"Europe accused of over-reacting to ash cloud threat - Tue, Apr 20, 2010 AFP
Did Europe erupt into panic over the volcanic cloud threat? With flights restrictions set to be eased Tuesday, airlines and the media were asking if officials had over-reacted much as they appeared to have done with the swine flu outbreak.
The swift decisions to shut down airspace last Thursday was 'motivated more by fear than science,' said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Brussels-based Schuman Foundation, which studies European issues.
'Could the real culprit be the principle of precaution, this symbol of the fear which terrifies decision-makers'' he asked.
British Airways said that a test flight conducted to assess the risk of the volcanic ash on its plane's engines had found no problem. While 30 other test flights carried out throughout Europe also found no engine problem with the volcanic particle, said the European Commission."
Interesting debate by the airline industry vs. the 'overly cautious bureaucrats'! The press from London to Sydney apparently all believed that the shut down of the airports for fear of engine failure due to the volcanic ash that will cause loss of lives is hogwash and the risk overblown and without any scientific basis. Maybe the bureaucrats are cautious people. Maybe they could have come up with a better way to handle the situation as many billions were lost by the airlines during this period of shut down!
Lessons for me are:
1. what is the laws on 'criminal negligence' even if one acts with the 'evidence of the test flights conducted by the airlines all over Europe showing that the volcanic ash is NOT an issue'? IF, and this is the BIG IF, any plane goes down and cause deaths, will the government officials be absolved of any blame and responsibility?;
2. if the government bureaucrats are BOLD and decided to 'publicize the SAFE test flights from all the airlines and PUT in an EXCLUSION clause in the notice for the passengers to fly on their own risk', will it had worked amicably meeting needs of passengers who are willing to take the risk, and the needs of the airlines who believed that their test flights showed no risk from the volcanic ash to their planes? Maybe some creativity and RISK sharing might have worked?;
3. the issue is always $$ when such a situation arises. IF it had NOT involved $$, would anyone had bothered? i.e. if this had happened in a remote part of another continent where no flights will be passing through anyway, would anyone cared? The bigger issue is actually the one sounded out by some experts that the volcano eruption may cause the ice sheets to melt away and raise the sea level in a relatively short time. In 2-3 years the sea level may rise so much that many seashores will be under water! Alas, someone may be questioning the basis of scientific evidence for something that will or may happen 2-3 years from now! Who cares!!
It is always hard to see the forest for the tree when one looks long term!