back to article Volcanic ash grounds dozens of UK flights

Hundreds of passengers are likely to be stranded this morning as a volcanic ash plume has grounded flights across the country. The plume, from a volcano in Iceland, could take several days to clear. The ash can be thick enough to knock out jet engines. Currently Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports are closed and 90 per …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Another general news article. Please stick to IT news.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: IT?

      I hate you.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        @Sarah Bee

        I love you.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        I double-hate you

        AC - I presume you are in the UK and not flying anywhere?

        For those of us whom are neither of those things, the ability of websites to fall over in a slight breeze gives the Ash Cloud of Death(TM) on IT angle.

        I now have an Ash Cloud of Death(TM) folder on my Mac with maps and hotel info for Philadelphia. Anyone got any tourist tips? Like, how much does a coin-operated laundrette cost in the US?

        1. hplasm

          Laundrette cost

          To buy or to rent? Depends on the location...

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      It's very important news...

      ...if you're a travelling IT consultant.

      Well, you won't be today.

    3. The BigYin

      Umm.... was filed under "Physics". You could maybe argue that it should have been filed under "Geology", "Meteorology" or even "Geography"...but that's it. It's deffo news, it's deffo important.

      If you don't want to read the non-IT news, can I suggest you stay out of the non-IT areas or simply not click on them?

      Is using your brain simply too much to ask?

      I am sure Ms. Bee has contemplated finding me and slapping me on a few occasions; but I hope nothing I have said or done has been as vacuous and pointless as your derisive missive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Dream on......

        "I am sure Ms. Bee has contemplated finding me and slapping me on a few occasions"

        Why should you be singled out as the lucky one?

    4. John 62
      IT Angle


      You didn't even use the correct icon, numpty

    5. Gaz Jay

      I work...

      I work in the Travel Technology industry. So this is IT news to me.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Tell me about it ...

    just had my flight to Boston this afternoon cancelled. Major drag. Still, safety first.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is crazy

    It's the airline equivalent of leaves on the line.

    I can understand the problem of flying through the cloud...but can't they just fly over/under or around it? What about going to Europe, why are those flights cancelled? It's in the opposite direction.

    1. Nigel 11

      Too risky

      It's not like leaves on the line, it's more like ignoring the possibility of fallen trees on the line. But even deadlier. Do you want to risk being in a plane without any working engines?

      A cloud of volcanic ash is not easily visible like a thundercloud, so the pilot can't just look out of the window and know whether under / over / around is possible. The best case forgetting it wrong is overheated and damaged engines that cost the airline huge amounts of money to repair (or scrap). The worst case is that the plane becomes a rather poor glider and has to ditch.

      Read up about the BA jumbo that very nearly crashed when it flew into a cloud of volcanic ash that the pilots did not know was there. (A new erruption, and back in the days before there was a global monitoring network for this hazard). The engines were total write-off. That the plane managed to land was a near-miracle. At low altitude (over the ocean!) the plane had dropped into clean air and the pilots managed to re-start some engines and limp to the nearest airport.

    2. lglethal Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Have you seen the size of this cloud?

      It covers most of scotland, northern england and ireland, you plonker.

      Volcanic ash is particularly dangerous to aircraft engines because of its size, shape and texture (its basically like taking a sandblaster to the engine only with sand that will strip metal in a matter of minutes) and has been responsible for a number of crashes and significantly more midair engine shutdowns. And those engines that do survive a clash with a volcanic ash cloud are likely to need months of overhaul to make them servicable again.

      Seriously, safety has to come first in this instance, if you dont see that somethings wrong with you...

    3. Number6

      Not Possible

      You can't fly over it, and the dense lower atmosphere would make it difficult and slow to fly under it, assuming you know its lower bound. More birds lower down as well, increasing other types of hazard. You can't see it on radar, so you wouldn't know for certain where it is.

      The cloud is drifting down towards Europe, so the safe zone is shifting all the time.

      On the bright side, if we can get enough volcanic dust into the atmosphere, it'll cool the Earth a bit and make all the global warming fanatics re-fudge their calculations.

    4. Tony S

      Flight paths

      Pilots are supposed to stick to flight paths (this includes the height ) to prevent them bumping into each other (doing that will really jack up your insurance as well as buggering up your day). At 350 MPH, you will travel the length of a football pitch between something coming into view and your brain realising it.

      If they go too low, it will upset people on the ground with the noise (I also believe that it burns more fuel). There is a limit to how high they can go with the standard engines, as the higher you go, the lower the air pressure which could cause engines to cut out.

