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Western-European airspace closure in progress

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

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

They are not empty, but they have special clearance and no passengers. Cargo and air crews deadheading to take other planes back in. Airspace is still closed except for these controlled tests that at the same time prepare for the network startup when possible.

KLM wants to bring in a number of planes from Düsseldorf, empty, ASAP and this is also expected to be done under special clearance.


Jeroen

frumpy

you noticed it... no contrails on the sky?

whats next...? no cars, pleez...  back to nature.. :o

Michel Vandaele

Hi Jeroen,
Yep, here also Brussels Airlines, TNT and JetAirFly are starting to ferry their aircraft back into EBBR.
It looks something is moving in the good direction.
B. Rgds
Michel
Michel VANDAELE
Board member  FSCB
EBOS Scenery Designteam
My B744 project
http://users.telenet.be/michel.vandaele/sim1.htm

Phil Bunch

An interesting set of FAQ about the volcanic ash cloud(s), aviation, and the regulations.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/apr/20/iceland-volcano-your-questions-answered/print

Based on my very limited understanding, a basic problem continues to be that there are no ash concentration and composition specs below which it is currently considered safe to fly.  Also, the problems of inadequate ash instrumentation and data continue.  

Hitting pocket(s) of higher density ash and leading to airliner damage or similar issues would not be a good situation, likely leading to even more conservative restrictions.

One hopes that (1) the active volcano goes dormant and that (2) the nearby volcano that has also erupted during 3/4 of the historical eruptions stays dormant.

We somehow need to quickly learn to manage volcanic ash in the same way that we manage weather, icing conditions, etc.  This requires a lot of research and much more extensive instrumentation.
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Holger Wende

#24
Quote from: Phil Bunch...This requires a lot of research and much more extensive instrumentation.
Hi Phil,

The German Aeropace Center (DLR) has started research of the ash concentration and composition using their specialised atmospheric research aircraft Dassault Falcon 20E.
I guess this is a good start to learn more about volcanic ash.

I assume annother challenge finally will be to define common reasonable limits for combinations of ash concentration and composition for safe flying that are agreed by all countries.

I can imagine, that for the engine manufacturers it is extremely hard to identify reasonably safe limits based on pure technical facts.
But such thresholds, like limits about environmental pollution, are often also political/economic decisions which makes the decision finding even more difficult.

Even without knowledge of the ash cloud details, the European countries do not have common procedure (yet).

E.g. Austrocontrol opened all Austrian airports Monday morning, whereas German aispace remains "officially" closed.
Munich (EDDM) an Salzbug (LOWS) are not so far apart, but the decisions at least seem to be very different...

I do not want to critizise either of these decisions. But particularly in Europe with the many countries and various authorities we face an additional challenge to handle such situations.

By the way, when Mount St. Helens erupted/exploded a significantly higher amout of dust/ash(?) was thrown into the atmospehere and travelled around the world for many days/weeks.
But was airspace closed during the first days?

Regards, Holger

Phil Bunch

Quote from: Holger Wende
Quote from: Phil Bunch...This requires a lot of research and much more extensive instrumentation.
Hi Phil,

The German Aeropace Center (DLR) has started research of the ash concentration and composition using their specialised atmospheric research aircraft Dassault Falcon 20E.
I guess this is a good start to learn more about volcanic ash.

I assume annother challenge finally will be to define common reasonable limits for combinations of ash concentration and composition for safe flying that are agreed by all countries.

I can imagine, that for the engine manufacturers it is extremely hard to identify reasonably safe limits based on pure technical facts.
But such thresholds, like limits about environmental pollution, are often also political/economic decisions which makes the decision finding even more difficult.

Even without knowledge of the ash cloud details, the European countries do not have common procedure (yet).

E.g. Austrocontrol opened all Austrian airports Monday morning, whereas German aispace remains "officially" closed.
Munich (EDDM) an Salzbug (LOWS) are not so far apart, but the decisions at least seem to be very different...

I do not want to critizise either of these decisions. But particularly in Europe with the many countries and various authorities we face an additional challenge to handle such situations.

By the way, when Mount St. Helens erupted/exploded a significantly higher amout of dust/ash(?) was thrown into the atmospehere and travelled around the world for many days/weeks.
But was airspace closed during the first days?

Regards, Holger

Re the Mount St Helens eruption  - I read a general news story today that air travel in the area of that volcano was managed on a targeted basis rather than as a "stop all flights in the USA" type of effort.  In other words, it was managed more like a bad thunderstorm rather than a general shutdown issue.

However, the USA is much less densely populated, especially in the Northwest, so it was probably much easier to just divert flights around the area of that volcano.  

Additionally, all airspace in the USA is regulated by a single authority (FAA), but in Europe there are country-specific authorities too, based on my limited understanding.

