Planes on alert as volcano erupts

Aviation authorities in Europe continue to watch for developments in Iceland where planes are on high alert following a volcanic eruption.

Planes on alert as volcano erupts

Aviation authorities in Europe continue to watch for developments in Iceland where planes are on high alert following a volcanic eruption.

Iceland closed airspace directly above Bardarbunga volcano yesterday after it began erupting under the ice of Europe’s largest glacier following thousands of earthquakes over the past week.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said a flight from London Heathrow to San Francisco was rerouted away from the volcano as a “precautionary measure” but flights are now operating as normal.

In 2010 an eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, in the south of the Iceland, produced an ash cloud that caused a week of aviation chaos with more than 100,000 flights cancelled across the UK and the rest of the world.

A spokeswoman for NATS said: “NATS is monitoring the situation and working in close collaboration with the Met Office, Department for Transport and our safety regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, as this dynamic situation develops further.”

She added that NATS will help determine what impact the eruption will have for operations in UK airspace and advise airline customers accordingly.

The Icelandic Met Office has said that the eruptions are sub-glacial, so no ash has made it to the surface.

Just minutes before the eruption, officials in Iceland raised the country’s aviation alert to the highest level of red, which warns that an eruption could cause “significant emission of ash into the atmosphere.”

However, scientists who flew over the ice cap yesterday afternoon saw no visible signs of the eruption on the surface.

Experts in Iceland’s Met Office said it was not clear when, or if, the eruption would melt through the ice – which is between 330ft to 1,300ft thick – and fling steam and ash into the air.

A spokesman for budget airline easyJet said it is preparing to put contingency plans into action, using specialist technology to ensure any ash created by the eruption is detected and chartered.

“easyJet will use this and other data provided by the authorities to determine what, if any, changes it should make to its flying programme,” he said.

Andrew McConnell, Flybe’s director of communications, said: “We are monitoring the situation in Iceland very closely, currently there is no disruption to our services and all our flights are operating as normal. ”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said one flight directed away from the volcano but that flights continue to operate as normal.

“Safety and security is always our top priority,” he said.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox