TODAY   |  April 15, 2010

Volcanic ash creates air travel chaos

Hundreds of flights in the U.K. and Europe have been canceled as a result of massive ash clouds spewed into the sky by an erupting volcano in Iceland.  NBC’s Tom Aspell reports.

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>> that's exactly right. take a look at london 's gatewick airport. that haze that you see is actually volcanic ash . it is considered a safety hazard to aircraft. so overnight, authorities made the decision to close the airspace in nearby areas to all non-emergency flights.

>> ann curry is over at her post. welcome back, ann .

>>> good morning, everybody. also in the news this morning, more now on this erupting volcano that you just heard about in iceland that is creating travel chaos in europe, disrupting flights to and from the u.s. nbc 's tom as spell is in london this morning with more on this story . tom, good morning.

reporter: good morning, ann . aviation authorities have deemed a cloud of volcanic ash from iceland a significant threat to airplanes. britain has just announced that it is closing its airspace. a volcano in iceland is spewing clouds of ash into the air which are moving south to cause severe disruption to european aviation . airplanes are vulnerable to volcanic ash which can melt in the heat of their engines, and then solidify again, possibly shutting them down. airports across northern europe have been closed. ede edenboro in scotland was one of the first to be shut down.

>> we're told there's nothing we can do. they won't be flying.

reporter: this morning britain announced that it is closing its airspace for all but emergency flights. thousands of passengers are stranded at london 's heathrow airport , europe's busiest. aviation authorities say they'll have to wait for the wind to blow the cloud of volcanic ash away before airspace here can reopen.

>> tom aspell, thanks.