As the JEC Composites Show's last day began in Paris on Thursday, April 15, attendees and exhibitors started hearing the news trickling out of the U.K.: A volcanic eruption on Wednesday in Iceland had spewed a cloud of ash into the atmosphere that was quickly shutting down all British airspace to commercial air traffic. Soon, those of us scheduled to leave the next day from Paris started receiving flight cancellation notices as well, as the cloud drifted south and east into Northern Europe — thus beginning what has become one of the largest air traffic disruptions since the 9/11 terrorist attacks curtailed air travel almost a decade ago.
Airlines hopefully rescheduled passengers for weekend flights, but with no ability to predict the cloud's path, and with the volcano constantly adding ash and debris to the atmosphere, cancellations persisted in an ad hoc fashion not uncommon amidst unpredictability.
The staff of CompositesWorld (publishers of High-Performance Composites and Composites Technology magazines) were not immune to the event. The five staff members at the show — four headed to the U.S. and one to the U.K. — were, like thousands of others, scrambling to book alternate methods of transport home. All of us face the daunting prospect of making fast and big decisions about where to go and when to get there, with information that is tenuous and fast-changing.
The size and scope of the ash cloud, coupled with continued volcanic activity on Iceland, leaves us with little confidence that rebooked flights scheduled to leave Paris on Monday, April 19, will actually get off the ground. Thus we have cobbled together train tickets to Madrid, Spain — which has one of few still-functioning airports in Europe — for flights home on Tuesday, as this week's edition of the CompositesWorld Weekly newsletter is distributed.
Such plans, of course, are tentative at best, and subject to more change and variation. We have received many wishes of good luck and safety and appreciate the long-distance support.
April 18, 2010, Paris, France