Ummmm, I was right 67

I am in Glasgow, having a very pleasant time, but it would be superhuman of me not to point out that I was right and the closure of UK airspace was indeed a weird fearmongering over-reaction. There is no diminution in ash currently in UK airspace, but its danger to aircraft has now been “reassessed”, and the health and safety morons have had to admit that there is no overwhelming risk..

67 thoughts on “Ummmm, I was right

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  • writerman

    It’s weird… the feeling that there’s a sort of pattern that seemingly repeats itself again and again, almost like looking at fractals, some are small, some are bigger, but the pattern’s the same, that’s the important thing… I think!

    Waves of hysteria, followed later by another wave of hysteria. Volcanoes, bird flu, the millenium computer bug, the threat from international terrorism… how long is this list?

    It almost seems like a conspiracy, but maybe a “conspiracy” isn’t even necessary, when the ruling elites seem to agree on so much, speak the same language and have pretty much the same attitudes and world-view?

    It’s like the public are being socialized, trained, or groomed, to accept being controlled and their liberties curtalled by the state, with very little calm and sober, rational debate. And the central role of fear runs through it all, and the implicit promise of protection by the guardian state. Trust us, and all will be well. Don’t think, just trust us.

    A few days ago we heard the great, emperor, conman, Obama doing it. Scaring the wits out of everyone about the close to impossible threat of a terrorist group attacking a western country with a nuclear weapon, and, therefore, reads the subtext, that’s why we need to attack Iran, before it’s too late! And does one see, anywhere, in the liberal, serious press, any real examination of Obama’s pitch, any rational, calm, evaluation of whether the bullshit he’s spouting has any connection to reality at all?

    Once again we are asked to trust, not think, suspend our critical faculties and accept that witches and witchcraft and Satan and his minions really, truly, exist.

  • brian

    just because in this case there has been a massive over-reaction based on the precautionary principle and computer models, there’s a danger that conspiraloons will use this episode to fuel their fantasies.

    just because the bill started mounting to a few hundred million our leaders crumbled under the pressure.

    when it comes to the real dangers of climate change we must hold true to the models and the precuationary principle, even when the bill is measured in billions not millions.

    if we fail to act on climate change it won’t just be a few people falling out of the skies it will be the end of the world as we know it.

  • writerman

    To try an be precise, which is difficult for me, I think there’s a cultural shift going on, a move away from the core precepts of the enlightenment… truth, rationality, education, science, observation… going on. And instead we are moving backwards culturally and intelectually… to pre-enlightenment values and ways of looking at the world, with superstition, faith, paranoia and relgion rearing their ugly heads once more. Why?

    Why? Because society is shifting course and moving backwards towards a social and economic structure that reminds one of… of fuedalism. New fuedalism with the gap between the rich and the poor exploding and the reign of the middle-class being challenged in western countries.

    We seem to be on a historic trajectory, where there will only be two important classes once more… peasants and aristocrates, and the rich are abandoning everyone else but themselves and once more they are retreating behind the walls of their castles.

  • brian

    writerman is right, which is why the poor and powerless need to use what little power they do have to keep ‘aristocrats’ like Gordon Brown in power. People knock him but he wants to look after us and cushion our lives as much as possible against the hard knocks of reality.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Writerman, if you look at episodes of [popular British TV sci-fi serial] Dr Who during the Russell T. Grant lead tenure, while excellent in many ways, they all seemed to be about baddies imperiling specifically London as perceived world-node. Week after week after week of this, instilling itself into the minds of children, a prescription to be swallowed with a truckload of saccharine, soapy tears.

    It began to get to me – so that I was empathising with the Daleks and those spaghetti-faced things.

    Look at Hollywood blockbusters, and it’s aliens perpetually attacking the USA and the President – forever wise and Mosaic – intoning gravely to Bruce ‘Bullet-Headed Saxon Mother’s Son’ Willis to go get ’em, Bud.

    For ‘Lord of the Rings Part 2’, just as US troops rampaged around Asia (again!), we had the baddies of Near Harad as Arabs – uniting with Tolkien’s imperialist sub-texts (well, not so sub, actually). I almost walked out of the cinema at that point and I did exclaim (I don’t normally do this), “F-in bastards! Why did they have to do that? They didn;t have to do that”.

