One year after ash from the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano grounded most aircraft in Europe for several days, ICAO’s European and North Atlantic Volcanic Ash Exercises Steering Group conducted Volcex 11/01, a two-day exercise designed to simulate the effects on air traffic control of the eruption of different Icelandic volcano. Some 77 aircraft operators, mostly airlines but also including several business aviation operators, such as Bookajet, Global Jets, NetJets Europe and TAG Aviation, participated in Volcex 11/01 on April 12 and 13, along with 14 ATC service providers and 10 regulatory agencies.
Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption had obviously made a big impression: Volcex in 2008 attracted only two airline participants, Air France and KLM. Exercise leaders are currently collating initial exercise reports from registered participants. According to Eurocontrol, “Real progress has been made since last year in improving operational efficiency while maintaining safety: by applying the revised ICAO procedures, 70 percent of all planned flights would have taken place, three times more than last year during the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.”
ICAO expects to release the final report of Volcex 11/01 in June or July, after participants conduct a collective debriefing. According to ICAO, the Volcanic Ash Exercise Steering Group intends to hold two one-day ash exercises in EUR/NAT Region next year. Although the locations and dates of the simulated eruptions are not yet finalized, “they will likely take place circa April and October,” said ICAO.