Weary travellers return home as skies are opened to flights
Apr 21 2010 The Journal
WEARY travellers Alan and Lynette Scambler arrived back in the North East last night on board a coach they had hired to ferry them from Paris.
They pulled up outside Newcastle International Airport just two and a half hours before airports in England were allowed to take flights again.
Amid growing recriminations about the decision to ground flights in the United Kingdom, the Civil Aviation Authority last night sought to defuse the situation.
It said in a statement said that the situation with regard to ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland was “without precedent” and that the decision to ground flights had been made based on “thorough gathering of data and analysis”.
“The major barrier to resuming flight has been understanding tolerance levels of aircraft to ash,” the CAA said. “Manufacturers have now agreed increased tolerance levels in low ash density areas.”
Transport secretary Lord Adonis said safety was the “paramount concern”, but research into the effects of the volcanic ash had led to a “better” understanding of the implications.
“Since the flight restrictions were imposed, the CAA have been working around the clock with the aircraft manufacturing industry, the airlines and the research community to better understand how different concentrations of ash affect aircraft engines,” he said.
“As a result, the CAA has now established a wider area in which it is safe to fly, consistent with the framework agreed by the EU transport ministers yesterday.
“In addition to this change in restrictions, we are maintaining increased capacity to help passengers get home. In total there are an extra 20,000 passenger places a day across Eurostar, Eurotunnel and the Channel ferries.”
Before the restrictions were lifted, however, one flight was diverted last night to Newcastle from its intended destination of Gatwick Airport. And at least two coaches carrying people who had flown to the continent from the North East and been unable to get home also arrived.
One of them had been organised by the Scamblers who had set out for a three-day visit to Paris and intended to fly back to Newcastle last Thursday.