Air traffic controllers anticipated 700 flight cancellations as ash from an Icelandic volcano drifted over Germany Wednesday, but experts say that the worst is already over.
All takeoffs and landings at four German airports were banned early Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. But a steep decline in the volcano’s activity combined with successful test flights through “red zones” of ash suggest flights may soon resume.
Brian Flynn, head of network operations for air traffic authority Eurocontrol, said the volcano’s activity has been low over the past six to 12 hours. "Assuming that continues, we would expect that the European aviation would be able to return to almost a normal situation within the next 24 hours,” he said.
British Airways launched a 45-minute test flight Tuesday through Scottish airspace and the cloud’s predicted location. The flight left no notable traces of dust, according to Bloomberg. Following the successful flight, BA said it will apply to fly through airspace where ash is predicted.
The British weather service, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the plume over the Grimsvotn volcano was no longer visible on radar early Wednesday, and predicted that the ash cloud coverage will taper off throughout the day. Iceland's prime minister echoed that sentiment, saying that "the worst is over and now the clean-up can begin."
The volcano has been erupting since Saturday and forced the grounding of 500 European flights Tuesday when the ash entered U.K. airspace. Last year, another Icelandic volcano grounded 100,000 flights at a total cost of $1.7 billion.