After a bit of a blogging break on here, it is quite amazing looking back over all that has happened in the last few weeks. Probably the event with the most impact on the majority of ordinary folk was the Icelandic volcano eruption - and it is one close to my heart at the moment as my young 'uns are off on their first solo to Europe.
My worry isn't for delays and cancellations. No. My concern lies with the decisions taken to fly through the ash cloud. I fully understand the commercial imperative and also the significant personal difficulty travel delays and disruptions cause (having been on the end of them many, many times in life). However I think most would agree that a delay is better than a disaster. Wouldn't you? Yet this situation presents passengers - and society - with a real trust dilemma and that should be of concern to us all.
The aviation authorities suggest dangerous flying conditions still exist but are now frequently contradicted by the airlines who say no, it is all just fine. In this situation, who should we, as users, trust? Whose word carries more weight? As a complete layperson in the science of it all, but a frequent traveller, my concern isn't the 'St Elmo's Fire' scenario, but the 'wear and tear' that will result from persistent ash cloud fly through. I know how gravel roads, dust and grit affect my car, so, as a layperson, I guess that similar or greater damage will result on aircraft exposed to the volcanic ash over time. Nobody seems to be commenting on this possibility, yet to me, it is a serious potential risk.
If this extreme wear and tear does take its toll, I wonder how the first airline to hit the ground will react? Without wishing to be a doom-monger, it is very scary stuff. A European plane falling out of the sky is more likely to land on a populated area which means we are not just looking at the loss of life on the plane, but on the ground as well. Surely gainsaying aviation authority advice is a gamble not just with an airline's reputation but with people's lives? Me, I'm with the aviation authorities - stay on the ground and eliminate the risk - no commercial profit is worth a single life lost or endangered. Let's hope the airlines keep thinking this one through with the public interest uppermost in their minds and stop downsizing the optimum particle size in order to upsize their profits.