    All of this numinous activity, combined with a blurring of boundaries b/w politics and entertainment – I blame Crimewatch as the UK’s original version of ‘the docu-drama is king’, and the soma of ‘reality TV’ and we do indeed have a recipe for mass pliance and normative compliance.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Or else the government are making a political decision to send planes back into the sky despite the risk in order to avoid losing votes during an election campaign

  • Parky

    this paranoia seems to be more prevalent in britain than in some other countries. for example when last week the air ban was announced I checked the web site for manchester airport, they had effectively suspended it and put up a general page saying we’re closed check with your airline. I then checked a scandinavian airport and their web site was working normally and indicating that many of the flights were indeed cancelled. However some SAS flights which connected with UK airports, Manchester being one of them, were not shown as cancelled at all! They had the arrival and departure times shown and seemed to be operating to a normal timetable. I did not check if they actually did connect but there was nothing to indicate to the contrary.

    I suspect that in the UK this precautionary principle is more driven by a desire not to be sued by some no win no fee lawyer. It is often referred to as health and safety as a catch all. The main motive behind it, as for many things in britain is money, and not wanting to have to pay out.

  • Edo

    Brian says, “…which is why the poor and powerless need to use what little power they do have to keep ‘aristocrats’ like Gordon Brown in power. People knock him but he wants to look after us and cushion our lives as much as possible against the hard knocks of reality.”

    Surely one is taking the piss?

  • John Seal

    It would be nice if decisions of this nature were based on science and not on political or economic grounds. As it stands, I haven’t even seen any risk/benefit analysis regarding flight safety.

    As little as I trust government, I trust big business even less. Politicians may do anything to retain power, but the airlines will do anything to pad the bottom line. I’m sure they’re quite willing to gamble with passengers’ lives if it could improve their profit margin.

    If anyone can point me towards some empirical data indicating whether or not flight through volcanic ash is safe or not, I’d appreciate it!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    And one very important factor in this trend is the concentration of wealth and power. In the UK we see the concentration of wealth and power in London – capital has not been devolved, quite the opposite.

  • Clark

    I suspect that Duncan McFarlane has it right; see also his comment on the previous thread:

    Duncan McFarlane at April 20, 2010 2:29 PM

    The planes couldn’t fly until that law was suspended. Money talks, again.

  • Richard Robinson

    It seems to me, the question is not what the decision is, so much as how it was reached ?

  • tony_opmoc

    It ain’t as simple as that. During the lockdown when very few aircraft were flying at all, two Finnish F18 Fighters north of Helsinki sufferred serious engine damage and “the engines may never power an aeroplane again”. That strikes me as an exceedingly high hit rate. Obviously the financial pressures on the airlines are overwhelming, and the disruption enormous. However if you have large numbers of aircraft flying over an area that has already caused engine damage, then the likelyhood of this being repeated is very significant.

    I would be the last one to normally defend the UK Met Office, because I think their record over the propaganda of “Global Warming” together with their enormously expensive and largely useless computer models is appalling. However in this case I think their advice was correct. The problem has not yet gone away. The weather pattern is still much the same.

    This is an extremely good video on the subject.


  • nobody

    Hullo Craig,

    I didn’t read all the comments on this and the last piece but I did do a quick search for NATO, as in NATO air force exercise BRILLIANT ARDENT (running right through April). I found nothing sure enough. It’s worth checking out. You can either google it or pop into The exercises are proceeding uninterrupted and so far it seems that no planes have fallen out of the sky. Wow. They’re either the bravest chaps ever or they know something we don’t know. Take your pick.

    Not that the conventional wisdom sorts will care for this but of course they’d misprepresent this. This and every other goddamn thing. The sole say-so for the whole gig came from the Met office, a wholly owned subsidiary of the MOD. And all on the basis of a single computer simulation with no atmospheric tests done at all. No surprises really given that these are the same people who’ve been so tremendously truthful about global warming.

    In this, as in anything, the only question that counts is, ‘What suits the owners of the reserve bank system?’ If it’s in their interests to have national economies crash, it’s not as if they’d scruple for a second before bringing it about. It’s not as if they have to answer to anyone and it’s not as if there’s nothing in it for them. A new world order is in the offing and the bankers are clearly ‘it’.

    Besides have you ever noticed how the worse things get the more imperative it is that we have a new world order? Same thing every time…

    And in this campaign the grounding of Europe’s civilian air fleet is the merest bagatelle.

  • the_leander

    It’ll be interesting to see what the wear and tear of the engines in these airliners is like over the next few weeks.

    Based on the available evidence however, they were right to ground the fleets until things had been checked out. To crow about being right about an “overreaction” is imho premature. As far as I can see they were damned either way. I imagine you would have been amongst the first to have slammed them should airliners begun falling out of the sky on the grounds of being cavalier…

    It should also be noted that the aircraft are flying above the height at which the ash is present, thus much reducing the engines intake of the stuff. When coming into land, they are as another commenter put it looking for areas where there are lower levels present and making detours to other airports where larger concentrations exist.

