All airlines will be expected to attach a ‘safety canary’ to the nose cone of their planes to provide an early warning system against flying into clouds of dangerous volcanic ash, say the Civil Aviation Authority.
‘The system is foolproof,’ said Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, ‘the canary sings along happily to itself as the plane travels at thirty thousand feet but if they enter an ash cloud the little bird starts to cough and splutter. This tells the pilot that it may be time to change course.’
However, animal lovers say that it is cruel to use canaries, especially in longer transatlantic flights. ‘These creatures are being shamelessly exploited,’ said animal rights campaigner, Carla Lane, ‘what kind of life is it for these defenceless little birds to be locked up in a cage and left swinging from the nose cone of a Boeing 737?’
Lord Adonis rejected the criticism. ‘For most domestic canaries this is the best chance they will ever get to fly. They will see the world and be given as much cuttlebone as they can eat.’
However, the unions remain unconvinced. ‘These safety canaries might sound like a good idea,’ said UNITE leader, Tony Woodley, ‘but they are unfocused birds who are easily distracted by jingly bells and their own reflection. Our members would prefer to see the use of tried and tested 'safety coal miners'. The Welsh variety can sing hymns non-stop for periods of 24 hours or more, which is ideal for long haul flights, and the lungs of a miner are specially attuned to identifying all the many varieties of dust.’
Lord Adonis said that people should rejoice in the fact that the new safety measures mean that planes can once again take to the skies. ‘These canaries are a victory for common sense,’ he said, ‘and if any of them do die they also make a tasty alternative to airline food.’