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Repatriation of Britons Continues after Volcano

Date: 22-Apr-2010

The RAF's Typhoon Eurofighters took to the skies again today after tests showed volcanic ash found in engines caused no damage.


The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) received further assurances on British air safety from military chiefs as the £69 million jets were given the green light to take off again after being temporarily grounded.


But there was fresh misery for stranded Britons tonight as travel chiefs warned many will still be stuck next week - despite flights returning to normal after Europe's skies reopened.


The only remaining disruption today was in parts of northern Scotland and the Orkney and Shetland islands where the lingering ash cloud affected services out of Kirkwall, Stornoway, Wick and Inverness airports.

Travel organisation Abta said it aimed to have repatriated more than 100,000 British passengers by the end of this weekend.


Mark Tanzer, Abta chief executive, said: "While most flights are back to normal, and most stranded British passengers will be back by the end of this weekend, there is still quite a high level of disruption in some destinations.


"In some areas of the world, there is a significant lack of air capacity to enable British people to be returned quickly."


The RAF's discovery of ash in engines during post-flight inspections on Wednesday led to checks of the entire fleet at RAF Coningsby yesterday.


It came just days after UK skies were reopened following an Icelandic volcanic ash cloud which halted all flights over the UK for almost a week.


Squadron Leader Al Green said they were all given clearance to fly this morning.


He said: "They were back up in the air today, doing loop the loops and the rest of it. There was no damage found to any of the jets.


"We have spoken to both the CAA and Rolls-Royce to say there was no damage. There was just a little bit of dust found on one of the jets and in the engine air intakes."


British Airways was running a full programme of flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports.


The flight company was also flying an extra service to bring tourists home from Antigua and St Kitts in the Caribbean and it chartered an aircraft from Gatwick to get holidaymakers home from Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt.


A BA spokesman said: "The numbers of people wanting to fly back to the UK from many destinations remains an enormous challenge and is the main focus of our operational and commercial teams.


"During the weekend we plan extra operations from New York, Newark, Hong Kong, the Maldives, Mumbai and Bangkok and we hope to add more repatriation flights into the schedule in the days ahead."


Ryanair had full services operating today, with the previously-suspended Ireland-UK programme restarting at 5am.


The Irish carrier was also operating extra flights for stranded passengers, including ones from Spain and the Canary Islands.


Revised airspace guidance for civilian aircraft was drawn up earlier this week by the CAA in a move which enabled UK airspace to reopen.


The guidance requires airlines to make damage inspections before and after flights and to report any ash-related incidents to the CAA.

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