Following Germany and Italy, London opened its skies to more flights on Wednesday. The UK’s aviation regulator Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), however, asked airlines to conduct their own risk assessment.
This means fliers will have to check with airlines before planning to travel.
“Airlines should develop an operational procedure to address risk and monitor the extent of damage caused to the aircraft by volcanic ash after every flight,” read the advisory that CAA issued on Tuesday.
But pilots are worried because they cannot assess the extent of damage the ash can cause to the aircraft engine. “Nobody is telling us the engine’s tolerance level to the ash cloud,” said a senior pilot with a private carrier, requesting anonymity. Airlines are yet to tell passengers about the CAA advisory.
Manuals by aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus advise pilots to take a 180-degree turn to get out of a cloud of volcanic ash. However, nothing is mentioned about engine damage.
Under pressure from the government to clear the backlog of passengers, a few Indian carriers started services to London on Wednesday. According to records of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, more than 11,000 fliers of Jet Airways and Air India are stranded in Mumbai and Delhi.
Air India has decided to use the Boeing 747-400 aircraft as it will be operating an additional flight from Mumbai to London from Friday. “The aircraft can seat 423 fliers but is expensive to operate unless fully booked. With the backlog, occupancy won’t be a problem,” said a ministry official.
(Inputs from Tushar Srivastava)