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      Monday 17 May 2010

      The UK’s Number One Domestic airline confirms that extensive research with aircraft and engine manufacturers prove soundness of new model.
      Flybe, the UK’s Number One Domestic airline, tonight confirmed that it will be the first airline in the UK to be able to fly within the new CAA-approved safe levels of volcanic ash.

      The new regulations mean that during the last two days, when Flybe had to cancel 380 flights under the previous rules, it would have had to cancel only 21. This would mean that less than 3% of its total programme would have been affected. ,

      This development follows the CAA’s call for airlines to work with aircraft and engine manufacturers and the Met Office to understand how ash tolerance levels could be improved, without any compromise on safety.

      Flybe initiated work with Pratt and Whitney Canada (engine manufacturers), Bombardier (aircraft manufacturers) and the UK Met Office to help design a specific model applicable to Flybe aircraft. This work led Flybe being able to present a comprehensive Safety Case to the CAA over the last few days which we are pleased to say has been agreed today.

      The previously approved limit for safe flying through volcanic ash was 0.002 grams per cubic metre. This initiative improves the tolerance levels to 0.004 grams per cubic metre and will be supported by an enhanced programme of inspections and maintenance to support its operation.

      Welcoming the news, Flybe’s Chief Executive, Jim French said:

      “The CAA called upon the industry to bring forward thoroughly researched proposals to safely improve the ability to fly in the vicinity of low level volcanic ash concentrations.

      Flybe worked closely with the Met Office, Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney Canada to develop the proposals which have today been endorsed by the CAA. Flybe’s overriding concern is always safety, and these new rules arise from a proven process of safety management within the company and the industry which helps make air travel the safest form of public transport.

      The application of these new rules in the last 48 hours would have reduced our levels of cancellation from 380 flights to 21, or put another way, only 3% of our programme would have been affected. This level of cancellation would be more akin to a weather event and therefore much more bearable for customers and the industry.

      We thank the CAA and Met Office for their support in this work and look forward to working with them further to get the UK safely back on the move. I hope with these measures that consumers can once again feel confident in booking air travel.

      In issuing its new guidance, Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of the CAA stated:

      “The manufacturers are co-operating fully and urgently in this task and the new zone is an excellent example of how the industry should be working to move the issue forward and I commend Flybe for its work”

      In a further comment, the CAA added:

      “The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today reports a positive outcome from discussions with airlines, regulators, and aircraft and engine manufacturers resulting in new measures to reduce airspace closures…… UK airline Flybe is the first to achieve this and will therefore be able to use the new zone from midday tomorrow”.