Una nube sobre la seguridad de los aviones

PRINCETON – Cuando los aeropuertos en toda Europa reabrieron después de haber cerrado por la erupción del volcán,Eyjafjallajökull, en Islandia, no fue porque haya descendido el nivel de cenizas en la atmósfera sino porque se había revaluado el riesgo que la ceniza suponía para la seguridad de los aviones. ¿Era nueva información científica la que había llevado al levantamiento de la prohibición de vuelos? ¿O se debió a las dificultades personales y económicas que la prohibición estaba causando?

Durante seis días se cancelaron aproximadamente 95,000 vuelos, con un costo para las aerolíneas de más de mil millones de dólares. Se estima que 5 millones de personas quedaron varadas o demoradas. La economía británica perdió 1.5 billones y otros se vieron afectados de manera similar. Los productores de flores en Kenia, que dependen de la transportación aérea para llevar su producto de corta duración a Europa, de repente se quedaron sin ingresos. Dieciséis enfermos de cáncer que necesitaban urgentemente trasplantes de médula ósea estuvieron en peligro porque no podían enviarse por vía aérea las médulas aptas para el trasplante desde los Estados Unidos o  Canadá.

En el pasado, los aviones que han volado entre cenizas de volcanes en los Estados Unidos, Indonesia, Filipinas y México, han perdido temporalmente potencia en el motor y en un caso, cayeron miles de pies de altura, aunque todos lograron aterrizar a salvo. No obstante, no había evidencia de que las cenizas esparcidas más ampliamente sobre Europa desde Islandia provocarían problemas similares. La decisión de detener los vuelos estaba basada en la opinión de que cualquier nivel de cenizas en la atmósfera suponía cierto riesgo para las aviones y que no importaba cuán pequeño era el riesgo, el trabajo del gobierno era, como lo señaló el primer ministro, Gordon Brown, “asegurarse de que lo primordial era la seguridad.”

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