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No confidence in Europe's handling of volcanic-ash crisis: IATA chief news
18 May 2010

Mumbai: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has asked European governments and air navigation service providers to urgently develop more precise procedures to identify ash contaminated air space and allow more flights.

The call comes in the wake of 1,000 flight cancellations yesterday as a result of the continued volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

''This problem is not going away any time soon," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director general and CEO. "The current European-wide system to decide on airspace closures is not working. We welcome the operational refinements made by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in their theoretical model but we are still basically relying on one-dimensional information to make decisions on a four-dimensional problem. The result is the unnecessary closure of airspace. Safety is always our number one priority. But we must make decisions based on facts, not on uncorroborated theoretical models.''

Bisignani noted some successful exceptions, which provide examples to follow. ''France has been able to safely keep its airspace open by enhancing the VAAC data with operational expertise to more precisely determine safe fly zones. Today, the UK Civil Aviation, working with the UK NATS (the air navigation service provider), announced another step forward by working with airlines and manufacturers to more accurately define tolerance levels while taking into account special operational procedures. Both are examples for other European governments to follow,'' said Bisignani.

Bisignani called for (1) more robust data collection and analysis (2) a change in the decision making process and (3) urgency in addressing the issues.

''Numbers show that the current system is flawed," Bisignani said. "Over 200,000 flights have operated in European airspace identified by the VAAC as having the potential presence of ash. Not one aircraft has reported significant ash presence and this is verified by post-flight aircraft and engine inspections. We must back the theory with facts gathered by aircraft to test ash concentration. France and the UK are showing that this is possible. If European civil aviation does not have the resources, it should look to borrow the test aircraft from other countries or military sources.''

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No confidence in Europe's handling of volcanic-ash crisis: IATA chief