The European Union Aviation Safety Agency is monitoring the situation in Iceland with respect to the potential eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano. In the event of an eruption and the development of an ash cloud, the Agency will work with other aviation actors to assess the impact on aviation and make recommendations accordingly.
Air operations were severely disrupted following the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. The actions taken in the days following that event were subsequently analysed in various aviation groups, leading to a far better understanding of the threat from an ash cloud to aircraft and a better preparedness of the entire aviation sector to assess and mitigate potential risks. The expectation as a result of this “lessons learned” process is that this would lead to a more proportionate reaction in the case of any future similar event, while still ensuring that safety remains paramount, as always in aviation.
Remember the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano, which erupted in April 2010, disrupting air traffic and costing the global economy millions. Since that volcanic eruption, the aviation community has considerably progressed and is now prepared to face a major volcanic ash event.
A comprehensive framework of rules and guidance material has been put in place addressing the volcanic ash so as to provide a structure for decision-making in the European Environment. A review has been undertaken with regard to the operational concept for flight into ash-contaminated airspace and for closure of airspace. These steps will improve the crisis coordination at the European Level.
The main actors are ICAO, EASA, Network Manager, Air Navigation Service Providers, National Aviation Authorities, Meteorological centres and Volcanic Ash Advisory Centres (VAACs, London and Toulouse for Europe), Industry (operators, aircraft and engine manufacturers), scientific community.
EASA has participated in the ICAO International Volcanic Ash Task Force (IVATF) to ensure harmonisation among authorities on the guidance material available to the international community. ICAO Doc 9974 “Flight safety and volcanic ash” is the baseline for the related EASA OPS rule-making activity, aiming at publishing guidance for European operators to operate safely in airspace with known or foretasted volcanic ash contamination.
EASA has provided a framework of rules and guidance material that supports a safety management approach to volcanic ash for the aviation community. This document dates from 2015 and may be in need of revision. Rapid updates in policy and guidance have been provided by an EASA Safety Information Bulletin (SIB). The latest revision was released on 24 June 2015, followed by a correction on 02 July 2015.
The objectives of EASA’s crisis management in case of a volcanic eruption affecting European airspace, are to:
Ensure the safety of flight, in particular, maintain the assurance that the operational concept is safe. This objective drives in particular the need for EASA to collect information on ash encounters.
Operators remain responsible for deciding to fly in airspace predicted to be contaminated, based on a risk assessment, combined with the “Avoid” principle
Continuous reporting from operators to ANSPs to VAAC and Met centres, and to EASA.
Ensure efficient communication and information flows, internally to EASA, between EACCC and EASA, between EASA and key stakeholders, and towards the public.