22 March 2010 22:30 hours:
The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupts for the first time around midnight. At the time, there was still no hint of any disruption to air traffic. Geologists monitoring the volcano initially give the allclear.
14 April 2010 7:00 hours:
A strong eruption shakes the volcano summit. Lava flows from a 2-kilometre fissure. A plume of volcanic ash and vapour soars to a height of several thousand metres and is driven by strong winds towards the European Mainland.
16 April 2010 9:00 hours:
Eurocontrol announces that the entire airspace in northern Europe has been closed to air traffic in the past 24 hours. Commercial flights movements are banned in Ireland, the UK, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Estonia, parts of France and Germany. Frankfurt Airport is also closed.
On this Friday alone, Lufthansa Cargo is forced to cancel 14 flights. From now on, destinations within Europe are served by RFS. Live animals and valuable freight are kept back in Frankfurt where they can best be tended to and stored. Lufthansa Cargo uses the micro-blogging service Twitter to keep customers posted on the latest developments online. Simultaneously, an updated timetable is published in the evening. A crisis team, consisting of Executive Board members and senior executives, convenes and, subsequently, meets two to three times daily to review the situation.
17 and 18 April 2010 :
Fokko Doyen, MD-11 Captain and Lufthansa Cargo Fleet Chief, flies from Frankfurt to Istanbul on Saturday. The flight is conducted with a special permit under VFR rules. This visual flight is the only one to be operated from Frankfurt on this day. All other flights have to be cancelled.
After touchdown in Istanbul, the aircraft is inspected by experts from Lufthansa Technik - the findings reveal no damage to the aircraft or its engines. On Sunday, three MD-11 freighters land in Frankfurt. Fokko Doyen also flies his aircraft back to Frankfurt. Reporters and TV teams are on the tarmac as he touches down. In the evening, Fleet Chief Doyen appears live on "ARD-Brennpunkt" - a special ad-hoc programme broadcast at prime time on German TV to report in detail on news issues of major topical interest. Asked about the flight, he says it was in fact totally unspectacular.
Meantime, the warehouses at Frankfurt Airport are reaching their capacity limits. The staff there make up ready-to-fly pallets and stack them on the apron. The aim is to enable operations to re-start as soon as possible once the flight ban is lifted. Since there is insufficient space available, only shipments of a specific size are accepted: On Sunday evening, no more freight at all is accepted.
19 April 2010 16:00 hours:
There is no let-up in media interest: TV teams from ZDF and CNN are on the spot to film an MD-11 take-off bound for Dakar. In the morning, Lufthansa Cargo acquires special permits for three landings and three take-offs to fly urgently needed cargo, such as insulin, to its destination. Simultaneously, Lufthansa Cargo calls for an easing of the ban on night flights, if flight operations are resumed. Plans are made for extra flights, among others, to New York.
The German aerospace research institute puts on a first test or measuring flight to assess the precise distribution of volcanic ash over Germany. The findings are to be released on Tuesday.
The Lufthansa Group obtains special permits for 50 visual flights on Monday afternoon - at last, a start can be made on reducing the freight backlog and getting stranded passengers back to Germany.
20 April 2010:
Lufthansa Cargo hopes to resume normal flight schedules at the end of the week. In a live interview with BBC World, Fokko Doyen reaffirms his view that safe flight operations are absolutely possible.
In cooperation with the Max Planck Institute in Mainz, Lufthansa carries out a test flight in order to acquire clear evidence on the concentration of volcanic ash in the airspace over Europe. A specially equipped Airbus A340-600 with the CARIBIC climate research container on board takes off from Frankfurt Airport in the afternoon and spends several hours in-flight collecting measuring data across Europe. Simultaneously, more and more flights are carried out under visual flight rules. In the evening, Lufthansa announces that all long-haul routes will be served on Wednesday (the next day).
21 April 2010 11.00 hours:
German air traffic control reopens the airspace over Germany entirely. Air traffic resumes gradually in European neighbouring countries as well. Nevertheless, Lufthansa Cargo Executive Board Member Dr. Andreas Otto says in an interview that he assumes it will take one to two weeks to get flight operations back to normal. A day later, Lufthansa Cargo announces that operations are almost back on schedule.