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Volcano Futures

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the don't-know-where-i'm-a-gonna-go dept.

Transportation 284

Now that the volcanic ash cloud is easing off from Europe and airports are re-opening, it's time to look ahead a bit. The first question is, will the Eyjafjallajökull (.OGG) volcano's ash cloud visit the US? According to Discovery News, the answer is: not likely. This article also provides good current answers, as best scientists know, to other questions such as "How long will this volcano keep erupting?" (could be months), and "Will the ash cloud cause cooling in Europe?" (nope). New Scientist looks at the question of whether planes can fly safely through volcanic ash clouds — and concludes there's a lot we don't know. "Ever since a Boeing 747 temporarily lost all four engines in an ash cloud in 1982, the International Civil Aviation Organization has stipulated that skies must be closed as soon as ash concentration rises above zero. The ICAO's International Airways Volcano Watch uses weather forecasting to predict ash cloud movements, and if any projections intersect a flight path, the route is closed. But although it is certain that volcanic ash like that hanging over northern Europe can melt inside a jet engine and block airflow, nobody has the least idea about just how much is too much. After a week of losing millions every day, airlines are starting to ask why we can't do better."

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284 comments

.OGG (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918450)

The rest of the planet uses AAC and MP3, insensitive clod!

Seriously, Vorbis and Theora are not supported by default on either Windows or Mac OS X, so it's really a PITA to use those formats for 99.999% of the users.

Re:.OGG (0, Flamebait)

finarfinjge (612748) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918620)

Jeez man, couldn't you at least have come up with an on topic first post?

Anyway

The summary states

"Will the ash cloud cause cooling in Europe?" (nope)

Isn't this prediction from the same crew that predicted an unusually warm and short winter in Europe this year?

Re:.OGG (-1, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918646)

The problem with "cooling in Europe" is that it assumes that one-time weather events can be extrapolated into global trends.

Yes, the cloud of ash may in fact causing cooling due to the extra shade, but with all that seething hot, erupting lava, the atmosphere is just going to get hotter.

I gotta take my shirt off.

Re:.OGG (5, Funny)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918660)

Seriously, Vorbis and Theora are not supported by default on either Windows or Mac OS X, so it's really a PITA to use those formats for 99.999% of the users.

Yes, but Slashdot tends to represent the .001% of the population that knows more about installing different codecs than getting sunshine, interacting with members of the opposite sex and those other boring activities that we don't have time for.

Re:.OGG (3, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918770)

It's linked from Wikipedia and they only accept Vorbis/Theora.

Re:.OGG (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918748)

And if you use Winamp you will be able to play OGG files, so it's a minor problem.

And there are plugins for OGG format for Windows Media Player if you really feel the urge to use it.

Re:.OGG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918762)

Winamp? Are we back in 1990?

Re:.OGG (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918898)

If you're going to troll, at least troll correctly. You mean "Are we back in 1997?"

Re:.OGG (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31919002)

Why are you complaining here and not to Apple/Microsoft?

LOTR (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918458)

One does not simply FLY into Europe!

Design (2, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918460)

Maybe we can't do better because the design of a jet engine is to suck in as much air as possible with tiny blades, compress it, then spit it out at an extremely high temperature that happens to remelt ash?

Re:Design (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918570)

Maybe we can't do better because the design of your mom is to suck in as much black dick as possible with her tiny mouth, stimulate it, then spit out the come at an extremely high velocity that happens across her assh.

Re:Design (4, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918788)

Notice that the threat is real - the Finnish air force did get engine damage on their F18:s when they were flying through the cloud. Just take a look here: Finnish F-18 engine check reveals effects of volcanic dust [flightglobal.com]

And we must blame Top Gear [autoblog.com] for the eruption too.

Re:Design (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918798)

That and anyway it is not often that so big ass clouds happen. So what if air travel stops for a day or two every 20 years? Honestly it doesn't justify spending billions to R&D on how to improve the plane designs for it.

