Joris Melkert

- Joris Melkert, MSc BBA, is assistant professor in aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Despite the announcement that air space could begin to re-open in Northern Europe, the Icelandic volcano eruption could prove to be a major turning point for the global airline industry with short- to medium-term questions already being asked by some about its future financial viability.

One of the biggest questions, which engineers will be grappling with right now, is whether there is a cost-efficient way to ‘design out’ the current problems that aircraft experience with dust clouds.

The short answer is that it may be possible to make modifications to aircraft engine cores to make them less sensitive to ash deposits.  However, such major engine development is a long term project so no solution will be in sight for at least a year.  Moreover, the expense of such an undertaking could be prohibitively costly for airlines right now.

The volcano eruption has cost the airline industry an estimated 200 million dollars each day.  Voicing the industry’s frustration and concern, the Air Transport in Europe (AEA) trade body warns that, without state aid, some airlines would have potentially gone out of business as soon as next week unless travel restrictions began to be lifted.