As the question as to whether Qantas was overplaying the safety card in terms of not flying near, or under, or around volcanic ash clouds start to get airplay there is one piece of evidence that suggests it did.
And that was yesterday’s special flight by a VIP Boeing 737 BBJ from Tasmania to Canberra taking the state’s federal politicians to the capital in time for the new parliamentary sittings.
Had this been a reckless throw of the dice by the government, or negligent risk analysis by the VIP service, and the Tasmanian political express had crashed, it would have been about five to six weeks, after the funerals and for the intervals specified under the electoral rules or laws, before Australia voted in an Abbott government in a landslide.
Seriously. It is obvious that the advice given to the government, and to the Tasmanian parliamentarians, was that it was completely safe to operate the flight at altitudes and along a route that avoided the risks inherent in volcanic ash.
Earlier today Captain Richard Woodward, a Qantas A380 pilot and vice president of the Qantas pilot union, AIPA, told Jason Morrison on 2UE that he would have no issues being required by the airline to fly under or around a volcanic ash concentration.
Woodward explained the dangers of volcanic ash, and endorsed the caution and safety first culture at Qantas, but was adamant that it was completely safe to fly under or around the ash concentrations provided they are known with accuracy.