No ash problems for Dutch test flight

Dutch airline KLM carried out a test flight Saturday night and detected “no problems” from the volcanic ash that has shut down air travel across much of Europe for the past four days, the airline announced Sunday.

Transavia Airlines carried out three test flights Sunday. These planes were at the airport in Cologne. Two of the planes are going to Amsterdam and to Rotterdam.

CNN reports that KLM has been testing ten flights since Saturday, including between Dusseldorf and Amsterdam.

“At first glance there is no reason to suspect that anything is amiss. We observed no irregularities either during the flight or during the initial inspection on the ground,” said KLM president and CEO Peter Hartman, who was on the flight.

“Technical inspection conducted after yesterday’s flight revealed that no problems had been encountered and that the quality of the atmosphere is in order,” the airline said in a statement.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in the Netherlands is one of the busiest airports in Europe.

Saturday’s test involved a Boeing 737-800 flying at an altitude of 41,000 feet (13,000 meters), the maximum altitude for the aircraft.

The first test flight Sunday departed from Dusseldorf, Germany, about 6:30 local time (12:30 a.m. ET).

The aircraft had no passengers on board, but was staffed by a 20-strong crew, the airline said.

“These are test flights,” Hartman said. “This does not mean that normal air traffic has been resumed. This matter will be decided on by the Dutch air transport authorities in consultation with the European authorities.”

Lufthansa also put planes in the air Saturday, but does not consider them to be test flights, spokesman Aage Duenhaupt said.

The German carrier flew 10 planes from Munich to Frankfurt, but kept below the altitude affected by the volcanic ash, he said.

Most flew at about 9,840 feet (3,000 meters), but one flew at 26,350 feet (8,000 meters).

The purpose was to have them in the right place when travel restrictions are lifted, Duenhaupt said.

The planes encountered no problems, he said.

Since the eruption beneath southern Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier worsened last week, prompting local evacuations and affecting European air space, airlines have been losing at least $200 million a day, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade group representing airlines. That could mean airlines worldwide have lost about a billion dollars as of Sunday.

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