The poignant pictures of stranded passengers dominated the media and epitomised the crisis triggered by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano. For 6 days, the airspace of Northern Europe was closed at great financial and emotional costs. Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport was reduced to a standstill.

The UK economy is estimated to have lost £100m per day that aircraft were grounded. Gumley House Convent School in Isleworth, amongst others, was forced to operate on a reduced timetable for a week when 41 pupils and 4 staff were stranded in Washington DC and many others were scattered across the globe.

However, the flight ban provided a much welcomed breath of fresh air for long afflicted residents of the area surrounding the airport. Instead of the thundering roar of aircraft, the songs of birds prevailed. The skies were no longer emblazoned with childishly scrawled vapour trails. For those comfortably at home, the taster of life without planes was not altogether an unwelcome experience. Hannah John, resident of Hayes, expressed her relief at the situation.

“It was nice without planes. I didn’t want my friends to be stranded but I enjoyed the quiet.”

The crisis was a stark reminder that irrespective of technological advances, nature is ultimately the ruling force; the world does not revolve around human desires. With oil production expected to peak within 10 years, the sustainability of the aviation industry is shrouded with doubt. Ultimately, the human love affair with flying may have to draw to a close.