There are major issues with respect to control of national airspace, but it would be helpful to centralize these authorities into one EU-based office, at least in principle, with respect to non-military aviation.  These things are much easier said than done, I'm sure.  While we have both local governments (states and cities) and national government (US federal government), the federal government usually takes precedence whenever there is a conflict.  Air regulations and air safety is mostly determined by the FAA in the USA, with few conflicts with lesser government entities.

------
Volcanic ash safety based on the very limited data we have is surely a very challenging set of issues.  Determining detailed specifications for type of ash, particle size, composition, and concentration that would enable **reasonably safe** air travel sounds very difficult.  I assume one would have to test all engine types and models as well as pitot tubes, windshields, etc, etc, extensively since there is probably not much calibrated test data on such things.  

Based on looking casually at the LIDAR maps over the UK and a few other maps shown by the news media, it seems like a very complex, rapidly changing situation to schedule airliners to fly in clear sections of the airspace, and to avoid more densely contaminated sections.  While this is done with weather, there are weather radar sets on most airliners and there are many weather radar ground stations that can advise the pilots where to fly and where not to fly.  

No airliners have LIDAR dust sensors and they don't necessarily tell much about type or size of dust or its concentration as best I can follow the stories (not very well, I admit).

Maybe totally safe mass market air travel just isn't practical until we learn how to control volcanic eruptions???!!!

Even without regulatory issues, would airlines really expose their airliners to known volcanic ash?

What sort of enhanced maintenance inspection frequency would be needed if the airlines begin flying into intermittent, low concentrations of volcanic ash?  How much accumulated ash or melted and redeposited ash is acceptable inside a specific engine, for example?  1 gram per square meter or 2 (just to make up a hypothetical example).  If no detectable ash is acceptable, a LOT of inspections will be required...
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Zinger

#26
My assessment of the situation:
a. The aviation industry has no reasonably accurate information of ash dispersion which includes contents, density, particle size, and dispersion forecast.
b. Even when it is available and despite knowhow gathered in past incidents, current aerospace technology doesn't really include what that ash information means to aircraft safety.
c. Eurocontrol is a body tasked with expediting air transport above Europe. During this last week it did the opposite, without a or b.
d. The airspace above countries (with some modifications) is a sovereign part of that country. Why do decision makers of countries make closure decisions when the issue is in a totally different area of flight safety, and beyond the knowhow and understanding of those noble officials.
e. This is another typical situation which requires application of ORM (Operational Risk Management). Without it, the damage to human population and business entities involved is nearly detrimental.
f. Volcanic eruptions can occur without prior notice, last unknown periods such that the current situation would be a mini event. Hence the relevance of my discussion.
Regards, Zinger

Phil Bunch

#27
An interesting discussion of the difficulties in getting an airline industry endorsed lower limit for safe ash levels, most of them due to the liability issues involved in airliner crashes.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/21/airlines-flights-ban-airspace

Also see here (Financial Times newspaper):

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/777f60b2-4caf-11df-9977-00144feab49a,dwp_uuid=fc02f306-4b99-11df-9db6-00144feab49a.html

Even if we already had formal quantitative volcanic ash safety limits, how would we measure what's at each flight level over each ground position and get the info to each airliner in real time?

Probably it's a good thing we have already established safe weather-related conditions for permitting airliner flight into or around icing conditions, rain, fog, etc.  Otherwise, the industry would be paralyzed by weather safety, too!
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Phil Bunch

Interesting revised UK CAA rules are downloadable as a PDF file from this page:

http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=33&pagetype=65&appid=11&mode=detail&id=4025

An interesting excerpt:
-------------------------------
"...should an aircraft encounter a significant concentration of volcanic ash, the pilot may, possibly without first advising Controllers or FISOs, do any or all of the following actions:

• Execute a 180° turn;
• Descend;
• Reduce engine power;
• Disconnect auto-throttle."

-------------------------------
Sounds like a real emergency to me!  Notify ATC after the u-turn and descent!

What is needed is a "get me out of here" button, in addition to TOGA and so forth!

Another excerpt follows:
-----------------------
"In addition, the CAA's Revised Airspace Guidance requires airlines to:

• conduct their own risk assessment and develop operational procedures to address any remaining risks;
• put in place an intensive maintenance ash damage inspection before and after each flight; and
• report any ash related incidents to a reporting scheme run by the CAA."
------------------------
What sort of "intensive maintenance ash damage inspection before and after each flight" would be required?  Is this a "look inside the engine with a flashlight or a major engine and airframe disassembly and inspection, or what?
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Zinger

#29
Looking at the ash cloud maps, the authorized flights since 21 April penetrated them, e.g. EGLL, LFPG. Namely industrial pressure overrides knowhow in such decisions.

