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New wave of ash shuts airports

A plume of ash rises from a volcano erupting under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Hvolsvollur, Iceland, on Wednesday. (By Brynjar Gauti / Associated Press)

A new wave of dense volcanic ash from Iceland snarled air traffic Wednesday in Ireland and Scotland and threatened to spill into the air space of England. If you're headed to Northern Europe, check with your airline to see if the schedule has changed.

Ireland's key hub, Dublin Airport, admitted defeat for the day and canceled all flights until 7 p.m. EDT. More than a dozen other airports throughout the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland announced shorter closure periods as unseasonal winds pushed the engine-wrecking ash southwest back toward the Atlantic rather than northeast into the unpopulated Arctic.

The renewed volcanic-ash threat in the skies of Britain and Ireland this week, following a two-week lull, has tested the more precise safety rules adopted by European aviation authorities following the unprecedented April 14-20 closure of most northern European airspace.

Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said Wednesday's ash threat might reach northwestern England and Wales but would miss the four major airports of London.

Authorities are seeking to stop flights only when the ash reaches certain density levels and gets within 60 miles of an airport's path for landings and takeoffs -- a stark contrast to last month's closures of air services throughout several countries.

In Scotland, Glasgow Airport shut immediately Wednesday but its eastern neighbor, Edinburgh, stayed open until midday. While Dublin was gridlocked, services at the Irish Republic's other international hub to the west, Shannon, didn't plan to stop until after noon EDT.

Irish authorities said it appeared likely that the country's two most southwesterly airports in Cork and Kerry would miss the ash threat entirely.

The rapidly changing situation obliged would-be fliers to hop on trains, buses and taxis to reach nearby airports. Virgin Trains also said it was offering extra services Wednesday between Scotland and London.

Market-leading airline Ryanair sought to discourage the passengers' dashing from airport to airport by announcing blanket closures through the rest of Wednesday at Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland; Northern Ireland's airports in Belfast and Londonderry; and both Dublin and Knock Airport in western Ireland.

Ryanair also warned customers planning to fly out of several airports in the west and north of England -- Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle -- to check the company's Web site and remain alert for possible closure announcements.

-- Associated Press

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By Michael Bolden  |  May 5, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Airports  
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Hello Michael - I hope that the possibility of the airports closing at short notice will not put you off visiting our capital city again! It seems that the airports are all open again on 10 May although the northern Scottish airports, mainly in the islands off the northwest coast, were closed for a time yesterday.

It seems from a report issued this morning by British Airports Authority that the passenger numbers in April have been adversely affected, but the Civil Aviation Authority have now adopted a better computer modelling system which tracks the ash cloud more accurately. So we should not have a repeat of the unprecedented 6 day closure which happened in April.

There's lots to see and do over here in Edinburgh! Tell your readers!

Posted by: PhyllisStephen | May 10, 2010 4:30 AM | Report abuse

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