Eurocontrol, together with Europe's national aviation authorities and air navigation service providers, will mark the anniversary of the disruption caused by last year's volcanic ash cloud with a two-day exercise simulating a repeat of the problem.

The exercise, on 13-14 April will simulate an eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano in Iceland that results in a volcanic ash cloud that spreads south across the North Atlantic and European airspace, says Eurocontrol.

"On the first day, states will ask Eurocontrol to open, close or restrict their airspace to aircraft on the basis of their currently applicable national procedures," says the agency.

"On the second day of the exercise, a new harmonised European approach will be tested. This approach is in line with draft guidance material from ICAO's 'Management of Flight Operations with Known or Forecast Volcanic Cloud Contamination', which has been developed since April 2010.

"It allows airlines to decide if they will fly in areas contaminated by ash, on the basis of a safety risk assessment accepted by the relevant national supervisory authority."

The exercise will be followed in early June by a Europe-wide assessment session to debrief and to agree follow-up actions.

Eurocontrol says participants will include over 70 airlines, 14 air navigation service providers, 10 national aviation authorities, the London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Source: Flight International