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Ash ‘Not Significant’ Threat to N. American Aviation

Ash from an Icelandic volcano that grounded air travel through parts of Europe isn’t a threat to North American aviation, an forecaster said.

The comments by Jim Andrews, senior meteorologist for the State College, Pennsylvania-based weather forecasting company, followed a forecast from the U.K. MET office that the cloud might spread to Canada’s east coast today. An “infinitesimal” amount of the ash may reach North America, he said.

Some Canadian airlines resumed flights in Newfoundland and Labrador, the country’s easternmost province, today after canceling them last night because of potential ash disruption.

The cloud has forced cancellation of as many as 81,000 flights since the volcano erupted April 14, causing airports across the U.K. and Europe to close. Ash can stall engines of planes that fly into it. The plume produced by the volcano has been waning in recent days, Andrews said.

“We believe that it’s not significant to aviation for planes flying over North America,” he said in an interview. “Could that change? It could, but everything would have to go a certain way for that to happen.”

Canadian forecasters said in an advisory issued today that their models indicate “some potential ash presence, although in low concentrations.”

“The ash cloud is very diffuse, moving slowly and should not affect Canadian airports,” said Laura Cummings, a spokeswoman for Environment Canada, a government agency.

Eastern Winds

Eruptions from the volcano would have to re-intensify and “even become more severe” and atmospheric winds would have to shift to a westward flow from their normal eastern path for the ash to push toward Canada and the U.S., Andrews said.

Gravity, rain and snow also have diluted ash in the air as the plume has spread, he said.

Air Canada, Jazz Air and Porter Airlines Inc. resumed or planned to restart flights today from airports in Newfoundland and Labrador, spokesmen for the carriers said. Initial flights out of St. John’s, the provincial capital, this morning were canceled last night by several airlines awaiting word on whether ash would hinder travel.

St. John’s International Airport canceled 13 of 16 domestic departures and four arrivals earlier today.

“We expect to operate a normal schedule, subject to some delays due to inclement weather, unrelated to the ash cloud,” John Reber, a spokesman for Montreal-based Air Canada, said in an e-mail.

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