Page last updated at 20:39 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 21:39 UK

Volcano ash cloud halts England flights for second day

Passenger asleep at Heathrow Airport
Thousands of passengers have been affected

Restrictions on England's airspace will remain in place until at least 1300 BST on Saturday as a cloud of volcanic ash continues to drift across the country.

However, the air traffic control body Nats said Manchester, Liverpool and all other airports north of there may be operational between 0400 and 1000 BST.

It warned that the situation was changing constantly.

The grounding of aircraft began on Thursday morning after a volcanic eruption in Iceland.

The restrictions were imposed because of the danger the ash poses to aircraft.

Tiny particles of rock, glass and sand in the cloud could damage engines.

Initially, Nats said all flights would be grounded until 1800 BST on Thursday.

However, further reviews meant the ban was extended until at least 0700 BST on Saturday, and then until 1300 BST - with the possible exception of some northern airports.

Barbados flights

In Manchester, Nats lifted its restriction on flights for an hour to allow a plane to take off before 1300 BST on Friday.

It travelled to Florida in the US to pick up stranded holidaymakers.

The restriction was lifted due to the positioning of the ash cloud.

Two flights from Barbados and Vancouver were also able to land at the airport.

A Nats spokesman said: "We are looking for opportunities when the ash cloud moves sufficient for us to enable some flights to operate under individual co-ordination with ATC [air traffic control].

Man sleeping in airport terminal

Passengers bed down at Stansted Airport

Restrictions were lifted in Scotland and Northern Ireland earlier.

Some smaller airlines in England have been operating flights, on routes where aircraft fly below the controlled airspace.

Isle of Man airline Manx2 has a few services between the island and Blackpool and Belfast, and there are flights between Newquay in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Thousands of passengers across England have faced severe disruption since Thursday.

Airports have been cleared of all but essential staff.

Travellers were warned further delays could be expected when restrictions are eventually lifted and they have been advised to check with their airlines for up-to-date information.

The volcanic ash cloud
The ash cloud drifted across the UK after an eruption under a glacier

Teesside University lecturer Michael Short is stuck in Stockholm, Sweden, after flying out there for a conference.

Speaking on Friday afternoon, he said: "I should be on my way home now. I should have landed at Heathrow. It's annoying really.

"I can think of worse places to be stuck but I am supposed to be at a friend's wedding tomorrow and I've got to get back for my job as well.

"There's not a great deal I can do though."

Barbara and Tony Mallinder travelled to Heathrow from their home in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, hoping to catch a flight to Shanghai on Friday afternoon.

They are due to leave on a cruise around Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan on Sunday, but now fear they won't make it.

Mrs Mallinder said: "We didn't know it would still be shut.

"Unlike other people, we can't go 48 hours later and have the rest of our holiday.

"But it can't be helped. They can't send the planes up if it's dangerous."

Heathrow Airport
The normally busy Heathrow Airport looked almost deserted on Friday

The ash has also affected air ambulances, with several areas grounding their aircraft and transferring crews to rapid response vehicles.

Helicopters which support North Sea oil and gas rigs have also been grounded.

Many air passengers have tried to find alternative transport methods.

Eurostar trains reported a complete sell-out of its services to Brussels and Paris for the second day on Friday.

Ferry operator Norfolkline laid on special coaches to take foot passengers from Dover to France.

The ash cloud was created by an eruption in the Eyjafjallajoekull area of Iceland, which began on Wednesday and is continuing.

It is the second in Iceland in less than a month.

An atmospheric research team from Gloucestershire has been monitoring the volcanic ash cloud, having flown to the edge of the plume in a specially-adapted plane.



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