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Ryanair’s test flight claims disputed by experts

The airline said that it safely flew a test plane through a ‘red zone’ for volcanic ash yesterday and incurred no damage – however experts have said the plane never entered a danger zone.

AN IRISH AVIATION expert has disputed claims by Ryanair that a test plane sent into Scottish airspace flew through volcanic ash yesterday and no damage was done, as the airline has claimed.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, aviation expert David Learmount questioned claims by Ryanair that it had flown a plane into a ‘red zone’ of high ash concentration without incurring damage. Learmount said: “These estimations of where the ash will be are just that – they are estimations.”

Learmount said that it was possible that the aircraft flew through a designated red zone, but warned that this area may actually have been free from ash because of inaccurate estimations. He cautioned against jumping to the conclusion that if a plane safely passed through an area this meant volcanic ash posed no danger: ”One of the things that we still don’t have is a system for actually testing the sky,” he said.

The airline said that it sent a plane on a 90-minute test flight through a red zone but that afterwards the aircraft showed ”no visible volcanic ash cloud or evidence of ash on the airframe, wings or engines”, reports the BBC.

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary has dismissed the flight restrictions, calling the volcanic ash threat “non existent”, reports the Daily Mail. “Exactly as we predicted there was no evidence of any volcanic ash material whatsoever,” he said.

O’Leary also said he had received a written assurance from the manufacturer of the company’s aircraft that it was safe to fly though volcanic ash providing a plane was inspected afterwards.

However, the Irish Times reports that the British transport secretary Philip Hammond said the records for the 90-minute Ryanair flight indicated that the test plane had not passed through the red zone. “In fact all [Mr O’Leary] has done is confirm the CAA’s own model, which showed there was no ash in the areas where that aircraft flew,” he said.

No Irish closures – for now – as Ash Cloud reaches Europe >

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