Pilots to decide on ash cloud flight safety

Pilots are to be given a greater say on whether it is safe to fly their aircraft in airspace contaminated with volcanic ash dust.

According to reports today, safety body Nats is set to publish new guidance at the end of this month, following three airspace closures in April and May.

Since those closures, Nats and the CAA brought in less stringent restrictions on flying through ash clouds after discussions with aircraft manufacturers.

It is hoped the new regulations will minimise any future disruption if the ash clouds emanating from Iceland return.

Most airlines now believe there will not be a repeat of the blanket bans imposed in April and May that caused massive losses for airlines and tour operators.

Under the new Nats guidelines, pilots will be given powers to decide, taking account of the capabilities of their aircraft, how to avoid ash clouds based on Met Office forecasts.

Aircraft powered by propellers are less susceptible to problems associated with volcanic ash than jet-powered aircraft.

Previous blanket bans were based on Met Office computer modelling of where ash was likely to be in relation to prevailing winds.

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