Re:Design (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918868)

That and anyway it is not often that so big ass clouds happen. So what if air travel stops for a day or two every 20 years? Honestly it doesn't justify spending billions to R&D on how to improve the plane designs for it.

I was wondering if I was the only person who thought this whole incident is not the big deal it's portrayed as. I view this as an inconvenience at best, yet I keep hearing from various media about "dire economic impacts" and such. I don't recall the nautical shipping industry panicking like this over the fact that they can't reasonably send ships through a hurricane, and those happen much more frequently than volcanic eruptions of this magnitude. I get the impression that the rarity of this event that the airliners should be thankful for is also the very reason they are overreacting to it.

Re:Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918932)

have you seen that .gif, of all the aeroplanes in a 24 hour period leaving yellow lines behind them on a satellite image of the world? you know, the one where you cant see europe anymore because it looks like a yellow yarnball? I live underneath one of the approaches for kingsford smith intl airport, its a medium-small airport on the international scale, we pretty much have three aircraft lined up to land at any one time. say it takes 40 minutes for those three to clear, thats roughly 109 planes a day. Say each plane is worth about....ten thousand dollars in seat sales. thats $1,090,000 lost a day. At a SMALL airport. imagine just how much money heathrow is losing. plus I was wildly on the small side with my estimates.

Re:Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918942)

Many airlines in Europe are on a free-fall towards bankruptcy. There are a number of legacy carriers, especially old "national champions", that used to see themselves as a "rolls royce" carrier in the old times, still maintains part of that feeling into our time, and where the billion unions related to every conceivable tasks succeeded in pushing up wages to what could barely be sustained (note to 'crats: this is 90% of what a union does - push up wages when they feel the company can afford it).

Then you had the entry of a bunch of low cost carriers, who found that the jobs market had a bunch of unemployed and newly trained pilots out there, that used to be considered just spring chickens by the legacy carriers, but were actually trained to fly planes and got hired, together with cabin crews of school leavers, who nevertheless were able to pass the certification requirements in place. People turned out to like to pay for a bus more than Rolls Royce hire, so the legacy carriers started to bleed. I am sure the US flight industry has experienced similar things.

The situation was hence already really bad for the old legacy nationals, they were losing money hand over fist and were in the last stages of a plane crash towards bankruptcy. This does not help them _at all_ and I am sure that a lot of politicians have been getting calls from old buddies.

Re:Design (5, Informative)

txoof (553270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918962)

I keep hearing from various media about "dire economic impacts" and such. I don't recall the nautical shipping industry panicking like this over the fact that they can't reasonably send ships through a hurricane, and those happen much more frequently than volcanic eruptions of this magnitude. I get the impression that the rarity of this event that the airliners should be thankful for is also the very reason they are overreacting to it.

The problem is that we have become dependent on the 'ready today' ability to move people and goods around the world. Sixty years ago there was no FedEX overnight service that you could reliably depend on. The 1950s Tulip sellers in Holland sold their tulips to customers within a few tens of kilometers of their fields. Today, there are huge international shipping operations that depend on being able to ship those same tulips half-way around the world in less than 36 hours. Florists in Kenya [digitaljournal.com] are losing an estimated USD $2 million every day sitting on product that is literally rotting before their eyes.

I'm sure you can find many more examples of industry that is time sensitive and losing out due to this problem. Some examples that come quickly to mind are factories that depend on regular replenishment of components. There is a trend for smaller fabrication houses to stock only enough product to complete a fixed amount of orders. It's more economically reasonable for these small houses to stock only what they need and overnight or 2day more parts as they need them than to stock an indefinite supply. These companies are sitting idle and unable to fulfill contracts. The economic loss that potentially creates is huge. Imagine for a second the cost in lost future contracts, late penalties and loss of sales for a company who's model depends on being able to ship items around the world in less than two days. Now multiply that by all the countries that ship to, from and over europe. That's starting to get expensive.