These maps state the affected area is SFC-FL200, and that they lack ash concerntration info. If correct, why was the airspace closed above? Why did first flights into UK airspace late 20 April include EGLL arrivals?

I disagree with the list of pilot actions developed by UK CAA in the above linked POLICY document. I would replace it with a statement- the pilot is responsible for evading visible ash concentration and immediately reporting same.
Regards, Zinger

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers


Zinger

#31
1. Two major turbine engine issues are:
a. Flameout due to massive entrance of flow particles which inhibit sustaining the combustion flame. Relight can help, best is to learn to detect and avoid such high particle density. The mentioned B742 flameout occured around 1,000 NM from the eruption site. I flew there a while later, Ft. Lewis AAF to Yakima Firing Range and back, via Portland OR. Dust covered the soil hundreds of miles away, the Columbia river completely blocked by trees.
b. Overheating of turbine blades, due to blockage of their minute air-cooling passages, resulting in meltdown/ creeping, contact with the casing, ceasure of that rotor, total engine failure sometimes accompanied by explosion/ fire and damage to aircraft structure. Engines could be modified to become more tolerant, for example by increasing orifice sizes, after all this wasn't the last eruption impacting aviation.

2. We had enough time and experience opportunities, but waited too long to seriously analyze and counter the problem.

3. One cannot separate control of military and civil aviation while retaining sovereign airspace and territory defense. Not even while utilizing Soviet strategy, where artillery, rockets, missiles and anti-aircraft guns are approved to fire unrestricted while your own aircraft are conducting flights within that airspace. The only solution is the one adopted by US- total central government airspace command and control. Not possible in current Europe.
Regards, Zinger

Jeroen D

Due to this airspace closure the airlines are reporting huge losses. I don't get it. They always claim that fuel is their number one expenditure. They're also claiming that in essence nobody will get a refund. So how/what drives these huge losses? They keep their planes on the ground, no fuel, they'll need to pay for "parking" but nothing else, no take off, landing fees, a fair amount of the tickets will have been paid up front etc. etc.

Anybody understand the economics behind their claims?

Jeroen

Zinger

a. Fixed costs
b. Loan payments
c. Parking fees
d. Compensation to contracted suppliers
e. Amortization
f. Compensation for travellers. A family stuck in Oslo for a week, who will feed their children and provide a place for sleeping. One takes a risk travelling, but cannot by himself cover it all. No law or constitution can overrule natural justice.
g. Damage to reputation
h. Legal defense against third party claims
i. Reduced future sales due to rise in alternative means of transportation.
To mention a few.

Without income generated from ticket sale, the operator has to take loans to cover out of pocket expenses.
Regards, Zinger

Jeroen D

No doubt, but my point is that their biggest cost, fuel, is not being spend. On average more than 80% of the tickets are booked in advance and won't be refunded. Compensation is not being paid, other than a few snacks at the airport, but certainly no refunds of the tickets. Carriers, or any other private parties/industries  in the western world, can not take  legal fees or accruals for legal compensation into their operating result until they actually get sued or actually pay out, nor can they increase current losses due to damage to their reputation or possible reduced sales. It's a simple accounting rule.

In most cases their contracted suppliers can't claim any compensation either, because if the carrier procurements department has done their job properly that would, should, and in most case, has been ruled out contractually under these circumstances. These event tends to be classified as "act of God" and everybody needs to take their own losses.

I've had about 80 of my staff stuck at various airports in Europe in the last couple of weeks. None has been offered a hotel, some got offered meal vouchers. So really none of these carriers are getting ready to incur big additional cost. Tickets have been paid for. And sure ultimately all of my staff flew home. All flights crammed to the max.

So I just don't understand how the carriers can claim to have such huge losses. It just doesn't make sense, unless they want to get political advantage out of it. In the Netherlands a few politicians immediately wanted to offer financial help to the aviation industry. Ridiculous, they did not even bother to check how the carriers P&l works. Or at least I haven't seen any evidence they did. Maybe they did, than I'd like to undestand.

Jeroen

Zinger

#35
So they got rich from stopping to fly? The 1.7 $ billion damage incurred by IATA members was a hoax?

I paid my tickets 90 days after flying the first segment. No hotel for the stranded in EU? I flew to London last spring, the return leg was delayed due to a brake system leak. 150 overnight rooms and a huge Barbeque dinner for all in a high standard airport hotel. Segment cost for the whole family was 15 euro, in the EU.

