Monday, November 29, 1999

UK and Ireland shut some airspace due to ash cloud

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Ireland shut several of its airports and Britain imposed a no-fly zone on parts of its airspace on Sunday as another cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland looked set to disrupt European air travel yet again.The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said three northwestern airports were closed from early Sunday but other hubs, such as Dublin, would remain open until later in the day.North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected despite the cloud drifting over the country. A cloud of ash spewed from the same volcano in Iceland wreaked havoc on European air traffic last month.Britain's National Air Traffic Service said a no-fly zone would be imposed over parts of Scotland and England between 1200 GMT and 1800 GMT on Sunday due to the volcanic ash but London airports will not be affected.Manchester, Liverpool, Doncaster, Carlisle, Humberside and East Midlands airports fall within the no-fly zone, as do all airports in Northern Ireland, NATS said in a statement.The government on Saturday warned that parts of British airspace might have to close until Tuesday with different parts including the southeast, where Europe's busiest airport Heathrow is located, likely to be closed at different times.The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland is continuing to erupt with no signs of the explosive activity about to end and an ash plume reaching heights of 25,000 feet, Britain's Met Office said."Winds are expected to blow mainly from the northwest for a time over the weekend with the risk of ash affecting some parts of the UK," it said."However, winds are predicted to swing into a south westerly direction by the middle of next week, which would take most of any ash away from the British Isles."In Ireland, the IAA said it was carrying out observation flights at a number of altitudes and would provide an update later in the day. Dublin airport would remain open until 1800 GMT while Shannon, an important stop-over for flights to the United States, would be open until 2200 GMT, it added.Elsewhere in Europe, German airlines' association said no restriction of German air traffic was expected due to the ash, and German airlines were operating flights as normal.Much of Europe's airspace was closed for six days in mid-April over fears that ash from the Icelandic volcano would cause aircraft to crash, causing havoc for airlines as some 100,000 flights were cancelled and stranding millions of passengers. Airlines lost $1.7 billion, the International Air Transport Association said.Since then ash has periodically forced the short-term closure of parts of airspace in countries across Europe.British Transport Minister Philip Hammand said on Saturday that from now on five-day -- rather than the previous 18-hour -- ash prediction charts would be made available to airlines and the public on the Met Office forecaster's website.(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London; Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt, editing by Paul Casciato)

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