Now that the dust has settled …

Forgive the naff joke, it was too good to miss out on! However, the whole issue of the volcanic ash cloud from under the Eyjafjallajökull (ay-yah-FYAH’-tlah-yer-kuh-duhl) glacier in Iceland seems to have been another exercise in negative public relations for health and safety.

Whilst experts in the air industry were giving evidence that flying was actually safe, risk-averse health and safety experts brought the airline industry to its knees.

Of course, it’s better to err on the side of safety when lives are at risk and we’re not saying that the risk should be taken without any care at all for the safety of passengers or crew, but once test flights had proven there wasn’t an issue, why did it go on and on and on?

Why weren’t airlines and governments who have dealt with this kind of situation consulted? This is not the only active volcano in the world although you might be forgiven for thinking so with the overreaction on the part of the government bodies. They have eruptions regularly in Alaska and it doesn’t ground the entire airline industry in and around the state.

When Mount St Helens in USA erupted flights were grounded for a couple of days, but then they looked at the specifics – where the ash cloud was and wasn’t – and worked out how to fly around it.

The recent crisis provided vague information. If the charts shown on TV were to be believed the ash cloud swamped the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats! The authorities erred on side of caution and simply shut everything down. It was a typical instance of ‘You can’t do that – because of health and safety’. Why didn’t the weather people, the scientists and the government ‘experts’ get together and work out the specifics and look at how to make things work, rather than simply stopping everything dead in its tracks (or, in this case, on the runway)?

The cost to individuals, the insurance companies, the airlines and the government is phenomenal – and at a time when the country is already up to its ears in debt.

Of course, as soon as the flights took off again, the volcanic cloud as a news item has now vanished in a puff of … ash!