Don't forget about all the stranded people that aren't getting their work done either. I'm staying at a hotel in Norway right now and I'm surrounded by oil industry people that are stuck here, trying to get back to the UK, France and the USA. They're trying their best to do their work, but there's only so much you can do from a lappy in the hotel loby. You can bet those folks are costing their companies some serious down time. Not only are they not doing their work, they're costing the company money staying in the expensive hotel, eating expensive food. That adds up over 7 million estimated stranded people.

Then there's the the airlines that are already hurting due to bad management, expensive fuel and a struggling economy. They have labor contracts they are obliged to fulfill. Just because their employees aren't flying and servicing, they're still entitled to their salaries. Loan and bond payments are still due even when 90% of your aircraft are sitting at an airport taking up space. You can bet every municipality that runs an airport is still expecting the airlines to pay their airport leases and gate fees even though no passengers are flying. Sum all that up and you're WAY in the red for this month.

Shipping is a slightly different ball game. When you put your stuff on a boat and ship it to Norway from New Orleans (we just did this a few weeks ago), you expect it to arrive at some point in the future. You don't expect it to arrive today, or on 28 April. You expect it to arrive at some point within 6-12 weeks (that's what the shipping company quoted). If you build your business model around that type of speed, you build it very differently. You can bet that a company that relies on shipped goods over airfreight has a much bigger buffer of raw materials and product. When a boat is delayed due to hurricane, crowded port, or whatever, it has an impact, but a much smaller impact. You can bet that a steel mill doesn't rely on ore they ordered yesterday to show up tomorrow. They buy it months in advance and try to keep a huge buffer sitting around so they're never idle when they have orders.

Our economy has changed and some sectors have come to rely on a more global supply chain. When that falls apart, it gets expensive. Weather or not this is a good idea is a completely different discussion. But for right now, you can and should believe this is getting expensive.

Re:Design (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918974)

Given that not only the already-failing airlines are losing money, but fast commerce is not really as viable, yes, it is a big deal. By fast commerce, I mean everything FedEx or DHL is needed for and more, such as fresh fish shipments.

Re:Design (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918804)

And do it at high efficiency.

That said, jetplanes do operate in dusty sandy places (e.g. Middle East). Are the airborne particles significantly different in concentration and behaviour in a jet engine?

Re:Design (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918852)

Yeah, totally. Sand particles are a lot bigger (the volcanic ash particles are around one micron in diameter), so they tend not to occur very far above ground level and are less prone to melting in the engine.

Re:Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918966)

ash is much finer. it getting in the engine erodes the turbines and fouls the compression cycle
also, jets get grounded during sandstorms as well. no pilot is going to want to fly with the equivalent of a sandblaster hitting his canopy

Re:Design (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31919036)

Yes, the volcanic ash is finer and more abrasive. The former makes it tend to melt and form a glass coating on jet engine parts, the latter puts more wear on anything that moves.

I'm not sure but I think the ash also hangs around at higher altitudes and so affects the engines for the entire flight.

Re:Design (3, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918862)

Maybe we can't do better because the design of a jet engine is to suck in as much air as possible with tiny blades, compress it, then spit it out at an extremely high temperature that happens to remelt ash?

Is it safe to assume that prop planes are not affected by aerial concentrations of volcanic ash? If so, how difficult would it be for the airliner to rent/lease a fleet of prop planes for the duration of this problem? I realize that no prop plane is going to have the passenger capacity of a jumbo jet and that this is a far less than ideal solution. Still, in the face of losing "millions a day" or in terms of "it's either this option or you're stranded here", does it become better than nothing?

Re:Design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918924)

I would imagine the ash can collect in the carb (think wet dust) and eventually stuff up the fuel flow.

Must craft have air cooled/warmed carbs. Given that ash got in the 1982 flight's fuel system through the seals, I would imagine it could work it's way inside the carb.

Re:Design (4, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31919022)

Even if prop planes were unaffected, no-one makes a prop plane with more than a hand-full of seats, all larger prop planes are actually turboprops which would likely have the same problems as jets.

