A KILKENNY man who helped to provide the solution to the volcanic ash cloud air space shutdown earlier this year has been recognised by his air industry peers.
The International Federation of Airworthiness (IFA) presented the 2010 Whittle Safety Award to Padhraic Kelleher, currently Head of Airworthiness for the UK Civil Aviation Authority at a ceremony at the 'Flying through an era of Volcanic Ash' conference held at the Royal Aeronautical Society Headquarters, London.
Padhraic is a son of Pat Kelleher and his late wife Kay of Newpark Lawn, Castlecomer Road, Kilkenny, he was educated at St Kieran's College, Kilkenny and NUI Galway. He has had a very distinguished career. He has three brothers, Gabriel, Ciaran and Ronan, who lives in Kilkenny.
The award, which honours the co-inventor of the jet engine, Sir Frank Whittle, is the highest and most prestigious award the Federation can confer to recognise an advance in aviation safety.
The citation read: "In recognition of his leadership in the co-ordination of international efforts to secure operational solutions to the risks presented by ash contamination of UK and European airspace by the Icelandic Volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, resulting in airworthiness criteria on ash tolerability and establishment of a safety risk management framework for flight in contaminated airspace."
In the aftermath of the eruptions in Iceland, the clouds of particulates, dust and gasses travelled over much of the European continent causing huge disruption to air travel. Prior to this event there were no regulations that permitted flight in contaminated airspace and the available guidance clearly required avoidance of any forecast or observed contamination. Mr Kelleher worked tirelessly over this period to gather together an international effort to determine the risks involved in flying through ash clouds. It is his dedication and determination that resulted in a safety risk management framework being produced and accepted which allowed the skies to be opened and for normal flight operations to recommence.
His patience, understanding and leadership skills were tested and developed during this very stressful period and it is due to his efforts that we all have a clearer understanding of the issues relating to flying within contaminated airspace and the regulations that should be developed to cover any future incidents.
Upon receiving the award Padhraic said: "I truly feel that I am collecting this Award on behalf of a great team. Over the days immediately following the eruption, over 100 aviation, meteorology and geology experts from around the World worked around the clock to find answers. This Award recognises the debt of gratitude we owe to them."