Hopes high that the lockdown on flights will end
REPORTS of a new ash cloud heading last night towards Britain dampened hopes raised earlier that the five-day flights lockdown in the North East was about to end.
Air traffic control company National Air Traffic Service (Nats) said last night that the “situation was worsening” in some areas.
But it said Scottish airports should be available from 7am today other airspace over England – including the North East – from 1pm, although not including the main London airports.
Earlier, Nats had told Newcastle Airport that it could reopen its airspace at 7am this morning. Airlines operating out of the city then announced the resumption of some links within the United Kingdom, as well as the Middle East and Europe, subject to changes.
The Scottish no-fly zone and other parts of the North were also due to allow planes to take off and land, though it was unclear which services in and out of Newcastle and Durham Tees Valley would be possible.
Airspace south of Tyneside to a line between Teesside and Blackpool was expected to be clear to resume a level of activity, governed by airport chiefs.
The lifting of flight bans on some parts of the UK came after forecasters claimed eruptions from the volcano responsible for the ash cloud had now “virtually ceased”.
The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), based at the Met Office in London, said the eruptions of Mount Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland had now diminished with only small amounts of ash being ejected up to 6,000 feet in the atmosphere.
The Met Office said the VAAC report was “cause for well-grounded optimism” but warned that time was needed to ensure the ash cloud was dispersed.
Graeme Mason, head of planning and corporate affairs at Newcastle Airport, said last night: “We are delighted that our airspace is likely to open again. “As we speak, there is a huge logistical planning exercise under way with our airline and handling agent partners to secure as much flying as possible.
“But it will take time to get back to normal operating levels. There will not be an immediate return to a full flying programme as aircraft and crews may be out of position and restrictions may still exist in other areas of Europe.