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Volcano ash forces Obama to leave Ireland early

Greenland airspace partly closes over volcanic ash
Reykjavik (AFP) May 23, 2011 - A portion of the airspace over Denmark's autonomous territory Greenland has been closed due to ash from an erupting Icelandic volcano, Danish air traffic control officials said Monday.

Naviair spokeswoman Helle Kogsbell told AFP that authorities had partly closed Greenland airspace late Sunday "due to the spread of ash from the Icelandic volcano to the east coast of Greenland."

She said the airspace would remain shut until at least 1200 GMT Monday.

"The space, up to 6,000 metres (nearly four miles) of altitude, from north of Kulusuk... to Constable Point in the East, remains closed to air traffic," Kogsbell said.

Naviair is responsible for the airspace over Greenland only up to 6,000 kilometres, while Canada and Iceland have control over airspace above that.

Denmark was the first country besides Iceland to close any airspace after the Grimsvoetn volcano began erupting late Saturday, but European aviation authorities have been closely monitoring the giant column of ash, amid fears it could like last year's eruption wreak havoc on air travel across the continent.

European safety experts have warned that the ash could reach Scotland by Tuesday before sweeping across Britain to hit France and Spain two days later.

Norwegian airport operator Avinor meanwhile said Monday it planned to halt flights between mainland Norway and the country's Arctic archipelago of Svalbard Monday.

"The cloud of ash will reach the waters separating continental Norway and Svalbard," Avinor spokesman Ove Narvesen told AFP.

"There will therefore not be any flights to or from Svalbard today," he said, adding there was also "a certain risk that western Norway will be affected but it is too early to say."

Only two flights were scheduled to fly to or from Svalbard Monday.

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) May 23, 2011
US President Barack Obama was forced to leave Ireland a day ahead of schedule Monday to fly to London as a cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano drifted towards Britain.

The president decided to bring forward his flight to Britain, where he was originally due to arrive early Tuesday, after forecasters predicted ash from the Grimsvoetn volcano was set to enter Scottish airspace and drift south.

"Due to a recent change in the trajectory in the plume of volcanic ash, Air Force One will depart Ireland for London tonight. The schedule for tomorrow will proceed as planned," the White House official said.

Under the changed plans, Obama was to depart Dublin for London on Monday evening as part of his six-day European tour of four countries.

After his state visit to Britain he is due to fly to France on Thursday.

Volcanic ash is expected to reach Scottish airspace by 2300 GMT on Monday, according to the British air traffic control operator NATS.

When an Icelandic volcano erupted last year, the plume of ash arrived in Scotland before spreading quickly across Britain, shutting down the whole country's airspace.

The ash then drifted across most of Europe, sparking the biggest shutdown of airspace since World War II.

Grimsvoetn has so far forced only the closure of Iceland's airspace at the weekend, parts of which were reopening on Monday.

The change to Obama's plans came shortly after a Scottish airline announced it was axing a handful of flights early Tuesday and Britain warned the ash was already causing minor flight disruptions.

Glasgow-based regional airline Loganair, which serves mainly Scottish destinations, said it had axed 36 services early Tuesday.

"For tomorrow the volcanic ash forecasts issued by (forecasting service) the Met Office this afternoon indicate that a high density of ash will be present in large parts of Scottish airspace," said a statement from the airline.

"As a result of this, we have taken the decision to cancel all services with the exception of our inter-isles flights in Orkney," an archipelago off the northern Scottish coast.

British transport minister Philip Hammond said there had been some delays to flights but added Britain was better prepared after last year's travel chaos when Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano caused major disruption.

"There have already been some modest delays to flights, particularly those crossing the Atlantic, due to the need for those flights to avoid areas of high ash concentration," he said.

"Clearly, this is a natural phenomenon which we cannot control, but the UK is now much better prepared to deal with an ash eruption than last year," he said.

Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said that since last year's crisis it had brought in new measures, including a move that areas of high, medium and low density ash will be identified using data from the Met Office.

Instead of a blanket ban on flights, British airlines wishing to operate in high or medium density ash will now have to have a safety request approved by the CAA.

The request sets out measures airlines will take to reduce the risk of flying through ash.

"None has so far submitted a safety case to operate in high density ash," it said.




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Volcanic eruption shuts down Iceland airspace
Reykjavik (AFP) May 22, 2011
Iceland's airspace temporarily closed down early Sunday because of a violent eruption of the country's most active volcano, the airport administration Isavia said. "The status right now is that Keflavik airport, our biggest international airport, is closing. The airspace is closing," Isavia spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir told AFP. The airspace closure, she said, "affects pretty much ... read more

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