      It always sounds like someone is being over protective, until the first aircraft slams into the ground at high speed, leaving a large hole. Then everyone starts screaming about businesses putting "profits before safety".

    5. David Adams


      "...but can't they just fly over/under or around it?"

      The Ash cloud is between 6,000m ~11,000m.

      A commercial airliner has a cruising altitude of 12,000m.

      That's great I hear you scream, we can fly over it!

      Except you have to go from 0m-12,000m to get there which takes you right through the cloud.

      And as for going around it, have a look at the pictures on the VAAC site and suggest what alternate route you would take.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    They nick all of our money - and now close down all our airports. Nuke 'em its the only way to be safe

    on the plus side we might get Bjork as well

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      There is a funny quote on Twitter that read:

      "Hey Iceland, we said send CASH!"

  5. Chris Miller
    Black Helicopters


    do I sue?

    1. Roger Cornwell


      That's whom you should sue.

      1. Nigel 11

        Wrong god.

        Probably not Thor.

        The Greeks had a god of volcanoes, Hephaestus by name.

        There doesn't appear to be a god of volcahoes in the Norse pantheon, nor even a god of fire. Perhaps they sub-contracted the work (which might explain a lot). As might Loki's involvement.

        (And/or read Gaiman's "American Gods")

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge


          Bearing in mind the miserable state of the Icelandic climate, I doubt there was much need for a god of fire. Icelandic folklore tends to associate volcanoes with underground fire giants. Surtr, leader of the jötunn who help bring about the end of the World would be a good bet for any writs. Surtsey, the island created in a 1963 is named after him.

  6. SynicNZ

    Do you thinks its cause we want the money back???

    Nothing here - move along.

  7. Peter Ford

    In the clouds

    Given how many data centres are sited in Iceland, does that mean The Cloud is truly going up in the air?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    Currently on the wrong side of the Atlantic. Manchester Airport website currently in Kate Moss mode i.e. pretty thin. Deploying British pluck - any brandy left in the mini-bar?

    Not welcoming our ash-bearing overlords!!

  9. Mike Timbers

    Act of God, apparently

    So the airlines are apparently claiming this as an Act of God and any passengers on cancelled flights will have to pay again!

    1. Chris Miller
      Thumb Up


      At least for BA - YMMV if booked with (e.g.) LyanAir:

      "Customers booked to travel on a cancelled flight can claim a full refund or [...] If you wish to travel to your original destination, you may re-book on another British Airways or BA franchise flight at your convenience, subject to availability."

      In any case additional costs would be covered by insurance - you do have travel insurance, don't you?

  10. Tony Paulazzo

    I love nature

    Just need Yellowstone park to go super volcano, an asteroid hitting new Zealand and the LHC to start spewing forth demonic hell hounds and my weekend'll be made up.

    Oh, and a crap load of class A's.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      forget to buy a crowbar and a HEV suit while you're at it

      Its really aliens getting ready to clense the fifth of humanity from the face of the planet, and speaking as a cockroach, thats can only be a good thing

    2. chr0m4t1c

      I love nature too

      But I don't think the LHC is a natural phenomenon.

      Or did I miss a major advance in biological technology and it was actually grown?

  11. Jolyon Ralph

    Fuck Iceland

    Trying to rearrange my flight to Hong Kong (which, if i'm not mistaken, is in the opposite direction). First they take all our savings and lose them, then they pollute our air with their volcanic ash. Fuck Iceland.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      I still want all my stolen cod back from the '70s.

      I'm not one for bearing grudges, but...GRRR!

  12. Blitz

    Time to invade Iceland

    First they lose all our savings in the whole 'Icesave' collapse and now they're sending their nasty ashes over here!!!

    Let's go north to take care of business!

    1. The Indomitable Gall


      Last time you poms got the ashes, you were over the moon. There's no pleasing some people....

  13. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Recruiting Mother Nature to do their dirty work

    Guess this is Iceland's answer to the recent pressure from UK and NL to PAY BACK THE DAMN MONEY THEY OWE US - they've recruited Mother Nature to exert some pressure and 'persuade' us to back off.

    To quote Jack Straw; "We do not, have not, and will not respond to blackmail or intimidation tactics". Hear that, Mother N? Now go tell your boss to get on the wire transfer sharpish, there's a good henchwoman.

    1. Nigel 11

      Don't jest about Icelandic volcanoes

      Mother nature in Iceland is a hellish bitch. One should hope that she stays asleep during our lifetimes (this erruption is the merest twitch).

