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Test flights show no damage to planes

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Test flights show no damage to planes
Photo: DPA
16:30 CEST+02:00
Two comprehensive test flights by aircraft-manufacturer Airbus have shown no damage to aircraft or pilot's visibility, a company spokesman said Tuesday, suggesting the danger in volcanic ash-affected European airspace is lower than thought.

The extensive flights on Monday went without incident and showed no effects on the aircrafts' equipment, Airbus spokesman Tore Prang said.

“On the two test flights, no noticeable problems appeared at all,” said Prang.

The assessments were based on analysis of measurements taken by the aircrafts' equipment and observations made by the pilots during the flight.

During the flights, which both lasted several hours, Airbus gathered data on the effects of the volcanic ash emanating from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull on the aeroplanes and their technical systems.

CLICK HERE FOR A GALLERY OF THE VOLCANO.

The results came as debate continued to rage over the data upon which authorities have based their decision to ground most of Europe's commercial flights since Thursday.

Germany's Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer has been caught in a storm of criticism, with airlines on one hand agitating for the reopening of air space and the pilots' union Cockpit on the other hand warning it would be reckless to resume flying because of political pressure.

The airline industry has argued that the decision to ban air travel relied too heavily on computer simulations rather than hard data collected from the air above Europe.

Air safety authority Eurocontrol announced that by the end of Tuesday, almost 100,000 flights normally scheduled for European airspace would have been cancelled since the ash cloud began hovering over the continent last week.

For the Airbus tests, a double-decker, four-engine Super-Airbus A 380 was flown in a circle for three-and-a-half hours over France and Switzerland and landed at Toulouse at about 6 pm Monday evening.

A second plane, a four-engine Type A 340-600 flew for five hours over Germany – mainly Lower Saxony, Hamburg and the North Sea area and then back to southern France, where it landed about 7:40 pm.

The information gained from the flights was immediately passed to relevant authorities and also to the planes' engines' manufacturer, said Prang.

He declined to give Airbus' actual assessment of the overall safety situation, saying that responsibility rested with authorities. Instead, Airbus was furnishing authorities with the best possible information to make decisions, Prang said.

Airbus boss Tom Enders stressed on Monday night: “We are working at the moment very closely with the entire aviation community and putting everything we have into technical know-how for decision-making. The whole industry would like to find a solution as quickly as possible and see flights in the skies over Europe again.''

Volcanic ash is believed to be extremely dangerous for jet engines, where the substance can cause parts to seize. The ash can also act like sand paper against a plane's surface, damaging window visibility.

But it remains unclear at what concentration the ash becomes dangerous.

Most German airlines have slowly resumed their flight plans thanks to an ease in the ban which allows pilots to fly by visual flight regulations. But the country's DFS air safety agency has said it will not take responsibility for the safety of these flights.

Meanwhile the country's largest airline carrier Lufthansa reported that its planes have flown without incident at 8,000 metres – where computer simulations have shown the ash cloud.

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