Ash cloud is 'perfectly safe to fly through' says Ryanair's O'Leary

Katy Holland

Ryanair has been forced to cancel all flights to and from Scottish airports, despite earlier claims from the airline's boss, Michael O'Leary, that it was 'perfectly safe' to fly in the volcanic ash cloud.

Earlier today (Tuesday) Mr O'Leary said he would be operating all flights as normal and demanded the re-opening of Scottish airspace, claiming that one of his planes had safely flown through the cloud and that there was 'no volcanic ash'.

But a more recent statement from the airline reveals that it has been 'forced' to cancel all flights to and from Scottish airports for the remainder of the day, following a directive from the Irish Aviation Authority.

Ryanair claimed this morning that it sent a test flight into the 'high ash concentration zone' and travelled from Glasgow Prestwick to Inverness, on to Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

An inspection of the aircraft afterwards found 'no evidence of volcanic ash on the airframe, wings or engines', the company said.

Michael O'Leary told Sky News: 'It's perfectly safe. There is nothing up there.' SEE ABOVE FOR THE FULL VIDEO.

Mr O'Leary said the decision to close the skies was made by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and was based on information provided by the Met Office.

He hit out at both organisations, accusing them of incompetence.

'We should not be denied to fly based on an erroneous Met Office chart and bureaucratic incompetence by the CAA,' he said.

However, the CAA is disputing the airline's claims that it ever flew a test flight through a 'red zone' of volcanic ash, telling the BBC: 'The CAA can confirm that at no time did a Ryanair flight enter the notified area of high contamination ash cloud over Scotland this morning,' it said.

The news comes in the midst increasing disruption to flights due to the volcano ash cloud spreading beyond Scotland, with delays to transatlantic services across the UK expected.

Passengers are being urged to check with their airlines before travelling to airports.

According to the CAA, all British aircraft can fly in medium-density ash.

However, Met Office charts show that the levels are higher than this below 35,000ft, meaning planes would have to navigate around the plume.

Despite this, a CAA spokesman said: 'We are in a totally different world as far as procedures go now compared with last year.

'If we have the same level of ash as we did last year, there will not be the same problem.
'Airspace will not be closed and we will notify airlines when the Met Office predicts there are medium or high levels of ash present.'

What do you think? Would you be happy to fly through volcanic ash? Is O'Leary right to criticise the CAA's decisions? Give us your opinions!