Pyramid Comment

This journal takes an alternative view on current affairs and other subjects. The approach is likely to be contentious and is arguably speculative. The content of any article is also a reminder of the status of those affairs at that date. All comments have been disabled. Any and all unsolicited or unauthorised links are absolutely disavowed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Flight Into Danger

Flight Into Danger - a story

It would seem that commercial operations in air travel are ignoring potentially serious air safety consequences and reducing immediate losses are far more important in the short-term (that may also cost a few possible deaths and the occasional airplane wreck) than the longer-term reputation of a relatively safe form of travel (by air) that may become compromised. This has possibly already been assessed and the airline industry would be expected to recover reasonably quickly. It is only necessary to consider politics to understand short-term memory and this exemplifies the cynicism in commercialism and the ethics of filthy lucre as the means to wealth creation. Money and profit will always win in a conflict with safety.

  • Airlines are already demanding compensation from Iceland since it's an Icelandic volcano that has dared to erupt. If this was insurance issue it would be declared an Act of God, so denying any possible payment, but in commercial profit-making businesses, it's Iceland's responsibility.
But then, of course, any damage caused by an erupting volcano on the land and in the lava flow, perhaps, is not a consequence of the volcanic ash in the air.The volcano spewed out ash and smoke up to a 10km altitude: the cruising height of the typical jet aircraft. As a consequence all flights that operate here were banned for obvious safety reasons. A sensible precaution while further information was being collected. To operate at such a height, an aircraft must pass through the ash clouds, either in an ascent or descent. At speed of around 500kmph, the volcanic cloud would sandblast the aircraft's windscreen and possibly cause severe damage of the engines. The cloud consists of very fine glass-rich particles which could not only clog the ventilation holes, but also melt and fuse onto the moving parts of the turbine. Temperatures inside a jet engine are well in excess of 1000°C.

When basic 'inconvenience' is the issue, it is not surprising that people 'assertively' question the data, but accept without question 'data' that allegedly supports the notion that human activity is the causation of CO2 generation and the consequential climate change. The irony is that air travel is a BIG contributor to the proposed connection. When it's a convenience issue, this is predictably overlooked by those who stand accused of the problem: the passengers.


Eyjafjallajokull, a volcano in Iceland, has erupted. Nothing like Krakatoa, but still an eruption producing lava and vast smoke plumes and the predictable conflict between commerce and safety has started. Airline pressure insists that it's safe to take to the air and that evidence allegedly exists in the air samples claimed to have been analysed. The atmosphere where aircraft operate at above 30,000 ft (10,000m) is a very turbulent place with high wind speeds. Ash clouds move very fast and is why they are already falling everywhere over Europe. Monitoring a particular location may produce a 'safe to fly' result, but a moment later this could be invalidated. Any commercial 'plane on the ground does not 'make' any money for the operator so reasons to justify keeping them in the air are critical. It questions concerns of safety for passengers over the financial consequences for an airline not operating. The passengers are simply the human fodder that is the life-blood of any commercial operation and the possibility of a crash occurring is just a statistical gamble: if a crash occurs and is (much) later linked to volcanic ash (assuming the flight recorder is found and substantiates such a claim). Not all flights are over land and a lost flight recorder in mid-ocean isn't likely to be found. Proof is lost and air travel continues. The stake is only the plane and its passengers. And the flight crews. Many passengers around the world are waiting to be repatriated and have been lobbied to raise the pressure to restart flights. The airlines have a commercial reason to lend support and the losses to airlines have reached an estimate to be in excess of £1bn ($1.7bn) so far (£130m daily). Every £$ is a good reason to restart flights.

  • There appear to be no comments from the flight crews who would be forced to fly these planes
Even if later eruptions fail to happen, the current one is apparently producing less ash, yet is still producing it. The ash already in the air will drop below the jet aircraft operating height, but planes take off below the ash and land beneath it, whatever the height of the residual ash. Natural dispersion of these particles widens the area implicated and any plane MUST pass through this WHATEVER that altitude. Until a potential crash.

Alaska Airlines

  • Mount Redoubt was the cause of the original 'incident' with failure of all four engines of a Boeing 747-400 (KLM Flight 867) that brought the problem to stark reality many years ago (15th December 1989)
Boeing - Volcanic Ash Avoidance

  • The copyright prohibits posting this information, but it can be found at
  • Copyright © The Boeing Company. All rights reserved.
Why Flying Near Volcanic Ash Is Dangerous
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
Volcanic Ash: Danger to Aircraft
Dangers To Aircraft
Fighter Jet Damage