Strange as it is, with a very high percentage of Northern European commercial air traffic grounded, due to the risks associated with the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokul Volcano, a Major NATO military drill was taking place.
I have not found any reports of military aircraft involved in the exercise ‘Brilliant Mariner’, being grounded due to the dangers posed to other aircraft.
It does seem rather strange that while volcanic ash is keeping all commercial aircraft on the ground around the U.K. this exercise is taking place.
A large fleet of warships, submarines, frigates and aircraft from 10 NATO countries and one non-NATO member has congregated here to take part in the ‘Brilliant Mariner’ maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea.The 10-day long multi-nation naval drill began here on April 12, 2010. It will engage the NATO forces to respond to a number of challenges, including asymmetric or terrorist threats, maritime security operations and embargo operations “in a realistic scenario,” a NATO statement said.
The exercise will see participation of 6,500 defence personnel, 31 warships, 28 aircraft and four submarines that will operate in the Northern European waters and airspace.
The French Navy, which is commanding the maritime exercise, has sent 10 of its warships and 30 aircraft.
Its naval fleet includes aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, amphibious warship Mistral, under-attack submarine Emeraude along with other frigates. The aviation fleet includes Mirage fighter aircraft, Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft and Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft along with other planes.
The countries participating in the huge military drill are Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, USA, France, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom and Sweden. Sweden, a non-NATO member, is taking part in the exercise as a ‘Partnership for Peace’ country.
A press release (German) tells us that the exercise is being held between the North and Baltic Seas. Looking at a map of that area seems to indicate the airspace around there is not being used by commercial airplanes due to the ash cloud. Makes one wonder what is so especially safe about military aircraft, enabling them to fly (if they did) when all others are grounded.
Mean while, news from Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) advises:
British Airways on Saturday night became the third airline to run a test flight over no-fly zones in a stark challenge to aviation authorities, London’s Daily Telegraph reported.
It joined Dutch carrier KLM and German airline Lufthansa, which both conducted test flights in their domestic air spaces.
But Singapore Airlines, which operates 12 flights a day in and out of Europe, says it will not follow moves by BA, Lufthansa or KLM to send aircraft up.
“We are hearing that some European airlines are getting anxious that they are not able to fly and are running their own tests flights without incident,” an airline spokeswoman said.
“Singapore Airlines will not resume services until it is absolutely certain there is no safety risk.”
It’s understood Qantas also has no plans to challenge any bans, due to a lack of aircraft on the ground in Europe.
But Singapore Airlines, which is still flying to Athens, Rome and Istanbul, said there was some indication that further European airports would re-open from 5am AEST tomorrow.
And in good news for Australians making the Anzac Day pilgrimage to Gallipoli in Turkey, Singapore Airlines says Istanbul airport remains open and flights there are operating as normal.
“Our flights are getting there and there’s no problem with safety,” she said.
“We want to be able to reassure [travelers] that at this stage, Istanbul is looking good and will remain open…”
The ash cloud over continental Europe was heading north, away from Turkey, the spokeswoman said.
British Airways said all longhaul and shorthaul flights into and out of the UK would be cancelled on Monday.
Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad said this morning it was expecting that some more services to Europe would start again over the next 24 hours.
But services to the United Kingdom and Ireland were not expected to be among the first to re-open, a message on the airline’s website said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said it was flying to Rome, where airports remain open, from Kuala Lumpur.
Airports at Athens and Madrid are also open.
And Virgin Atlantic said it still hoped to have flights resuming out of the UK on Tuesday.
But confirmation of that decision would not come through until about 5pm on Monday, local time (4am AEST on Tuesday), a statement on the airline’s website said.
Some Baltic Sea Information, showing country positioning, and again making you wonder if these countries airspace was being used by NATO, why was their commercial airspace unusable for commercial flights.
There has been much fanfare about the 2010 Brilliant Mariner Military exercise, even stating how many airplanes, and of which type would be involved. The question remains, were the Military Jets able to fly, or did the Fleet simply pay a social visit to the Baltic ports whilst the jets – unable to fly, were doused in volcanic ash.