg area all day and night. Silence in the air. It's more silent as on christmas eve.... This is really scary.


Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Some ash cloud pictures -- technically, but you don't really see it:

Scary web site:
(Dutch air space closed on April 15, 18:00 local time)
You can use the calendar and the horizontal time slider to set April 15, 14:00 hours. Put the accelleration on 100x and enjoy.
Especially the two blue (KLM) planes over the Dutch-German border that thought they could get in after 18:00 hours  :)

Phil Bunch

Thanks for the real-time updates.

Based on US news media, I had visions of it being as dark as night during the day and having to slog through many centimeters of volcanic ash as Europe fills up with ash.  The news services also show views from satellites with apparently heavy ash clouds covering western Europe.  They don't seem to mention that the clouds are barely if at all visible from the ground.

For example, see this story:

An excerpt:

"A dark and spectacular volcanic cloud shrouded much of northern Europe on Thursday, forcing airlines to cancel thousands of flights as it drifted at high altitude south and east from an erupting volcano in Iceland. The shutdown of airspace was one of the most sweeping ever ordered in peacetime, amid fears that travel could continue to be delayed days after the cloud dissipates."

With the mass market news media also claiming that the volcano may intermittently erupt for years, a scenario of Europe without air travel has also been proposed.

Fortunately, worst case scenarios rarely come true!
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Hardy Heinlin

Shiv Mathur

Hardy Heinlin

Ha! Hilarious, Shiv. Great landing.

How large are the wings actually?

... and taxi and park directly at the petrol station in the city :-)


Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Bright, sunny day over here. Blue skies, no clouds at all, nothing. And, no contrails... spooky  :)

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Apparently a KLM 737 with a skeleton crew of volunteers without families has made a test flight above the country, and all operations have been postponed again until Sunday.

Phil Bunch

I predict that Europe will begin intermittent air travel by no later than 2087!

Seriously, how will the air space be cleared in each sub-region if the volcano stays intermittent for a substantial time?  I can't imagine taking a 747 and flying it around the skies each morning.

Is there some way to accurately measure the ash content and composition from the ground or satellite?  

Are there official internationally accepted or EU-accepted standards for concentration and composition for volcanic ash?  In some situations, uncertainty is worse than certain knowledge.

The sky may not be falling but apparently that isn't the only way "Chicken Little" could raise an alarm of concern.
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

It looks like the industry at large is now trying to find out exactly where they should draw the line. Historic evidence heavily suggests that you should stay way clear of the plume itself, nobody disputes this. But downwind, the ashes dilute down to a point that you would reduce your engine/windshield life by flying through, yet it would be safe, and you can calculate whether the increased maintenance costs are lower or higher than the lost income.

Probably the end result will be something like a "strictly no fly" zone, bordered with an "emergencies and special clearance only" zone, bordered by a "known ash presence" zone. Designated flights, likely by the operators themselves, would penetrate the "special clearance zone" during daytime and clear of visible clouds, to test the waters and give ash updates, just as now is being done with weather.


Shiv Mathur

But these 'zones' would vary from hour to hour, wouldn't they ?


JH edit: typo fix

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

Yes, hence the necessity to integrate this all with ATC. It fits nicely in the European SESAR and US NextGen programmes that try to move away from fixed routes and allow for per-mission trajectory. These new systems would enable in-flight re-routings at a much higher rate than today, as everything would already be dynamic.

Of course, not for today... maybe in ten years. The volcano thingy may actually speed these programmes up as it provides a definite financial incentive to install extra equipment RSN   :mrgreen:

A recent posting at the Roger-Wilco air traffic blog also offers interesting angles at this problem.


Edit: Roger-Wilco blog link added

Shiv Mathur

(Thanks for the typo-fix.  Yes, of course 'vary', not 'very').

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

You're welcome.

I just spotted a Martinair 744 freighter and a KLM 744 combi taking off from Schiphol heading East (Martinair to Sharjah, UAE; KLM to Bangkok). Probably the Eastbound long-haulers are the logical choice to start up the network, but the fact that they have four engines may also help  :)


Michel Vandaele

Hi Jeroen,
Are these empty testflights, as this is very strange. All notams for the Netherlands still stated that the airspace is close.
This is also so for Germany etc.
B. Rgds
Board member  FSCB
EBOS Scenery Designteam
My B744 project