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To fly through ash or not? That's no easy question

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No, it's an easy decision - you're not going to risk the lives of everyone on the plane and the future of the company by trying to fly through the ash. I'd at least hope that if the airline company were that stupid to try then the pilots would refuse to fly the plane.

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It's an interesting problem but the idea that they would worry about long term damage to engines seems absurd. The airline industry is probably the only one which spends so much time checking systems and mechanical parts and replacing parts whether they need to be replaced or not.

On a separate point, where are the unmanned aircraft at this, our hour of need. Why not redirect a drone from the battlefields of Iraq on a fact-finding, truly humanitarian mission to learn the true effects of volcanic ash on (at least one type of) jet engine? The military would probably say "too costly", but compared to the money being lost by a) the airlines and b) the passengers, you think it'd even out...

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@showme1now there are so many things wrong with your post it's almost undeserving of a response altogether. It is not the military of the United States which is funded by American tax dollars to asses a volcano in Europe on behalf of private businesses (airlines).

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Not too hard a decision. Fly, and you might die. Don't fly and you will be alive.

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warallthetime, Perhaps a private business consortium could rent or buy a drone for research purposes. But research by the military and other US tax payer funded agencies have benefited private businesses for many a decade (internet and Tang are but two.)

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go with the drones.

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warallthetime - the British Army, police, and other NATO forces also have drones, it's not just the US! Most of them use very small jet engines or propellor engines, and it might be hard to extrapolate the data to larger passenger airplane engine, however it could some indication of the conditions and possible damage.

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drones probably don't have the same engines as the commercial planes.

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But research by the military and other US tax payer funded agencies have benefited private businesses for many a decade (internet and Tang are but two.)

You don't still believe the urban legend about Tang being developed by NASA, do you?

As for ARPANET, surely you're not suggesting that the fact that U.S. military technology is sometimes adopted commercially is precedent for expending resources to analyze the safety of European skies. That's hardly a humanitarian mission (and one that European nations are perfectly capable of themselves).

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Worrying to see that British Airways' chief executive Mr Walsh would rather compromise passenger safety than lose money through such a natural disaster. He has been moaning in the press that NATS/ the British government should not have set the ban on air travel. However, Mr Walsh should recall that it was in fact a British Airways 747 that was minutes away from ditching in the sea when it hit volcanic ash above Indonesia in 1982. All four engines shut off and they glided for a full 15 minutes. Even when they managed to restart the engines they shut off once more. The pilots had to rely solely on their instruments as the windscreen had been sandblasted. Even when Indonesian airspace was reopened a few days later, a Singapore Airlines plane experienced similar problems. Maybe British Airways management would rather risk a crash than lose money from their business.

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The military would probably say "too costly", but compared to the money being lost by a) the airlines and b) the passengers, you think it'd even out...

showme1now-the military would not say that. That means more spending money for them. The military does not make the decisions to go and do humanitarian aid or what not, it is the governments behind them.

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northlondon, Mr Walsh is by far not the only airline boss behaving like this. I suspect the reason is that the airlines have insurances for the case a plane comes down, but there is no insurance for the losses incurred when the planes have to stay on the ground. No surprise. You didn't know that profits have always had priority over human lives?

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Maybe if the part of the jet engine that is affected by molten glass could be pulled out like a drawer and checked easily after each flight, even replaced if necessary, then people might all be happier. Any designers out there?

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But B.A. is so pathetic,they are looking to sue,for being stopped from flying.Greed and selfishness due to a bad business model.

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There is a lot of unknown here, but safety first isn't a BAD policy, but then again, this is having impact beyond airlines now, so a fast solution is needed. In the case of BA9 that flew into volcanic ash over Indoesia (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_9 )the plane seemed to be flying almost directly over or at least quite near an active volcano. The concentration of harmful elements would have been very high. The problem is though, that the 'plane's radar didn't see the ash cloud and the crew were also not completely aware of what was happening. Given that there has always been an option to go around these clouds, I would guess that there hasn't been enough research into what the fatal concentration of ash would be.

BA and other airlines have conducted their own tests and made conclusions - that would seem reasonable, and do you really think they would fly if they thought there was a chance of failure? Do you think that the consequences would allow them to remain in business?

What is probably scarier, is that many long haul (and the majority of short haul) aircraft now only have two engines. The BA 'plane in question had four, of which they were lucky to restart, but one failed again.

I'd be very nervous getting on an aircraft flying in or around any ash cloud!

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What special informations did Russia have to fly its President to Poland for the funeral while the West's Presidents stayed home? Russia simply took a chance?

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tclh apparently you haven't been watching the news. Virtually all flights that were going east and west or west to east over the Atlantic were stopped. Moscow is north and west of Poland, I think. I haven't looked at a map lately, but I think I'm correct.

It's not real difficult to understand. < :-)

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The problem is the lack of studies on the effects of ash on airplanes. In the absence of such information, flying is a gamble. Who knows, we may not get plane crashes right away as a result, but further down the line, maybe even years later, we might. Unlike sandstorms, ash clouds damage planes not just through mechanical, but also chemical action, which though not necessarily immediately visible is sure to cause accelerated obsolescence. In the absence of any hard data, standards and established safety guidelines, flying through ash contaminated air is really a giant gamble. Hopefully governments will be responsible and fund the required research. In the meantime, I would prefer not to fly on airplanes that have been compromised, through that is probably impossible...

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When people turn to science for answers, they get a lot equivocation.

Scientists, not science.

I think thepro said it best:

Not too hard a decision. Fly, and you might die. Don't fly and you will be alive.

Perhaps this science could come up with an accurate formula for determining at what point personal convenience becomes more important than a very high probability in arriving alive at one's destination, or the collateral damage a jet-powered aircraft causes upon crashing. As a friend said, "If it's so important, pay the ten grand for a helicopter flight."

It seems we already have a fair appreciation of the science involved, we just don't like the answers. I sure wouldn't want people testing the theory in airspace over my home.

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