A special group established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in response to the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland in April 2010 has released a series of practical tools and recommendations to “significantly” mitigate the effect of future volcanic events on international aviation operations, ICAO announced on June 26.
Known as the International Volcanic Ash Task Force (IVATF), the group delivered the measures during its final meeting at ICAO headquarters in the form of a new publication of specialized ash-related flight operations guidance, volcanic ash contingency plans for air traffic management (ATM) and recommendations for new technologies and system requirements involving ground-based, airborne and satellite-based volcanic ash detection systems.
“Challenges such as Eyjafjallajökull represent important opportunities for the global aviation community to advance its collaborative scientific understanding and coordinated operational responses to volcanic eruptions, wherever and whenever in the world they occur,” said ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin. “Efforts to determine the appropriate balance between the safety and the regularity of aviation in the face of volcanic ash contamination must continue and ICAO is committed to see that they will."
The 2010 eruption led to the worst disruption to air transport operations since World War II. According to ICAO, it clearly displayed the modern aviation system’s vulnerability to natural hazards, notwithstanding the ongoing work of the existing International Airways Volcano Watch Operations Group.
ICAO Member States and international organizations nominated atmospheric science, airworthiness and ATM experts, among others, to take part in the IVATF’s research. Airline, airport and trade associations representing air navigation service providers all contributed resources to the effort, as did air traffic controller and airframe/engine manufacturer groups.
Future work programs recommended by the IVATF include studies on volcanic ash concentration levels, volcano monitoring and “information management,” as well as research on new methods to detect sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere.
“If a major volcanic eruption were to occur today, civil aviation would find itself in a much better position than in April 2010,” concluded IVATF program coordinator and New Zealand Meteorological Authority representative Peter Lechner. “Many challenges remain, however, and we will continue to address them within the International Airways Volcano Watch Operations Group, other ICAO expert groups or through pertinent partnering organizations.”