It's simple: (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918466)

After a week of losing millions every day, airlines are starting to ask why we can't do better.

Airlines: We want open airspace.
ICAO: Sure, you guys fund the study.
Airlines: ????
ICAO: *Profit*

Sounds pretty open and shut to me on a serious note. Red Tape at it's best.

Re:It's simple: (2, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918476)

Oh, so now ICAO is going to profit from a study being done? Maybe they're just going to get some sort of assurance that it's safe to have molten obsidian chillin' in the jet engines of airlines, and can use that against them if they end up killing people for the sake of profit.

Re:It's simple: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918698)

Ya, the problem with that model is, people die, airlines get a class action suit and settle for a one-dollar discount to all affected passengers.

Re:It's simple: (1)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918716)

Oh, so now ICAO is going to profit from a study being done?

No, according to GP, ICAO is going to profit from whatever the Airlines did in "????". What happens at that step is anyone's guess (as it always has been).

prophet (5, Funny)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918478)

I was hoping this was about a new market in futures contracts opening up.

Re:prophet (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918914)

Oh good, something else for Goldman Sachs to get sued over: volcano-backed securities!

In other news... (1)

VTI9600 (1143169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31919012)

In other news, Iceland's financial sector nearly collapsed when it was revealed that Geöldmaan Skandiabanken sold trillions of Krona's worth of volcano-backed CDO's to unsuspecting investors. At the heart of the controversy -- notorious short-seller, Jón Pjollsson.

Volcanoes are Earth's pimples (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918486)

You geeks should probably have a clear concept of how volcanoes work. It's like a gigantic pool of molten sebum seething and swelling just under the surface of the earth. When this sebum reaches a vent or finds a weakness in the skin, it erupts pus and bacteria all over. In some areas, these "pimples" are very common. Many can be found on or near the so-called Ring of Fire.

After erupting, the area is still tender and prone to subsequent eruption, but a treatment of peroxide and salicylic acid can help clear it up and prevent infection.

As I was saying, just because one volcano calms down on one side of the Earth, another volcano may be getting closer to eruption on the other side (Yellowstone). If you think pimples on your face are bad, wait until you get one on your ass.

Re:Volcanoes are Earth's pimples (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918496)

Not a completely bad analogy, but can Slashdot please give us a "Gross, -1" moderation for such cases?

Re:Volcanoes are Earth's pimples (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918880)

Not a completely bad analogy, but can Slashdot please give us a "Gross, -1" moderation for such cases?

First we need a "-1, Factually Incorrect" moderation.

Re:Volcanoes are Earth's pimples (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918958)

I prefer a Gross,+1 moderation

I don't know about that offtopic mod (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918528)

Offtopic like a fox, maybe!

Re:I don't know about that offtopic mod (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918552)

shut up faggot

Re:I don't know about that offtopic mod (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918592)

Now now, children. Just because they brought back sid=21720, it doesn't mean you are required to crawl back out of the woodwork.

Can't we all just get along and try to stay on topic?

Re:I don't know about that offtopic mod (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918652)

I thought it was SID=6581?

Re:Volcanoes are Earth's pimples (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918786)

Once again you live up to your name. Well done.

Finall I know what that volcano is called. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918492)

Anyone else hit Eyjafjallajökull [wikimedia.org] about 15 times?

Re:Finall I know what that volcano is called. (1)

Jeff321 (695543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918514)

Yes, it reminded me of a Murloc.

Also, I plan on using this word in Scrabble now.

Re:Finall I know what that volcano is called. (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918526)

Yes.

Then I wondered how they have so many letters for 3 syllables.

Re:Finall I know what that volcano is called. (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918886)

Yes.

Then I wondered how they have so many letters for 3 syllables.

Maybe they were influenced by the French.

Re:Finall I know what that volcano is called. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918734)

Yes, and I *still* don't know what it's called.

I think it's Icelandic for "Ha, watch them try and pronounce this."

