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Satellites Show Big Ash Cloud Over UK Wasn't As Bad As First Thought

April 26, 2010 at 4:46 PM | by | Comments (0)

As we now enter week whatever of Big Ash Problems, with future passengers already being asked to give up their seats, people are beginning to wonder whether this logistical disaster was strictly necessary. Airline officials were grumbling from the very beginning that the computer models implying unflyable European airspace were flawed.

At the time, many folks wrote off their complaints as typical recklessness from typical profit-driven corporations, but new satellite images show that planes could have been flying all along:

New evidence shows there was no all-encompassing cloud and, where dust was present, it was often so thin that it posed no risk. The satellite images demonstrate that the skies were largely clear, which will not surprise the millions who enjoyed the fine, hot weather during the flight ban. Jim McKenna, the Civil Aviation Authority's head of airworthiness, strategy and policy, admitted: 'It's obvious that at the start of this crisis there was a lack of definitive data. It's also true that for some of the time, the density of ash above the UK was close to undetectable'.

Now the British press is notoriously merciless, and some of their criticism is going to be unfair Monday morning quarterbacking. European Union and UK regulators didn't so much misread their data as just not have enough data. They've admitted as much in the past few days, and now they're speeding up efforts to get their act together. So they were being overcautious on the basis of inadequate information, and that's not the worst thing when you're talking about people's lives.

But as the EU goes about fixing its air traffic control system, the model they're using is what we have here in America. And our system has been around forever, which begs a very simple question: knowing in advance that their system was too convoluted to answer a simple question like "are planes able to fly in the air," why haven't EU officials implemented their reforms years ago?

Instead hundreds of thousands of lives have been disrupted and billions of dollars have been lost. If it turns out that this fiasco was just one giant misunderstanding...wow.

[Photo: KTo288 / Wiki Commons]

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