Helicopters grounded at Aberdeen

Aberdeen Airport, one of many hundreds of sites to have been affected by the fallout of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, was described as ‘eerie’ last week, as passengers were forced to abandon all flights from the Scottish airport.

The news is no longer a surprise – five days of cancellations has hardened the press to further problems, and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) have been issuing further flight bans as a matter of course, regardless of how much the aviation industry complains.

Skies appear to be brightening over the most northern reaches of the UK, but the damage caused by Eyjafjoll’s volcanic tantrums will not become apparent for weeks. The immediate consequences are startling, however.

On Thursday, Aberdeen Airport closed its heliport to airborne traffic, stranding hundreds of platform workers in the terminals and out in the furthest reaches of the North Sea. The heliport at Humberside Airport was similarly affected, after three helicopter companies grounded everything that could fly.

Many platform workers are still waiting for a lift out to the North Sea, and promises of a partial lift of the flight ban in Scotland and Northern Ireland will delight more than a few people when it comes into effect on Tuesday morning.

NATS will allow all mainland airports north of Blackpool and Teesside to reopen at 0700 tomorrow morning. This includes Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Inverness, and Prestwick airports. Island hubs such as Sumburgh Airport on the Shetlands may be restricted until the evening.

A statement on the NATS website was optimistic – ‘assuming there are no further significant ash emissions, we are now looking at a continuously improving situation.’ The decision to reopen English and Welsh airports has not yet been made, however.

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