Space programs (4, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918498)

Every time people ask why we fund the space agencies, here is your answer. The majority of the data we DO have in this situation is from downlooking satellites from ESA and NASA.The The Deep Space Climate Observatory was mothballed for almost a decade and yet it has sensors on it that could be helping significantly with measuring ash density source [74.125.45.132] . There are several other vehicles that can help significantly with this and other problems that cost many, many times the project cost, but all people see is the big number at the end of each budget, not the benefits.

Re:Space programs (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918626)

Every time people ask why we fund the space agencies, here is your answer.

Ask any scientist about the scientific value of uncrewed satellites and space probes, and they'll tell you they're very valuable. Ditto for economic value; weather satellites, etc., are worth billions.

It's crewed spaceflight that is getting inappropriate levels of funding from governments. That's because governments see it as effective nationalistic propaganda.

We need to get our feet wet. (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918700)

Yeah, tell that to the first nation that starts mining the asteroid belt or mars for ore. You could do it with all robots but you still can't repair and maintain them, so someone is going to be out there.

Re:We need to get our feet wet. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918772)

You could do it with all robots but you still can't repair and maintain them, so someone is going to be out there.

You just send more robots or remote presence systems. It'll *always* be cheaper than sending an actual person there.

Re:We need to get our feet wet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918802)

citation needed

seriously, it'll *always* be cheaper?

Re:We need to get our feet wet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31919010)

until you get fusion engines or antimatter engines (or that relativistic repulsion thing at the LLC pans out)
then getting a human there is peanuts.
robots will only remain cheaper then if some sort of FTL communication system or strong AI is developed

Re:Space programs (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918670)

Every time people ask why we fund the space agencies, here is your answer. The majority of the data we DO have in this situation is from downlooking satellites from ESA and NASA.

Were the US satellites NASA or NOAA? (Or somebody else?)
 
At least in the US, cutting funding for NASA will have less impact than you might think because they aren't sole [non military/intelligence] satellite operator the government has.
 

The Deep Space Climate Observatory was mothballed for almost a decade and yet it has sensors on it that could be helping significantly with measuring ash density

Certainly, if by 'help' you mean 'can say yes, there is ash, somewhere', sure. Triana's instruments are fairly low resolution in keeping with its vague and post facto 'science' goals. (This is compounded by it's extremely high orbit - far too high for useful science, excellent for it's original political goals.)

Conversely -- (5, Insightful)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918506)

Had they permitted a plane to fly, and it crashed, the outcry of permitting a plane to fly when we knew about the risks posed by volcanic ash...

But this wasn't even volcanic ash, it was volcanic glass, the effect would be sandblasting the engine while in operation. The safe option was to keep planes on the ground.

Fly or stay grounded - either way, whiners will whine.

The scent of a lady's underwear... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918658)

In my opinion, there is nothing quite like the scent of a lady's underwear.

Re:Conversely -- (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918774)

I don't think it was about "safe".
It's a sad but safe bet that the airlines weren't worried about people dying, but rather worried about them suddenly becoming litigious hypochondriacs.
Very likely that at least one person would claim that the volcanic ash gave them a horrible disease or whatever, and then, well...
Let's just say it's a good thing those planes stayed on the ground.

Re:Conversely -- (1)

wdr1 (31310) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918986)

was or is?

Katla (0)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918510)

The Katla [wikipedia.org] volcano may be the one that causes ash to reach the US, but it would be because the ash circles the northern hemisphere.

And it is overdue.

Global warming and volcanoes are related.

Lets give it a couple of years, say 2012.

Re:Katla (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918704)

Global warming and volcanoes are related.

What's your source for this?

Re:Katla (2, Funny)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918838)

Volcanoes have nothing to do with global warming. It was all the cavemen driving around in the massive dinosaur guzzling SUVs that ended the last ice age. Everyone knows that.

Re:Katla (2, Informative)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918902)

Global warming and volcanoes are related.

What's your source for this?

Google. Try it yourself, sometime. It would take about as much time as the post you wrote to get started.

