Europe considers US model for volcanic ash

In the United States, aircraft simply avoid such threats but Europe's airspace is much more congested.

Europe considers US model for volcanic ash

European safety authorities are considering adopting U.S. rules for dealing with the threat of volcanic ash in an effort to improve the response to future eruptions in the wake of last month's travel chaos.

The European Aviation Safety Agency is proposing to adapt a U.S. model which sets up a no-fly zone of 120 miles (193 km) around a visible ash plume, EASA spokesman Daniel Hoeltger said.

"It would be an air traffic control rule, which is exactly what the United States has," Hoeltgen said.

Much of Europe's airspace was closed for six days in mid-April over fears that ash from an Icelandic volcano would cause aircraft to crash. Airlines lost $1.7 billion, the International Air Transport Association said, and some are pressing for compensation for the shutdowns.

"Whether this air traffic control rule could be combined with a specific level of ash concentration in the atmosphere is still being discussed," Hoeltgen said, adding that the idea was discussed in talks between European, U.S. and Canadian authorities earlier this week.

Volcanic ash contains abrasive glass-like particles that can cause engines to become clogged.

More than 100,000 flights were cancelled and some 10 million passengers stranded around the world, according to airlines.

Regulators said they had been forced to take drastic action since engine manufacturers had provided no definition for the safe amount of ash, meaning the presence of any ash was considered too high a risk.

European Union transport ministers subsequently agreed a new system of partial closures based on a specific threshold of ash in the atmosphere but airlines have said the system remain rigid and suffers from a lack of resources to measure the ash levels.

In the United States, aircraft simply avoid such threats but Europe's airspace is much more congested.

Under the EASA proposals, aircraft would be ordered to stay outside the 120-mile radius surrounding a visible plume or cloud of volcanic ash.

This would be combined with reinforced maintenance check once the presence of ash was suspected.

Reuters

Last Mod: 16 Mayıs 2010, 10:08
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