Getting political? airlines? That airline went bankrupt since. So are others. With a science degree in air transport management, the last thing I'd ever do is invest in any airline securities, it's a losing business, anyway you run it, for many reasons in a somewhat ugly world. Got an idea how much it would cost, say to buy/lease 10 B777s. A flag carrier I know uses a computer model with around 1,000 variables to optimize operations. They end up counting each knot of wind, every coffee cup, psi in the tire and penny received, to return bank loans before the aircraft become too old to be profitable.
Maybe your accounting department is great, but those travel arrangements  :( ,  could try to follow those I use.
Regards, Zinger

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

#36
Speaking about airline economics... what about the ultra low cost companies like Ryanair? It struck me that when the traditional companies announced "no more flights until at least tomorrow morning", Ryanair immediately told the public "we won't fly for at least four days" and gave a time and date that, eventually, was even extended by one more day. Was Ryanair better informed, or did they dare to be frank, or did they do their maths and took the cheapest option?


Jeroen

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

One more question. What eternally postponed (maintenance) work could finally be finished during the ash cloud blackout?

Zinger

#38
Looks like the final Ryanair call is made by one guy who has little aviation background but lots of common business sense. He didn't have insider information, no one knew how and when flights would be resumed, and there was quite a bit of noise with decisions, such as opening certain FIRs then quickly closing them. Detrimental to the airlines.
Maintenance- checks are mostly scheduled by accumulated flight time, either total (typical for structure) or since last one. The frequent common ones can take a few hours to a weekend, the longer ones require stripping almost everything off the structure and take months. Manufacturers nowadays design in minimum such requirements for long tedious reworks, which wasn't the case earlier with say B707, B742.
One issue is that scheduling inspection earlier than needed, means that you do more maintenance per flight hour, because you lose the benefit of remaining hours you still had till that inspection.
Another issue is that you arrange a proper queue at the service facility by carefully staggering fleet time remaining to inspections, and if you did a whole lot of them at once, you would need to rearrange that stagger. The implication is that some aircraft have to fly more hours than others. It becomes more of a problem when your fleet utilization is optimal, say 18-20 hours each day. More difficult with long haul aircraft with which it is easier to attain high utilization, because they stay long time in the air. If for example you have a long haul round trip which takes 16 hours, you had better couple it with a quickie which takes 4-6. So for a long haul aircraft, instead of 4 -5 dailies for a B737, one to two days a week that B777 has to sit in parking, or fly the quickie with another aircraft. Not a big issue with smart databases and proper decision making models. Greater flexibility is possible with larger fleets and easily manageable internal passenger and cargo carrying configurations.
You may have to add extra pay for overtime or weekend shifts that were not previously scheduled in the maintenance facility.
To carry extra maintenance effort in such event requires the aircraft to be in their home maintenance facility. Otherwise contrated maintenance is likely to offset benefit by added cost.
So the benefit of completing a lot of maintenance at once is balanced by additional and sometimes opposite factors.
Regards, Zinger

Jeroen D

I'm not saying they're making money because they don't fly. Of course not, I'm just wondering why their losses are that huge.

Most likely you got your hotel re-imbursed or arranged for you, because under those circumstances you describe  they were legally obliged to do so. I got stuck in Barbados once for several days, due to maintenance issues. Same thing, carrier paid for the hotel and our food, transportation back and forth to the hotel etc.

In case of the volcanic ash there is not such obligation. This is considered way outside the expected span of control of the carrier. At least that is what most carriers seem to be claiming. Of course, it's being challenged by passengers, travel organization, but I haven't heard of a successful claim yet. Maybe to early. It's all in the small print and the subsequent interpretation. It's more a legal matter than anything else. Of course, even if there is no legal obligation a carrier could opt to (part) re-imburse, but they are not known for doing so. Remember, we have special legislation in place for that particular reason. Many carriers prior to this legislation never paid or paid very little. So under consumer pressure, legislation forced the carriers to start paying for some of this. These days it's pretty much defined when and how much a carrier needs to pay in case of delays. At least in Europe, not sure if this is an international arrangement.

I have no idea what drove Ryanair. But of course, they take cost obsession to an unbelievable level. They make it into a unique combination of art and science.

Gut feeling, companies like Ryanair are far more nimble and agile than the big carriers and will respond much quicker to any situation. That's probably part of their success story. Although I admire Ryanair I would avoid them like the plague. Never liked flying with them. And to be honest, it never worked out that cheap for some reason for me.

These days, since moving to the US, I'm raking up the air miles with just about all carriers. Anywhere I need to go in the US, I fly. And for some reason I find myself traveling more to Europe from the US than when I actually lived in Europe.

But I must say, that my favorite airline here in the US for short flights is SouthWest. Pretty low cost, but overall excellent service and alway, always a very happy and enthusiastic flight and cabin crew. Some of them are hilarious.

Mind you , I never got stranded with them yet, so I don't know how they would handle that.

Jeroen