As anyone who watches the news or has lived through a natural disaster knows, there is only so much that anyone can do to tame Mother Nature at her most fierce. However, the chaos that descended on European aviation earlier this year as a result of the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano was blamed as much on the region's overcautious and disfunctional air traffic regulators as the natural phenomenon itself.
What lessons has Europe learned and what happens when Eyjafjallajokull (or one of her equally stroppy neighbours) decides to blow her top again, as many vulcanologists suspect she will in the next decade? My colleague David Learmount spent last week at a conference in Iceland on the repercussions to aviation of the volcanic eruption and has come away with the conclusion that studying volcanic risk remains an inexact science, and that allowing airlines to make their own decisions whether to fly based on available data (as they do with extreme weather) would require a huge mindset change among the authorities from risk aversion to risk management.
Read our story and David's views in our Comment piece in the 21 September issue of Flight International or online here.