General Question

28lorelei's avatar

What would happen if air traffic were stopped completely?

Asked by 28lorelei (2524points) April 17th, 2010

Apparently there has recently been a large volcanic eruption in Iceland. If it were to go on for awhile, and airplanes wouldn’t be able to fly because of volcanic ash, what would eventually happen?

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27 Answers

thriftymaid's avatar

More road traffic

netgrrl's avatar

More conference calls, webinars & more goods transported by boat?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

John Cleese would have to take many more $5500 taxi rides.

lillycoyote's avatar

There is some interesting data from 9/11/01 when air traffic came to an almost complete stop. It mostly has to do with the reduction in pollution, but I will have to track it down.

Sandydog's avatar

Some countries like Britain rely a lot on imports for their food supply much of which comes in by air, so there could be a general supply problem with lots of things and not just food – remember its not just passengers with holiday traffic that use air for transport.
I work with the military and how can you replenish stocks to far away places without flights – you cant in the short term. Im watching BBC television here and a met office spokesman said it could go on for weeks/months but nobody knows.
There is also a concern now that a much bigger volcano next to it could also blow – if that happens we are in serious trouble.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sandydog Some countries like Britain rely a lot on imports for their food supply much of which comes in by air,

Most bulk food comes by sea or heavy vehicle. (There is a tunnel – remember?) Air freight would add too high a premium to basic groceries.

DarkScribe's avatar

Migratory birds would have to hitchhike when winter comes?

Sandydog's avatar

@Darkscribe. Sea transport cannot compensate for air transport as its far too slow, and yes I do remember there is a tunnel – your underestimating how much now comes by air.
However I suppose some people can walk on water.

jeanmay's avatar

@lillycoyote I also remember seeing a documentary about a reduction in pollution after 911, and something called global dimming.

Basically when air traffic was grounded after 911 they discovered a new phenomenon where by pollution is blocking the sun’s rays from earth. The effects of this are bad, but without global dimming we would be suffering much worse effects from global warming.

Conclusion: we’re all doomed! According to the BBC, that is.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

One of the clips on google said that the difficulty is that the volcanic ash particles melt in the jet engines, liquifying, then cool, causing the parts in the engine to be coated with a rock-like substance. Additionally, a lot of the eruption is sulphuric acid, and is corrosive to plane engines.

ucme's avatar

Where would the traffic lights go?

janbb's avatar

@jeanmay Hey – if the BEEB says it, it’s got to be true!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Short-term economic disruption, followed by massive upgrades of high speed passenger rail systems. Trans-oceanic tourism will once again become a thing for the wealthy, as it was 50 years ago. Physical meetings for business purposes, except at the top executive level, would end. Much more virtual conferencing, meetings, sales calls, etc. This will all happen sometime this century anyway.

jeanmay's avatar

@janbb You said it!

Ron_C's avatar

If air traffic would stop, field service trips would be much longer. One of our guys is in China now. If he’s stuck there, my job will become twice as hard. I barely have much time at home now, I would be reduced to being home for only my three week vacation time.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Trains, cars, boats, and video teleconferencing would all get a big boost. Innumerable things from transplants to fresh foods to remote aid to overnight deliveries would be lost or made highly impractical. None of that takes into account the environmental effects of sustained volcanic activity or the health cost of so much additional particulate matter being breathed in.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

It would substatially affect the global economy. Due to the time involved with taking a boat overseas there would be a lot less traveling. Business travel becomes all but a thing of the past at that point.

HungryGuy's avatar

I’m waiting for the super volcano under Yellowstone Park to blow its top. That’ll beat anything that happened in the past 100,000 years!!! In geologic time, it’s due any moment now…

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sandydog your underestimating how much now comes by air.

No, I don’t estimate, I look at stats. Not as much fun, but far more reliable.

Food staples do NOT come by air. More expensive and luxury foods – sometimes. Rail and trucks is and probably always will be the cheapest and most effective means of transport for anything that needs to be cost competitive. According to which source you choose, the amount of UK food using air freight is between twenty and thirty percent – most are things like ripe fruit, flowers, ethnic foods, and foodstuffs that do not have a long storage life. More luxuries than necessities.

Ron_C's avatar

You know, maybe this volcanic activity is a blessing in disguise. With less international travel, the U.S. would spend more time correcting its own faults. We would have to develop our own manufacturing base. We could solve the unemployment and health insurance problem by building our own infrastructure and economic system.

International corporations would either pull out or stay and work for the betterment of their new home base. Maybe we need a 15 or 20 year isolation to get our own system back under control.

Bluefreedom's avatar

More road, rail, and ship traffic would be commonplace, I suppose, along with longer waits for mail and commercial goods that had previously been transported by aircraft. And a lot of unemployed air traffic controllers who would coincidentally have a lot less stress in their lives.

Sandydog's avatar

@Darkscribe. Supermarkets here are already running low on fresh fruit
Its a very complex question as to where this leads.
The above link is the facts and I dont just guess

jerv's avatar

Fixed-wing aircraft have stall speed, so if they stop, they fall :P

Seriously though, I think we’d just go back to how we did things in the past; more rail, more driving, etcetera. And considering the push for enhanced mass transit over the years, the high fuel costs of air travel, and the emergence of teleconferencing, I think that planes are on the way out anyways.

HungryGuy's avatar

Air travel isn’t going away unless terrorists make it so unsafe that nobody would want to risk it, or government security wonks make boarding a plane so unbearable, and something else comes along that costs about the same as air travel (when you factor in the cost of your time—for instance it might be “cheaper” for a corporate executive to pay $10000 for a private jet than to pay $500 for a 48-hour ferry across the Atlantic, but a middle-class vacationer would find the ferry cheaper for their purposes).

That something could be high-speed ships like hydrofoils that can cross the Atlantic in about 48 hours. Such vehicles would be less like today’s cruise ships and more like ferries with sleeping berths (like some Japanese berth hotels) and basic ameneties like a cafeteria and a bar/lounge.

Rigid airships could make a comeback, but they’d need to use helium rather than hydrogen as the lifting gas, and travel time would still be about 24 hours to cross the Atlantic.

A rail bridge over the Bearing Straight might be doable, but I don’t think many people would want to spend a week or two (depending on how many stops it makes along the way) on board a high-speed train to get from London to New York…

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sandydog The above link is the facts and I dont just guess

I guess that one fact is that you did not read the article you linked to. It supports what I said.

Here are a few of the things that you appeared to have missed.

soon run short of perishable goods including exotic fruits and Kenyan roses

While the vast majority come by sea –

Air freight makes up about 25% of all British imports by value, but just 0.5% of all imports by weight.

Maybe you would have done better guessing?

Sandydog's avatar

@Darkscribe. We better close our conversation if your only going to make derogatory comments about things Ive said. People like you spoil Fluther.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Sandydog People like you spoil Fluther.

You make a comment, an exaggerated claim and when it shown – using your own material – to be an inaccurate claim you flounce off whilst declaring that someone who shows you where you are erring is “spoiling” Fluther?

Ok, if that is how you debate then yes, we might as well “close” our conversation.

Good luck.

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