Britain cut off, but Dunkirk spirit still alive

Flights in or out of the UK are banned for a fourth day due to the alleged effects of dust from the Icelandic volcano. Flight restrictions have been just been extended until midnight tonight, with suggestions that they could extend for “several more days”. Britain is virtually cut off, with the Channel Tunnel and ferries to and from continental Europe fully booked. There is talk of an economic disaster, with some European airlines in serious financial difficulties as a result. Tens of thousands of people are stranded, unable to get home from their Easter holidays and facing financial ruin, loss of pay and even the loss of their job as a result. Travel insurance companies in most cases are refusing to pay out for additional accommodation or the cost of returning by alternative means.

However, the Dunkirk spirit is not dead. Just as in 1940 when Brits with small boats went across the Channel to bring our defeated troops back, TV presenter Dan Snow is today mounting an operation with inflatable craft to bring stranded Britons back from Calais to Dover. You couldn’t make it up. (Postscript: The attempt was halted by authorities, presumably for health and safety reasons. Oh well. Nice try.)

It is reported that the Dutch airline KLM has flown a Boeing 737 to 13km over Dutch skies with no adverse effects, whilst Germany’s Lufthansa has flown several planes from Frankfurt to Munich without any harm being caused to the windows, fuselage or engines. But Dutch and German airspace are also closed for the time being. However the Ukrainian International airline – which coincidentally Olga used on her recent trip to Ukraine – is to recommence flights at 0900 UTC today as it believes the skies are safe. Hooray for the Ukrainians! At least someone has some sense.

According to some aviation experts, the only time aircraft have suffered from volcanic ash is when they flew right through a plume of it as the volcano was erupting. The ash here is so thin that you can see the moon and stars when the sky is clear. Isn’t this just another case of out-of-control safety mania, with bureaucrats being afraid to make any decision that just might lead to them being blamed later on, regardless of the probability of risk? Isn’t it time for someone to use some common sense?

Julian Moss, G4ILO, is a regular contributor to and writes from Cumbria, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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