International Cat Speculators Since 2006

Idiot/Savant doesn’t like the idea of Europeans flying in volcanic ash.

Iceland’s revenge has been smothering Europe for almost a week now, and the airline industry is reportedly losing $280 million a day. Naturally, they’re keen to stop losing money, so today saw some carefully staged test flights, followed by stock declarations that the planes were not damaged and everything was fine. The message is clear: the European airline industry wants to be rid of “silly” flight restrictions.

Indeed, we all want to be rid of restrictions, if indeed they are silly. It must be remembered that there has been no research at all into the effects of flying aircraft in the level of ash currently over Europe.

But this is a real problem – take a look at these photos of what the ash did to the innards of a Finnish airforce jet’s engines. If they start flying again, the risks of an accident will significantly increase….

But the risk of accidents are only part of the reasons for flight restrictions. In the Indonesian case, once the engines stopped taking in ash, they (3 out of 4) were able to restart and land the aircraft. But the aircraft was written off.

That’s a significant risk of crashing, but it’s a certainty of damaging the aircraft.

…The airlines don’t care about that, because they’re insured – insured for the cost of replacing the plane, and insured for the cost of compensating the relatives of dead passengers. And so they’re willing to gamble with their passenger’s lives in order to avoid going out of business.

But while airlines might be insured against crashes, damage to engines is going to vastly increase uninsured maintenance costs long before any aircraft are badly damaged enough to crash.

In other words, profitability will be affected long before serious risks to safety develop. They might be putting profits before people, but damaging expensive aircraft engines “for profit” is nonsensical.

Preventing this sort of corporate sociopathy is exactly why we have government.

Now, I agree with Idiot that flying in significant ash is stupid and is going to kill people. And airlines are going to push their own self interest. But as I’ve pointed out, airlines interests are aligned with safety in this instance. No matter how much they might spin to the public, they simply have no interest in conducting high-maintenance, loss producing flights.

But people know the potential risks (it’s been all over the news for days for Pete’s sake), and if they wish to be 100% safe they have no obligation whatsoever to step into an aircraft.

In other words, he considers the flying public as to be morons.


Comments on: "Airlines are stupid, but are their passengers?" (3)

  1. I was expecting some idiot would make the argument that airlines were prepared to destroy their aeroplanes in order to move passengers, and I haven’t been disappointed.

    This is a time for caution, but such leftist paranoia is not required.

  2. Capt. Rudy Jakma (ret) said:

    The large-scale disruption of air travel generated a lot of interest in the subject.
    Unfortunately, it would seem that a lot was based not so much on actual observation but on predictive computer models. I suspect that some were derived from models written to predict the pattern of fall-out from the Chernobyl disaster.
    We know for a fact that flying through a cloud of volcanic ash is dangerous. When the computer model predicted volcanic ash to be present over a large portion of Europe they had no choice but to ground the airlines. It led to an unprecedented chaos and airlines were demanding a more balanced assessment of the situation to see if and when they could resume at least part of their operations.
    But to accuse airlines of putting profit before safety is absurd.
    No industry has even come close to the concerted efforts of the aviation industry to improve safety. The result is a pubic transport system with a safety record that is second to none.
    Air crashes are bad news for everyone. And because they are spectacular they always make the headlines. Airlines do not want to lose their aircraft, insured or not. They certainly do not want to lose their customers. And crashes are very bad for their PR.
    I am a retired airline pilot. I have logged over 22.000 hours and they were accident-free.
    That includes more than 5000 hours on light aircraft doing photo flights, banner towing and aerobatics.
    Spending a lot of my time at airports should have given me a high chance of witnessing a crash. Yet, I can count them on the fingers of one hand. The only airliner I have ever seen going down was in the early nineteen-seventies: the Russian Tu 144 which came down during the Le Bourget air show.
    So please cut out the crap about greedy airlines taking unwarranted risks counting on the insurance to carry the write-off. The truth is that airlines are bound by very strict rules and regulations that are imposed on them by their respective Civil Aviation Authorities. These bodies are invariably highly professional. I have held a licence in Nigeria and found the same high level of competency of the Aviation Authorities in what we regard as a third world country.
    Engineers, pilots, airlines, manufacturers, forecasters, doctors, lawyers and many other experts all take part in panels and committees that advice the authorities. The recommendations find their way in the form of directives, advisory bulletins, etc. and are communicated to airlines, line pilots, engineers and all other professionals concerned. For an individual to ignore them is a quicksure way to the dole queue. Or in the case of an airline: to be grounded. Which is far from a theoretical possibility.
    Then there is the complexity of the aviation industry. It is a symbiosis of authorities, manufacturers and many other bodies that all have a say.
    Many airlines do not even own their aircraft, they lease them And in some cases the engines are leased separately under a “power by the hour” scheme. Engines must be removed and undergo an overhaul at prescribed intervals. If an airline is careless and the maintenance bill is unacceptable, then the airline may find itself with a fleet of aircraft without engines.
    Pilots and engineers are trained to high standards. They may be employed by an airline, but they remain answerable to the aviation authorities. Pilots must demonstrate their skills every six months in a simulator. And can find themselves out of a job if they fail to meet the required standards. Airline pilots are not inclined to be suicidal. They are just trained to assess risk and act in accordance with the situation.
    No aircraft has been recorded to have been lost as a result of flying through volcanic ash. The one that came closest was the celebrated case where a British Airways B747 without previous warning flew through an ash cloud when the Krakatau erupted. All four engines stopped as a result of the ash ingestion. What followed was a triumph of superb crew management and flying skill. Eventually 3 engines were re-started and the aircraft landed safely in Jakarta. The aircraft was severely damaged.
    But, if my memory serves me well, this happened in the vicinity of the eruption.
    When the volcano in Iceland erupted, meteorologists predicted ash clouds moving in the direction of Europe following an unusual pressure pattern.
    The aviation authorities grounded all commercial aviation.
    This was the correct decision under the circumstances. But after a few days, with chaos increasing and cost rising, no concerted action was taken to determine the actual density of the ash cloud.
    Of course, the eruption will throw heavy particles, even lumps of molten lave the size of a car high in the air by the sheer force of the eruption. Close to Iceland heavy particles would have been present carried aloft by the rising hot air. But the farther away, the less sense the cloud and closer to Europe it was even barely detectible. No effort seemed to have been made, for instance, to find out if slower, lower flying turboprop aircraft could have operated skeleton services to serve the UK and Ireland.
    The air in the higher atmosphere is below freezing and only extremely fine particles will remain airborne. Mention was made of “glass particles” that could do damage. Glass, is that not silicon ? A substance sand is made of ?
    What about flying through dust over the Sahara ? How different would that have been ? The air is full of dust. Engine manufacturers have a very good database to assess acceptable levels of abrasion.
    A safety expert of Flight International came on air and put to the public that it was unlikely that continued flying would have led to an accident but he wondered, if aircraft would have been forced to divert all over Europe with engine problems, was that what the airlines wanted ?
    No, of course not. A logistical nightmare and a high maintenance bill on top of the cost already incurred ? I doubt it. But the airlines in this case were let down by the authorities. Yes, they all consist of professionals. But their brief is to assure flight safety. They do that by imposing standards and regulations. The airlines are carrying the passengers whilst complying with the rules. Their safety record demonstrates how successful they are in complying.
    But the airspace over Europe is carved up and controlled by the individual sovereign states. This patchwork caused a stalemate (which I called “dithering” in a radio interview) which in my opinion prevented an effective ad-hoc early partial lifting and an unecessary prolongation of the flying ban.

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