The British Airways test flight which was conducted yesterday seems to have landed without any evidence of damage from volcanic ash. The BA Boeing 747 jumbo landed at the British Airways maintenance facility in Cardiff with BA chief executive Willie Walsh on board. The aircraft flew for more than two hours, up to an altitude of about 40,000 feet which would be approximately the standard cruising altitude of this aircraft. No damage has been found in the engines due to the ash cloud and a more detailed technical analysis is being undertaken to confirm the initial findings of the BA Test Flight. However NATO say that F-16 jets which flew through the ash cloud had suffered engine damage.
Commercial airlines around Europe are now looking at the British Airways test flight to see if this may see flights resuming again in European Airspace which is costing about €150m per day and some airlines might have to close as a result of this major issue, combined with the recent recessionary problems faced by the European airlines.
This is now longer than the 9/11 closure of airspace and it is really unusual to look into the sky and not see any contrails.
The decision to close airspace was made in the interest of customer safety, but could the aircraft have flown below 20,000ft or could there have been reduced altitude short haul flights from Dublin to lets say Manchester or Liverpool, London to Paris in order to to ease the burden.
There are probably many people wondering “When can I fly again?” but with the weather set to change on Friday hopefully this will push the ash to the East and clear some airspace around the UK and Ireland. But with the possibility of the volcano continuing for months or even years this air dissruption will be just another thing to get used to.