Levels of ash found 'safe' - Ryanair


Ryanair said today the airline found "safe" levels of volcanic ash in two aircraft engines.

Spokesman Stephen McMamara told RTÉ that nobody was exposed to any risk “whatsoever” and that the levels found were within the manufacturer's guidelines.

The airline yesterday confirmed that two of its aircraft that landed at Belfast City Airport at the weekend had traces of ash in their engines.

The two planes, which were due to fly to London, were grounded on Sunday. They were returned to service yesterday.

Separately, Aer Lingus chief executive officer Christoph Mueller told RTÉ that he can't yet estimate what effect uncertainty caused by the ash will have on demand for flights.

Mr Mueller said yesterday Aer Lingus had lost confidence in the system used to measure volcanic ash concentrations. It called on the EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas to “urgently” revise the procedures.

“The VAAC [the UK Met Office’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre] model has been proven inaccurate several times and we have lost confidence in its reliability,” Mr Mueller said.

“It is now impossible to continue with it and we believe volcanic ash predictions thousands of miles away from the original eruption need to be treated differently.”

The Aer Lingus chief was frustrated at cancellations on May 9th based on “theoretical models” to predict ash concentration from Iceland’s erupting volcano.

“These models were subsequently proven to be wrong when ash levels were actually measured,” Mr Mueller added.

“Recent measurements which took place in France, Germany and Switzerland strongly contradict the VAAC model.”

Aer Lingus called for specialist aircraft, including military ones, “equipped with appropriate measurement devices” to be deployed around the Atlantic as a part of a European initiative to respond “swiftly and decisively to any approaching ash cloud”.

“Similar early warning systems have been in place in the US and the Caribbean for many years to monitor hurricane activity,” Mr Mueller said.

The Aer Lingus chief said it was “critical” that decisions to close airspace must be based on the “appropriate hard data co-ordinated by the EU and specifically, the European Safety Agency”.

“We have no evidence that this has been the case in recent weeks,” he said.

“Only with such a co-ordinated approach and the knowledge that this data is robust and is being consistently applied throughout Europe can local regulatory bodies such as the Irish Aviation Authority take decisions to close airspace.”

Seven days of disruption caused by the volcanic ash crisis played a large part in Aer Lingus yesterday reporting a 27 per cent year-on-year decline in passenger traffic for April.

Aer Lingus has estimated the cost to the airline of the disruptions at €20 million.

The Irish airline carried 689,000 passengers in April, down from 888,000 in the same month of 2009.

Additional reporting: Bloomberg