Ash grounds Irish, UK flights; summer chaos feared

DUBLIN/LONDON (Reuters) – Airspace over Scotland and Northern Ireland will be closed from early today because of volcanic ash that closed airports in Ireland yesterday and could threaten summer holiday travel.

Britain’s aviation authority said airports in northwest England and north Wales could also be affected by the ash from an Icelandic volcano which brought chaos to European air travel last month.

Forecasts showed the concentration of ash in the atmosphere exceeded recommended safety levels, it said.

“The situation is very dynamic, so passengers expecting to travel from the impacted airports should contact their airlines to check whether their flight is operating,” the Civil Aviation Authority said on its website.

Airspace over Scotland and Northern Ireland will be closed from 0600 GMT and airports in the two regions are also expected to close. A further update was expected about midnight yesterday.

Airports in Ireland and parts of Britain were closed for a number of hours on Tuesday.

The latest disruption was caused by ash being blown from the same volcano in Iceland that caused mayhem for 10 million travellers last month.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) closed airports from 0600 GMT to 1200 GMT due to the risk of ash ingestion in aircraft jet engines, although overflights of Ireland from Britain and continental Europe were not halted.

It was the first test of a European system of progressive closures, including partial no-fly zones, introduced after the abrasive ash cloud prompted a blanket ban that was criticised by airlines forced to ground thousands of flights in April.

European transport ministers have agreed to set safety limits for flying through the ash, which can paralyse jet engines, and to unify European airspace.

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