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Government defends lengthy flight ban

DDP/DPA/The Local · 22 Apr 2010, 09:06

Published: 22 Apr 2010 09:06 GMT+02:00

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As the political fallout from the flight ban settled, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the closure of air space had been justified. Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle, meanwhile, said the week-long interruptions to flights around Europe would not substantially damage Germany’s economic recovery.

“I don’t believe that it will have a significant impact on the macro-economic growth rate for the year,” Brüderle told broadcaster ZDF on Thursday morning.

Industries hit by lost production because of the cancellation of more than 100,000 civilian flights would enjoy a catch-up effect, Brüderle said. The fact that Lufthansa boss Wolfgang Mayrhuber had made no request for state help for Germany’s biggest airline was “a signal” of this, he added.

Brüderle acknowledged, however, that a final assessment of the impact of the ash cloud was not yet possible, given “no one even knows how quickly everything will get going again.”

He said he would be having talks in the coming weeks with the sectors hit by the transport chaos.

Merkel, meanwhile, said it was the first job of the government and responsible agencies to ensure the safety of its people.

“Of course it’s a heavy blow for the airlines. But the state has the job of evaluation the risks responsibly and protecting people,” Merkel told the WAZ newspaper group.

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“After all, when something happens to the first flight, the authorities who approved the opening of the air space despite the ash cloud will be held accountable – and quite rightly.”

The airlines, which have lost as much as $1.7 billion in sales according to their peak body the International Air Transport Association (IATA), have been sharply critical of Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer, claiming decisions to close air space were based on insufficient data.

DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:11 April 22, 2010 by berlinski
Airlines would rather risk passenger safety in order to keep profits maximised. Interesting.
15:40 April 22, 2010 by kmstan
Airlines are covered by insurance if a plane crashes, but not against any acts of God, (eg volcano eruption). They will definitely risk our safety since not a single cent will come our of their pocket if any plane crashes.

Glad that most European governments are not thinking likewise.
18:58 April 22, 2010 by freechoice
Hell no I don't want any planes to crash into my home!!
20:13 April 22, 2010 by The-ex-pat
I have never read so much misinformation posted on blogs as with this subject. To put it in perspective I am an aircraft engineer for on of the big players here in Germany. For a start, everyone's obsession with engines, there are a myriad of other systems that are also effected, not just engines. If a aircraft is flown in ash, it can spend up to two days on the ground before it is given the all clear, there is so much that is required to be checked. Do you all really think that the airlines have the capacity for this work if an entire fleet is grounded awaiting checks? Do you really think that pilots would fly an aircraft that had been in ash knowing that there is a potential for damaged systems. Do you really think that an airline would want the image damage of a crash due to ash? As for "the airlines" putting people at risk, who or what are the airlines? well they are people like me who has to put my balls on the line and sign an aircraft off as clear top fly. If you for one second think that I will put my life, lively hood and my freedom on the line.............could you go to prison if you cock up at work??...just so an aircraft can fly, you really are not at all grasping the seriousness of the subject.
20:28 April 22, 2010 by wood artist
From a business sense, I can imagine no greater disaster than an airline pushing to fly in dangerous conditions, and then having a crash because of it. Even a giant like Lufthanse would likely not be able to recover, and I'm not talking about the money involved. No one would want to fly with them again. Ever!

The facts are pretty simple. The ban was installed without having either objective standards in place, nor factual information about what was in the cloud nor exactly where it was (or wasn't). They worked off of a computer model that might or might not be accurate, and none of the projections were ever confirmed by test data.

Weather forecasting, which has involved computer models for much longer and has the benefit of hindsight, comparing what was projected against what actually happened, still struggles to get it right. Ash projection is nowhere near as refined.

It's not that they made bad choices, it's more that they made choices knowing they had no information to work with. By all means err on the side of safety, but in the meantime get the data you need to make good decisions. The concept of sending up planes, or even balloons, isn't rocket science. Only when the airlines and manufacturers forced the issue did the "officials" start to do that.

Initially, they did the right thing. Everything after that was just guessing.

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