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Ashes to Ashes April 21, 2010

Posted by Audit Monkey in The State of the British Nation.
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The dust is beginning on the volcanic cloud which has disrupted air travel in Western Europe and the UK over the past week. Here’s some of my observations and thoughts.

COBRA [the British Government’s Emergency Committee for calmanious events] met on Sunday 18 April 2010, several days after after flights to and from the UK were suspended by the UK industry regulator (CAA – Civil Aviation Authority) on the 15 April 2010.

The present government is blissfully unaware of the role the UK airlines have in the UK economy and isn’t really that bothered.

“Government ministers say the Navy could be recruited to ferry thousands of Britons who have been grounded by the fine cloud of ash”. CityAM, 19 April 2010. The British Navy Armada was duly despatched. However:

“Tim Fish,..analyst at Jane’s Information Group, questioned the wisdom of using the warships. They are not ferries so they will take longer to load and unload in port..” The Times, 20 April 2010

Nevermind, some anxious Brits waiting to be repatriated on HMS Albion from Sandtander were refused permission to board.

The British Government and Civil Service couldn’t organise a piss up in the proverbial.

“Under pressure from the industry European transport ministers agreed last night [Sunday 19 April 2010] to redraw the no-fly zone”. The Times 20 April 2010.

EU countries will act independently and in their own self-interest when push comes to shove.

“The decision to lift the ban came when…Eurocontrol switched to a map showing high concentrations of ash based on satellite observations rather than the NATS [UK Air Traffic Control] model based on computer forecasting. The original restrictions were…on advice from the Met Office”. Evening Standard, 21 April 2010.

The British, in this case the CAA and British Government, will always follow the rules irrespective of all evidence to the contrary.

“The Met Office uses a pollution dispersion model called Name. That stands for Nuclear Accident Model – it was prompted by the 1985 Chernobyl accident….An estimate of the volume of ash being injected into the atmosphere is fed into the model, which applies Met Office forecasts of wind speeds..for where ash will be found”. The Times, 20 April 2010.

Incidentally, the Met Office predicted a “barbeque summer for 2009” when it was pretty damp and the Met Office weather predictions were so unreliable, it was ditched by the BBC.

The regulator (CAA) is using a dated model based theoretical assumptions to make ‘informed’ decisions.

The British Government will always listen to the ‘experts’ even though they are amateurs. Abit like the blind leading the blind.

“David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, insisted that European Union Law guaranteed that [EU] airlines would provide hotels and food for passengers until they could make the journey home”. The Times, 21 April 2010.

A typical bit of EU law. The cost of any disruption, even Acts of God, bureaucratic bundling will be borne by the airlines, irrespective of cost and impact. I do think EU law is designed to hinder business. It doesn’t matter as long as someone else other than the taxpayer is paying.

So all in all, a right bog up. The Tory Shadow Minister is calling for an ‘inquiry’ but we all know that Quangos and the majority of British politicians are inept.

What gets me is why are so many Brits struggling to get home? Given this level of ineptitude I won’t bother.


1. Richard - April 28, 2010

In the interests of balance, I would recommend a peruse of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Airways_Flight_9. I’d read this shortly before the latest Iceland eruption so wasn’t too concerned about the no fly policy even though I could have been severely affected by it. Better safe than sorry..
However, it was frustrating that non of the news reports showed where the ash cloud currently was or where it was heading. Even by today’s shockingly poor journalist standards I would have thought that this was fundamental to the story, not some human interest garbage about people being stranded at an airport. Maybe the lack of consensus discussed above explains this.

Anyway, here’s an interesting link that illustrates the total shutdown – http://vimeo.com/11205494

2. Audit Monkey - May 2, 2010

I think you hit the nail on the head when you note that none of the news reports showed where the ash clouds actually were. As I touch on above, the CAA was relying on an out dated theoretical model to plot the path of the ash cloud rather than the ‘actual’ position.

In the event, instead of the Government questioning the assumptions of the model but Willie Walsh, CEO of BA, who had discussions with Lord Adonis the Transport Secretary to reassess the situation. There was probably no need for the blanket ban on air travel in Europe, it wasn’t exactly Krakatoa.

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