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European volcanic ash contingency exercise

The ICAO European and North Atlantic (EUR/NAT) held a Volcanic Ash Crisis Exercise, which commenced at 0930 UTC on 28 November with a simulated eruption of Agua de Pau in the Azores, Portugal.  The simulation was designed to impact upon the Mediterranean belt and into central Europe during the exercise days of 29-30 November. This exercise, called VOLCEX 17, is an annual event designed to test the reactiveness of all players involved in the industry that could be effected by a volcanic eruption in EU airspace.

The exercise involved the participation of 38 airline operators, 14 ANSPs, as well as over 40 regulators and other crisis coordination cells.  The objective of the exercise was the same as the previous event (VOLCEX 16) with it being an opportunity for each individual state to test the effectiveness of their national crisis procedures, and for all the participants to test the effectiveness of their local volcanic ash contingency plans and/or procedures.    

During the exercise, the Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) generated the Volcanic Ash Advisories and Météo France generated the Volcanic Ash Concentration charts at six-hourly intervals in support to the EUR/NAT Volcanic Ash Contingency Plan.

The exercise again proved both positive and successful with several recommendations to be incorporated for this year’s exercise including:

  • Better preparation non-AO organisations
  • Enhanced engagement by ANSPs
  • Encourage participation from commercial meteorological providers
  • Desire for production of tactical information on airport diversion capability

The format for this year’s VOLCEX exercise (VOLCEX 18) will be altered from the previous years in that the eruption will be simulated as a one-day event only, on 28 November 2018.

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