Pilots call on Aviation Authority to prove skies still pose a risk
IRISH airline pilots yesterday insisted some commercial flights should have resumed over the past few days.
Their representative organisation, the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA), hit out at authorities for not hiring experts from other parts of the world where jets regularly fly through volcanic ash.
IALPA Safety Director Captain Adrian Hinkson said the authorities needed to secure information which would allow them to determine what concentrations of ash it was safe to fly through.
"We have great technical ability to predict where the ash is but we don't have good evidence as to what concentrations constitute a hazard," Capt Hinkson told the Irish Independent.
The safety expert said that as the ash cloud disperses, the risk of a catastrophic incident is reduced even though there was some risk of damage to the airplane.
"The authorities need to get the information that would allow them to ascertain at what level the concentrations would enable commercial flights to resume," he added.
"We possibly could have resumed operations at lower levels.
"It would probably have been reasonable and safe at varying times during the last week, but the authorities lacked the information."
Criticising the length of the shutdown, Capt Hinkson said it should have been possible to resume some flying last Thursday.
"It should have been possible to have resumed some level of flying by this stage," he said.
Capt Hinkson also claimed there was no evidence the authorities were "buying in" the expertise from other parts of the world where commercial flights passed through some amounts of volcanic ash.
But the Irish Aviation Authority spokesman Martin Towey said they had been acting on the best international advice in the interests of passenger, flight crew and cabin crew safety. He added they could not give clearance for flights, based on knowledge relating to the concentrations of volcanic ash in the atmosphere and the manner in which the ash was drifting into flight paths.