Volcanic ash closure ‘right decision’
Tags: London Gatwick airport, luton airport, stansted airport, Volcanic ash
Airlines were right to ground aircraft after the eruption of a Icelandic volcano last year, researchers have said.
Scientists led by Dr Sigurdur Gislason from the University of Iceland examined samples of ash from the volcano as part of a new study and concluded they were capable of causing an air disaster.
Flights across the UK including from airports such as Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick and Luton, were cancelled or delayed due to the volcanic ash, affecting some 10 million passengers and costing between £1.3 billion and £2.2 billion.
But in a new study the researchers found the fragments remained “sharp and abrasive” even after attempts to blunt the particles by stirring them in water.
They would have sandblasted aircraft windows, making them impossible to see through, and had the potential to stall engines.
The explosive nature of the eruption on April 14 last year was caused by glacial meltwater coming into contact with hot volcanic magma.
Tiny pieces of extremely hard, abrasive material were ejected to heights of more than 9km and carried as far as Russia.
The researchers wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: “The very sharp, hard particles put aircraft at risk from abrasion on windows and body and from melting in jet engines.
“In the lab, ash particles did not become less sharp during two weeks of stirring in water, so airborne particles would remain sharp even after days of interaction with each other and water in clouds. Thus, concerns for air transport were well grounded.”
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