Re:Katla (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918940)

Global warming and volcanoes are related.

I could have sworn it was pirates.

Testable in wind tunnel? (2, Insightful)

yokem_55 (575428) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918516)

Is this testable by putting an engine in a wind tunnel, and then testing for damage at various concentrations of ash?

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918624)

At $10M per and a significant fraction of that just to do a teardown and evaluation I'm not sure that anyone wants to fund that kind of research. Perhaps the government could do it with surplus engines from retired F-16's or something.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918668)

$10M is nothing when they're losing something like $200M per day.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918706)


At $10M per and a significant fraction of that just to do a teardown and evaluation I'm not sure that anyone wants to fund that kind of research.

Until now. The airlines likely won't do it (and don't have the expertise anyway), but to Airbus or Boeing, the limits of flying through an ash cloud might just be a major selling point.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (4)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918830)

to Airbus or Boeing, the limits of flying through an ash cloud might just be a major selling point.

Actually, it'd be far more relevant to Rolls Royce, GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney and the like.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31919034)

I'm fairly sure airplane producers would use it as a selling point just as well as engine designers.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918724)

Sure, if you have a wind tunnel that can do 750kph winds and drop the air pressure to 0.2 kg/cm^2.
I think it would be cheaper to fly (and crash) a plane, then build such a facility.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918978)

Or you could... not drop the pressure and go slower. The reason high speeds are a "problem" is because they cause high pressure/large forces.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918738)

The Finnish Airforce flew through the ashcloud with F-18 jets...

here's the results :
http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2010/04/16/340727/pictures-finnish-f-18-engine-check-reveals-effects-of-volcanic.html

I think the common misconception is that the engines "clog up" due to the ash.

I'm not a aerospace engineer, but I would think that uneven masses on components rotating at high velocity is bad. Also, probably doesn't do too much good to the air/fuels mix the engine is expecting.

Re:Testable in wind tunnel? -sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918796)

What conditions would you like?
hot day/cold day
high altitude/low altitude
new engine/used
ash concentration
hours of continuous operation
max/nominal/min power
snow/ice/rain

And now do this for each engine/aircraft variant, for a condition that is currently avoidable and rare.

Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding? (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918550)

After a week of losing millions every day, airlines are starting to ask why we can't do better.

Tell you what. Let all the bean counters volunteer to get into a jet and fly back and forth through an ash plume until the engines fail and the jet crashes, killing everyone.

THEN ask that stupid fucking question again.

The reason nobody can say is there's no metrics for uptake by a jet and no guarantee that the ash plume is going to be consistent with whatever testbed is set up.

Honestly, losing millions a day? Do they want to invest a couple billion a year (if not a month) into testing every plausible (and some implausible) ash-to-air-to-engine-intake ratio for every commercial jetliner extant?

With various air carriers already cutting finances close to the bone, I don't think they really have the money to spend on this kind of research or on remediation methods and practices for overhauling engines on planes after scenarios like this.

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918608)

They were hoping the US Govt. would make a substantial investment, what with that being In the Public Interest(tm). Everyone knows that all the taxpayers in the US all fly commercial airplanes almost every day.

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918686)


The reason nobody can say is there's no metrics for uptake by a jet and no guarantee that the ash plume is going to be consistent with whatever testbed is set up.

No. The reason nobody can say is there's been essentially zero reason to DO the controlled tests until possibly now. How often do ash clouds interrupt busy air traffic corridors? Never?

I guarantee you that if ash clouds were an every day occurrence, the limits of the technology to fly through them would be well known. Since it's rare, they aren't. It's no more complicated than that.

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (2, Informative)

mukund (163654) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918828)

This ash cloud from the Iceland volcano has caused engine damage [flightglobal.com] . I wonder if airlines are throwing caution away to avoid the daily loss in business.

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918870)

Honestly, losing millions a day? Do they want to invest a couple billion a year (if not a month) into testing every plausible (and some implausible) ash-to-air-to-engine-intake ratio for every commercial jetliner extant?

