I’m Getting Ready to Fly, So Cue the Volcano!

It always happens. Just before I leave on a trip, something pops up to cast doubt on the whole thing … something that will interfere and cause me to cancel or delay. This time it’s the damn volcano in Iceland.

In almost exactly a month, I’m leaving here on Hawaiian Airlines and heading for Seattle. An overnight there and the next afternoon I’m booked on Icelandair to Paris. That’s in two hops: Seattle to Reykjavik, connecting there for the flight to Paris. So, of course, the volcano gods in Iceland heard I was coming and got one fired up.
You’ll remember that happened in the Spring of 2010 and the damn thing puffed out so much ash — a “plume” that drifted across half of Europe — that flights in and out of many European cities were cancelled for several days. Modern jet engines are almost miraculous in their durability and reliability, but bad things happen if they ingest airborne particles of ash from a volcanic eruption.

We almost found that out the hard way quite a few years ago. As I recall, it was an Air New Zealand 747, flying at night across the South Pacific. They flew through a cloud of ash they never saw on their radar and all four engines quit. The pilots finally managed to restart them not too long before things would have gotten ugly.

Four years ago, aviation authorities would only permit flights that were operating under visual flight rules … when pilots could actually see the drifting plume of ash and avoid it. Even so, the estimate is that 95,000 flights were cancelled. Multiply that by a couple of hundred passengers on each flight and you’ve got an awful lot of disruption.

So here we go again. I’m keeping a sharp eye on the news reports, but haven’t yet begin to think about a Plan B. 

I really don’t think I’m a demanding traveler. I just want my flights to be “uneventful” and the weather to be decent when I get wherever it is I’m going. Is that so much to ask?