      1783: 20% of the Icelandic population killed. 20,000 killed in the UK (which back then had a population of a few million). Major climatological consequences in both Europe and the USA.

      1. Peter Bradley

        Do you have a reference for that?

        >>1783: 20% of the Icelandic population killed. 20,000 killed in the UK

        I did a quick Google and couldn't find any such figures in respect of the UK, at least.

        If you are referring to the indirect consequences, due to crop failures and subsequent food supply problems, you are probably making an implicit, invalid comparison. Today, the price of food might rise as a result of such an eruption; but it almost certainly would not become significantly scarcer - in the UK, at least.



        1. Nigel 11


          The reference is linked in my post - the wiki one about Laki.

          It's an estimate of the number killed immediately by SO2 and HF inhalation. The following year was the "Year without a summer", and the widespread famine claimed many more. It's not certain that Laki was the sole cause thereof, but it can't have helped.

          1. Mike Richards Silver badge


            Whilst there is no doubt that the Laki eruption had a catastrophic effect on human, animal and plant life in Iceland; the Grattan paper is controversial. There are very wide differences in the estimates of sulfur produced by Laki which would affect how much damage it could have done. Also because the summer of 1783 was freakishly hot and that would have pushed mortality well above trend.

            It is a fascinating paper though and well worth a read.

  14. richard 69

    what about props?

    are props affected by this then?

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Short answer - Yes

      For two reasons - 1 it will do a damn good job of stripping the propellors, and 2 - Props still make use of turbines in order to power the prop, the air being sucked into the turbines will still be laden with volcanic ash and will still go about destroying the internals.

      Id almost guess that props are even more endangered because the ash will probably do a fine job on the props bearings too. But thats speculation.

      The only way i can think prpos might be ok is if they flew below the ash cloud but the problem with ash is that its bloody hard to see the cloud in the first place until you fly into it (its not like a regular cloud), so it might be risky to try...

      1. David Adams


        I'm pretty sure volcanic ash is conductive too so it screws up electrics if it gets in.

  15. Al fazed


    Britain brought to it's knees again, by a smokescreen.


  16. RichardB

    several days?

    I hear that some interviewer asking an Icelander about it was rather shocked by the response that last time it took 2 years to finish erupting...

    1. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Two years

      Wouldn't be uncommon for an Icelandic eruption, but the plume is a short term phenomenon as the gassy magma at the top of the chamber reaches the surface. Assuming the eruption continues for any length of time, the volcano will become much less explosive and become dominated by large-scale lava flows.

      It's certainly going to bugger for travel and tourism around Southern Iceland even if there isn't a jökulhlaup (glacier burst). Eyjafjallajokull is right next to the main road into the gorgeous national park and forest of Þórsmörk.

      Still, according to the latest seismic data, Katla under the much larger Mýrdalsjökull ice sheet hasn't started waking up. The last time it erupted in 1918, the jökulhlaup extended the Mýrdalssandur coastline by 5km and the ash poisoned animals in Northern Ireland.

      1. Baskitcaise

        Eyjafjallajokull etc..

        Umm I think your keyboard is b0rken.

        Coat? mine is the one with the nose filters and heel pumps thanks.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    Its all part of a big conspiracy. Theyre fish built economy isnt enough. Theyre planning to invade. First they disrupt our finances and supply lines, now they ground our aircraft. Theyll be pillaging and plundering Scotland before the year is out. Yarrr.

  18. HFoster

    I for one

    ... suggest going to Reykjavijk with colossal cigars, and littering their streets with ash.

    See how they like it!

    Actually, I'm realistic about it. It's a natural phenomenon. A royal pain in the bum, but nothing can really be done about it. Even if it does fuck up my weekend plans to pop back to Blighty.

    /needs 'meh' icon

  19. ElNumbre

    More importantly....

    Will my Sky TV be knackered this evening? Signal is marginal when it rains heavily, and I want to watch the mass-debators on ITV (I've not got that new fangled freeview thing).

    1. Mark McC

      @ElNumbre Outlook gloomy

      With volcanic ash in the air and a big solar outburst thingy on its way to disrupt communications you may not get to see the thrilling debate. Nature is spoiling her ballot for this election.

  20. Alan Gregory 1

    first thoughts on headline

    'Eruption in Iceland'

    I first thought had kerry katone been on the sauce again......

    I'll get my coat

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Lockdown Britain

    funnily enough, last nights episode of "House" (torrented, natch) had them all locked into the hospital.

    Is it me, or I do I see nuLab sealing everyone into Britain ?