  • rob

    IMHO writerman, brian and the_leander are right, or at least are erring on the correct side of uncertain.

    Writerman: culural shift: spot on.

    The situation was/is a trade-off between the costs of not flying against the costs of higher maintenance.

    The ash cloud was/is quite well dispersed, not dense like it was for BA flight 9 in Indonesia in 1982 which caused the concern. What this means is that we cannot expect planes to just fall out of the sky like BA-9 as soon as they encounter the cloud. But what will happen is that the engine turbine blades will gradually accumulate a glaze on the low-pressure surface and around the cooling vents, thickening each time the plane flies through the cloud. Obviously worse for repetitive short haul flights than long haul. Furthermore, it will affect all the engines on a plane at the same time, not like the usual faults which randomly cause one engine on a plane to mis-perform or need maintenance. This will almost certainly mean shorter maintenance intervals for the engines and earlier replacement – not a cheap option for the airlines but I suppose the ban became long enough to make the trade-off in favour of higher maintenance costs over no-fly costs. Let’s also hope that all affected airlines do in fact spend the money to do this extra maintennance or we could expect a plane to crash after several flights. They almost certainly will, because if just one plane were to crash, that airline would be permanantly wiped out and the loss of confidence in flying would affect all airlines.

    Now the airlines will be screaming at government and NATS, trying to blame them for ‘bad decisions’ so that they can stick out the begging bowl, since BA at least was not insured against the no-fly losses.

  • Frazer

    I was flying all around Africa this week. Not affected at all..maybe this is why I left the UK.

  • rob

    Too early in te mornng, my brain’s not ingear. Writerman: I agree with the gist of this bit:

    “I think there’s a cultural shift going on, a move away from the core precepts of the enlightenment… truth, rationality, education, science, observation… going on. And instead we are moving backwards culturally and intelectually… to pre-enlightenment values and ways of looking at the world, with superstition, faith, paranoia and relgion rearing their ugly heads once more.”

    But not the rest.

    Frazer: remarkable prescience.

  • writerman

    It’s the “pattern” of hysterical over-reaction to perceived threats, that subsequently show themselves to have been wildly exaggerated, that interests me. How does this process function and why exactly? How “natural” is this reaction from the state’s side?

    Is there a kind of in-built mechanism in the corporate/state worldview that inexorably draws more and more areas of life under its control/influence?

    It would appear that the state increasingly feels that it is under “attack” both from without and within, and reacts accordingly to defend itself, even if the actual level of the threat is exstremely small, when examined and scrutinized calmly.

    There appear to be substantial economic and political benefits in inflating a threat and then providing the means to protect the population from the threat. One could mention the explosion in private security solutions and the massive use of video cameras in the UK as only two examples.

    The biggest example though is the vast resources devoted to the war on terrorism, a virtually non-existant threat to our way of life.

  • Clark

    I saw the first commercial jet I’d seen in days, this morning at 8:25, headed away from London towards the north-east. Just heard another, a great roaring in the sky. Oh well, the peace and quiet was nice while it lasted.

  • brian

    We little people are just playthings of the gods. The gods in question consist of mainly amoral forces like money, greedy men and corporate interests. The one god that can play on our team is the state. We must submit to the state the power and information it needs from us if it is to have any chance of defending us from these amoral forces. Of course these amoral forces are also fighting to control the state so they may act unopposed. Deity help us should Gordon Brown lose.

  • Clark


    while I agree with most of your 9:14 comment, your faith in Gordon Brown seems misplaced to me. Big money has been very effective in diverting the British state’s behavoiur to its own advantage. We need structural change in government to make democracy more robust. A hung parliament is more likely to deliver such change than Gordon Brown.


    I’m the New World Order shill around here, and I say that we need international government, or cooperation of national governments, precisely to counter the dangers from banking and multinational companies that you highlight.

  • Dan

    Look at it from the point of view of the man who has to decide whether it’s safe or not (and imagine the horror if you say it is when it isn’t).

    Previously volcanoes were rare events and tended to be in far away places that nobody (or at least, nobody with much clout) cared about. Because of this you don’t have much data on how much ash is safe, and nobody wants to risk a plane finding out, so you say ‘any ash is unsafe’ and leave it at that.

    Suddenly ash is effecting half of Europe, people with large cheque books care about the question and are willing to risk their own jets finding out the answer, and you get a lot more data you never had before and it becomes a lot more important to finesse the rules a bit. No wonder they changed their minds.

    In short it seems perfectly natural that you would start out with a blanket ban and then gradually look at reducing that as more data became available. Exactly what happened. You can argue about the time scales, but it strikes me more as brave to reopen the airspace that as cowardly to shut it down.

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