There's seems to be a lot of controversy flying (sorry, that's a bad pun even by my standards) around the grounding of most of Europe's aircraft fleet following the eruption of an unpronounceable volcano. Sheesh.
Does anyone else sometimes find it macabre when people display frustration over precautions that could have saved lives but didn't end up being necessary? I mean, think of all those times I wore my seatbelt in the car when I didn't crash, or when I looked both ways before crossing the street when there weren't any cars around; because I wasn't injured, in hindsight I shouldn't have done either and saved time! In the words of Brian Griffin from Family Guy, having spent so much money on that checkup it's a shame you're not sick so you can get your money's worth! Sheesh.
Did I mention sheesh?
Pertinent to this case, I'm reminded of a National Geographic documentary I saw a few years ago about British Airways Flight 9. From Wikipedia:
On 24 June 1982, [British Airways Flight 9 from London Heathrow to Auckland flown on a] 747-236B aircraft flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, resulting in the failure of all four engines. The reason for the failure was not immediately apparent to the crew or ground control. The aircraft was diverted to Jakarta in the hope that enough engines could be restarted to allow it to land there. The aircraft was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud, and all engines were restarted (although one failed again soon after), allowing the aircraft to land safe.
They were lucky. Really lucky :O.
The lose lose situation
Now there are some people claiming that the ash concentrations in the stratosphere weren't dense enough to have caused damage. If that's true, I'd like to see their studies that prove conclusively that lower density ash doesn't pose a safety risk, and as a secondary point I'd also like to see them make the business case that damaging hugely expensive engine components for one flight makes sense.
Imagine if airlines had been allowed to choose themselves whether they flew their aircraft, then one or more crashes occurred. Who would be blamed? The airline would cop flack, but I bet there'd be more than a few people calling for resignations at the European safety agencies. Instead they're being chastised for taking precautions and saving people's lives. These folks can't win, either way.
If I've missed something or misunderstood a point, feel free to leave a comment and correct me. This line of reasoning has me genuinely confused and I'd love some clarification!
Thanks to Anynobody on Wikipedia for the illustration of G-BDXH without power in the ash cloud.