UK warns of likely flight disruption from ash cloud

Reuters News
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Posted: May 23, 2011 9:53 AM
UK warns of likely flight disruption from ash cloud

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was likely that flights from parts of the country would be disrupted Tuesday by an ash cloud billowing from a volcano in Iceland.

Britain's Met Office is predicting a plume of ash from the Grimsvotn volcano would cover the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland and parts of northern Britain by 2 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

Asked whether this would cause some disruption to flights, a CAA spokesman said: "That's the way it's looking certainly at the moment."

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to fly into Britain on Tuesday morning from Ireland for a state visit.

Last year an eruption by another Icelandic volcano caused six days of travel chaos but the CAA said lessons learned from that incident would reduce the impact this time.

"We know now that engines can cope with certain concentrations of ash. That's going to be the key difference," said the CAA spokesman.

He added airlines that presented a safety case would be allowed to fly aircraft through "medium density" ash clouds.

"On that basis we hope that some flights will be able to take place in that kind of medium zone around the densest concentrations of ash. We aren't certain yet what we're up against," he said.

A spokesman for Britain's Met Office said they expected winds to continue from northwest until about lunchtime on Tuesday, but weather conditions, including rain, were predicted to help.

"All sorts of things point to a relatively (optimistic outlook) I suppose in terms of what's happening with the weather patterns and the pressure unlike last year," he said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Keith Weir)