Volcanic ash crisis exercise to test new procedures

One year on from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano the EC, EUROCONTROL, and EASA are participating in a major ICAO crisis exercise to validate changes and improvements to the volcanic ash contingency plan and procedures.

The exercise will take place on 13 and 14 April and will involve over 70 airlines, 14 air navigation service providers, 10 national regulatory authorities, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre London (VAAC), as well as the European Commission, EASA and EUROCONTROL.

The exercise will allow a full assessment of the impact of applying updated procedures in the ICAO Volcanic Ash Contingency Procedures ICAO Doc 009.

As part of the exercise, the newly-created European Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) will be activated, and a new tool produced by EUROCONTROL, the “European Crisis Visualization Interactive Tool for ATFCM” (EVITA) will be tested. The exercise will be simulation only and there will be no impact on real flights.

The exercise will simulate the eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano in Iceland which results in a volcanic ash cloud spreading south across the North Atlantic and across European airspace.

On the first day of the exercise, States will ask EUROCONTROL to open, close or restrict their airspace to aircraft on the basis of their currently applicable national procedures.

On the second day of the exercise, a new harmonised European approach will be tested. This approach is in line with draft guidance material from ICAO ‘Management of Flight Operations with Known or Forecast Volcanic Cloud Contamination’ which has been developed since April 2010 and allows airlines to decide if they will fly in areas contaminated by ash, on the basis of a safety risk assessment accepted by the relevant national supervisory authority.

Following on from the exercise, in early June there will be a Europe-wide assessment session to debrief on lessons-learnt and to agree follow-up actions.

source: Eurocontrol