    1. Sartori
      Thumb Up

      At last

      Finally......NuLieBore found a way to keep immigration under control.....

    2. Prag Fest

      Give it a rest

      It's you.

      A volcano erupted.

  22. David Adams

    Yeah but

    What happens when the "Ash Cloud of Death" hits the transformers @ CERN eh?

    Answer me that one!

    If a baguette can blow it up, imaging what a load of ash will do


    etc, etc.

  23. jon 72

    Re: Props

    Volcanic ash is pretty nasty stuff to breathe and yes it will choke an internal combustion engine.

    Depending on the volcano its a cross between snow and abrasive grit, sticks to everything and woe betide it gets inside anything mechanical.

  24. P.Nutt
    Thumb Up

    @Sarah Bee

    Dont let the gits get to you.

    As for the volcano I cant see it being a bad thing cut off from Europe and the US.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: @Sarah Bee

      Too late, P. Nutt, but thank you.

      It's a bit of an anti-climactic apocalypse, isn't it? I think I might have to go and sedately panic-buy those Rice Krispie Squares.

  25. alun phillips

    Black Helicopters

    If this Volcanic ash cloud is covering northern england , why can't I see it? What is going on that they don't want anyone leaving or entering the UK between 12.00 to 18.00 (very convenient timings for a cloud)?

    the real question is are Black Helicopters grounded by Volcanic ash

    1. Nigel 11

      You can see it

      ... or I think you can. The blue sky outside my window is a very pale milky blue, not the usual sky blue. Something is scattering more light than usual. Sunset may be quite something, if the real (wet) clouds stay away.

      It's a very thin cloud, but what it's made of is highly abrasive. You really don't want a jet engine chew on a hundred miles' worth of it.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Media Control?

    is this just to stop the media saying anything about nafarious activities perpetrated by politicians on such an "important" day? :)

  27. xyz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ash Cloud of Death(tm) facemasks...only £1

    Get yer genuine ash cloud of death (tm) masks here...Save your kids...only £1

    Why has no one thought of this..where are all the business leaders of the country when you need them?

    1. Anonymous John

      Ash Cloud of Death(tm) facemasks AKA Pig flu pandemic masks

      I expect all potential customers already have a boxful of them.

  28. RichardB


    To all of you whining about them needing to 'give us back our money' - well, the reason its 'gone' is because they lent it back to mugs in the UK to buy overpriced houses.

    The real question of where the money is, is who downsized - or sold up and got out. They are the ones with 'our' money.

  29. Alien Doctor 1.1


    What is all the fuss about? Let the planes fly then at least the National Geographic and Discovery channels will be able to make some new programmes.

  30. John 62

    Andromeda strain

    can't believe no-one mentioned the Andromeda Strain. Haven't read the book but it was a crazy film. Very confidently directed in what seemed to me to be a very sparse style. They don't make them like that nowadays.

  31. censored

    Easyjet are a shower of shite

    I was supposed to fly out of Gatwick before 6am this morning. About half a dozen Easyjet flights were cancelled, including mine. Two Easyjet flights (Amsterdam and Innsbruck) went out after mine should have. Several more followed, according to the flight checker, but the majority didn't.

    The Ash Cloud Of Doom (TM) was, at the time, hovering somewhere over northern Scotland and in no way a threat to Gatwick flights heading south. So why cancel flights? Clearly there's no safety issue if others are going.

    I suspect, it might've left aircraft stranded elsewhere this afternoon and that would've caused them more trouble than flying their paying passengers where they wanted to go....

    1. Cliff

      At least it's not RyanAir

      They'll be charging an ash premium, or a not killing you premium or something. Easyjet have nothing on RyanAir for f*cking you over then farting in your face.

    2. Stratman


      "So why cancel flights? Clearly there's no safety issue if others are going."

      Depends where they're going. If they're going northwards or they're USA bound they'll be heading straight into the cloud. Believe me, you really don't want that to happen.

  32. David Pollard

    Carbon Credits?

    Given that sulphur dioxide and dust in the upper atmosphere counteract global warming ...

  33. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. John 62

      @Christopher Webb

      I'm going to have to watch the film again because I don't remember that, but I do think I remember the strain in question was a crystalline entity (long before the TNG one) and 440 Hz is a nice frequency, usually A on the western concert tuning. Actually my main memory of the film is the laser targetting system in the access shaft. Ah, old-skool cgi.

      1. hplasm

        No CGI

        The lasers used in that scene were actually real- not death rays though, I admit.

    2. David Adams

      Ain't talkin' 'bout dub.

      Singing it to myself as soon as I saw the reference.