I think you're confused about who "they" are.
The airlines have never been in the business of testing anything.
In this case "they" are the engine mfgs &/or the government.

Since the MFGs are saying "don't use our engines under these conditions,"
even if airports weren't shut down, no airline's insurance carrier would cover damage anyways.

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918884)

You can't live a life without risk. Nor is the avoidance of risk worth any price (otherwise we'd drive a tank at 5km/hr while wearing a helmet and a flak jacket to go to the corner store for milk.) (And then not drink the milk for fear it was contaminated.) Ask all those people stuck in the wrong part of the world whether they'd take a flight if the chance of dying was 1 in 100,000 rather than the normal 1 in 9,000,000 [planecrashinfo.com] . I think you'd find most of them would accept it as a worthwhile risk.

Also, not flying is not a no-risk option. Pharmaceuticals are almost always shipped by air. Soon people will start dying as drug stockpiles run out.

"Have we erred too far on the side of caution" is NOT a "stupid f***ing question".

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (2, Informative)

Faizdog (243703) | more than 4 years ago | (#31919016)

It's not just the airline bean counters who are worried about this. I'm being directly affected. I was in Europe for work, and was supposed to fly back to the US last Sun. I've been stuck here since. I'm quite desperate to get back home and back to my life.

It may seem cool to be stuck in Europe, but in actuality it's not. It feels semi-prison like in that I'm stuck in a place (albeit a very nice, historical and cultural one) and unable to get home. Things are going on at work, with friends, family and I'm all the way over here spending money like crazy because everything costs more when traveling (hotels, meals, phone calls, hotel internet charges, etc). I'm just lucky because I was traveling for work and can expense. I've met others here who aren't so lucky (one forms a sense of camaraderie with other stranded passengers on meets).

And it's a lot of other industries and businesses too. The world is incredibly interconnected.

The main complaint isn't from some bean counters trying to override safety. It's that a blanket ban is just unrealistic and misinformed. There has to be somewhere between NO FLIGHTS and NORMAL. What is it? Are there safe corridors? Are there certain types of planes that can fly? Are there certain elevations? Noone knows, and worse yet, noone is really tracking the ACTUAL ash cloud, it's all just computer models predicting. Let's see where the damned thing actually is.

Those are some of the complaints the airlines, and now us passengers who've been glued to the news for almost a week, are wondering.

The fact that so many flights flew ok yesterday indicates that the whole situation wasn't carefully thought through. Look, I'm all for putting safety first. If there is a good chance I'll die flying, I'll agree to be stuck in Europe for another month until it's safe. But, please can we first make sure it really is that dangerous?

Re:Why can't we do better? Are you fucking kidding (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31919028)

Do they want to invest a couple billion a year (if not a month) into testing every plausible (and some implausible) ash-to-air-to-engine-intake ratio for every commercial jetliner extant?

That's an interesting number, I'd like to see how you come up with that number for doing research.

Personally I'd be interested in getting more detailed information about how volcano ash hurts a jet engine. We know that enough of it can cause engine failure, and at some point the ash concentration gets so small it has no effect. How small is too small? Do different kinds of ash have different effects? These are interesting questions, and if someone wants to research them, I'd like to hear the answers.

Eyjafjallajökull (4, Funny)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918566)

As many people in the United States with immigrant ancestors know, the government is going to have to naturalise the volcano's name if the ashes pass Ellis Island.

Get ready for Mt. Ekull.

A simple solution (-1, Redundant)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918584)

Since this seems to be affecting primarily Europe, load up an Airbus with a bunch of European airline execs and fly them back and forth thru the ash for 24 hours and then check the engines for damage.

prop planes (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918638)

Just curious, would piston engined planes not have a problem with this?

Fire up an old DC-3. I don't suppose they had air-filters though? and ash is probably hard on the prop?

Re:prop planes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918740)

Not needed. I keep hearing about Europe's fantastic rail system from groups that promote rail travel in the US. Air travel is superfluous in Europe.