  34. exexpat

    Me, Me, Me

    Me, Me, Me. You cant travel today - get over yourselves.

  35. Stuart 22

    NATS are fibbers

    No air movements into/out of UK airspace after 12:00 BST. So why were a load of jumbos taking off from Heathrow at 12:15? Oh and why was NATS re-editing its 09:30 bulletin about the same time?

    Naught, naughty!

    1. Colin Bull 1

      Metric confusion

      Because there was a slight confusion over GMT BST UTC .....

  36. Britt Johnston

    long term no fly zone?

    At last, a more realsitic danger than that dreamed up by anti-aircraft teams who nick drinks from passengers.

    However, the eruption at Monserrat lasted over a year - I cant imagine even the most rabid control freak being allowed to ground all flights for that long.

    Sorry, couldn't find a no-drinks icon, beer will have to do.

  37. hugo tyson

    Too risk-averse

    I note Harriers and air ambulances have also been grounded even though neither has any reason to go so high as the Deadly Ash[tm]. As always ignorant caution leads the way. No-one will take responsibility for saying "it'll be OK", the only arse-covering strategy is to say "ooo no, we can't take a tiny risk from the helicopter going up, we'll let people die for certain in remote car crashes instead". A sad day in this so risk-averse culture.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch


      The funny thing is that a helicopter can actually still land safely in the case of engine failure.

      No volcano icon on el Reg? Black heli icon is too obvious, so ...

  38. Anonymous Coward


    Volcanic Ash Cloud > Al Qaeda.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    sound bytes...

    Iceland hands Europe free HAASH (High Altitude ASH)

    Iceland strikes back and bankrupts the European air industry

    UK in lockdown mode to force population to vote for further oppression...

    Greens win at Heathrow with newly emposed no-fly zone, went direct to god/GIA successfully bypassed lawcourts and

    Doomsayers declare end of days now arrived

    Worlds Media finally has a MAJOR news event where no-one dies!!!

    Ferry companies stocks surge on news of massive increase of cross channel traffic demands.

    Network Rail declares new excuses of 'wrong kind of air' and ash on the line (coming after Monkey on the line this week)

    Green Party expected to win next election

    BAA to go into liquidation, diversifies into scrap metal merchants, Housing estates and sea ports as only option to survive.

    North declared to really be really Grim for forseable future...

    Massive surge of new employment across UK in car wash franchises, though all jobs taken up by foreign non-eu workers operating in grey market, declares it a sucess for small business in bad climate.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    don't you mean Ash-Qaeda

    well the yanks were warning about a global alert with a Dirty-Bomb...

    can you honestly get any bigger!

    no fly zone... (no-turbins = no airworthyness)

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean...

    ... that tomorrow I'm going to have to wash my car again? Reminds me of the morning a couple of years ago when I woke up to find my car covered in a thick film of sand, that the news had said had been blown over from a storm in Saudi Arabia.

  42. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Interesting example of how the global weather system is interlinked

    Volcano erupts in Iceland.

    Jets grounded across Europe and US.

    This has happened before and it's surprising that there is no contingency plan in place for this. My gut feeling is some kind of spraying from above the cloud level to encourage the dust to aggregate and fall.

    1. anarchic-teapot

      Contingency plan

      I think the contingency plan is not to use jet aircraft until the cloud blows over. Same as for any type of really bad weather.

      At least the people who live near airports will get a decent night's sleep for once.

    2. Chemist

      Re :Interesting example of how the........

      "My gut feeling is some kind of spraying from above the cloud level to encourage the dust to aggregate and fall"

      You did mean to use a joke icon for this didn't you ?

      That ash cloud is covering ~~300000 sq. km even at 1 litre/m^2 that's 3 billion tonnes of water most of which would freeze or evaporate at 4000m

      Or are they supposed to be hovering over the volcano?

  43. Anonymous Coward

    That's where it went

    Has someone in Iceland found our money down the back of the sofa and been burning the evidence, volcano indeed...

  44. Anonymous Coward


    You can see mother nature has a wicked sense of humour. We fret about global warming and she shits a loud of cooling ash into the air. I say we get our own back: Don't be Green, go Brown. No more recycling, no more insulation, accelerate all vehicles at high speed, no more wind farms/PV cells/bioreguritators. More flying!! (TBA)

    Oh good! Twister is on the TV. At least its not that drivel, Dante's Peak with Pierce Brosnan.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Air travel brought to a standstill

    And not a single terrorist in sight.

    The governemnt will have to pass a new law to make sure this doesn't happen again.

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