Re:prop planes (2, Interesting)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918916)

I believe you're right. However, we have a few thousand people trapped here in LA. Unfortunately, neither European rail nor Amtrak have yet built that tunnel under the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, if we build that bridge across the Bering Strait [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:prop planes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918812)

Piston engined planes don't have the issue with ash melting inside the engine, and the sandblasting would be less significant due to the lower airspeeds.

Sandblasting on the propeller probably wouldn't be much of an issue (jet/turbine engines spin at 100,000 RPM, propellers go a lot slower). If it was, you could probably coat them with a hard oxide.

OTOH, flights will take a lot longer, cost a lot more, and will be more vulnerable to bad weather (piston engines don't work too well at high altitudes, so you can't really fly over large storm systems).

They certainly aren't a short-term solution. They stopped making large piston-engined planes in the 1950s (e.g. DC-7, Constellation), and I doubt that many of those would meet current regulations for long-haul passenger travel. AFAICT, contemporary piston-engined planes top out at 18 seats for the Britten-Norman Trislander.

They couldn't have... (1)

NetNed (955141) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918654)

Started testing this like a week ago? Really how hard would it be to mount a jet engine and start tossing different amounts of ash in to it in varying concentrations. Really odd that they all seem to be gazing at the ash cloud dumbfounded by it.

Good for something to point to when I hear a European going on about how great Europe is though.

Re:They couldn't have... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918818)

It's not just instant "what happens". It's constant flight of hours or more through a ash cloud.

I think also, because there's molten rock particles in the cloud (read : glass), that this is extremel abrasive to the plane (especially cockpit windows).

Also, I believe that the ash can block the various pitot tubes and other instruments on the outside of the plane, making air speed gauging impossible (not good).

The main thing is that there's this cloud of extremely abrasive microparticles that a jet needs to fly through at hundreds of km/h - and that can affect anything, from the engines, to the instruments, to getting into various nooks and crannies.

Imagine the flight goes well, but at landing time you find out that flaps etc don't work because they're all clogged up...

Wow... (1)

cvnautilus (1793340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918666)

And I thought a box office futures mark was ridiculous. Now we have volcano futures?

Can we cover the volcano with a slab of concrete? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918690)

That's the question I have. Your budget is 1+ billion.

Re:Can we cover the volcano with a slab of concret (1)

stainlesssteelpat (905359) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918892)

That doesn't stop the tree roots on my porch how is it going to with stand the pressure produced from molten rock, ultra hot gasses etc? Even if it would how do you get it to set without melting into the already molten rock?

Re:Can we cover the volcano with a slab of concret (3, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918926)

Hmm, it already melted through 100 miles or so of mostly solid rock, so we are going to stop it by putting a few feet or tens of feet skim coat of far weaker material with a lower melting point?

1783 (4, Informative)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918702)

It seems amazing that we have avoided something like the 1783 eruption that lasted for two years and killed over a hundred thousand. Can you imagine air traffic disrupted for years? BTW, the same thing could happen to us from the Aleutians.

Re:1783 (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918842)

You'd suspect that engine technology would develop very fast if that were to be the case...

Re:1783 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918860)

You assume people would still want to fly. I'd wager that boat technology would advance pretty fast, not planes.

Re:1783 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918964)

Other way around: We'd go back to using rotors and pistons.

Re:1783 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31918990)

And the worst part is that Europe is actually best equipped to deal with a situation like this (very good train systems, relatively short distances between major cities); if the equivalent area of the Northeast of the US had air travel knocked out for a month, it would be horrific to the economy

Just the beginning? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31918746)

Some think so [io9.com] . Icelandic volcanoes seem to go through cycles, and a high activity one could be starting. Maybe this volcano alone could not be so bad, but more and for long time could have severe consequences, in economy and maybe global climate.

Pics of ash damage to NASA plane (via popsci) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31919000)

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-04/why-cant-planes-fly-through-volcanic-ash-because-nasa-tried-once

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