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ASH CLOUD: Volcano crisis cell moves from

The crisis cell jointly run by Eurocontrol and the European Aviation Safety Agency to co-ordinate aviation's response to the Grimsvotn volcano has now been stood down.

It met for the final time on the morning of 27 May before being moved to "alert" status.

The cell, which averaged around 40 attendees from across the industry, had previously met each morning from 22 May following the start of the eruption.

Brian Flynn, head of the network operations unit at Eurocontrol, said that overall the ash crisis this year had been dealt with "more efficiently and with less disruption" than that caused by the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in April 2010.

Although he acknowledged significant differences between the two events - principally the duration of the eruption - he said that the "reaction of the entire aviation community shows it was much more prepared".

Had the same procedures as last year remained in place the disruption would have been significantly worse, with three or four times the number of flights cancelled and airspace closures stretching as far south as London's Heathrow airport, he said. Over the three days that the ash cloud was present, around 900 flights were cancelled - last year cancellations were running at 1,500-1,600 per day.

"Given the complexity of the issues involved and the breadth of organisations involved, the progress since last year has been very quick. However, there are still some issues to be resolved," he said.

Carriers have been given a greater role in deciding whether or not to fly in "safe but marginal conditions", he said, although acknowledged that the safety approval system run by national civil aviation regulators that underpins this had not operated quickly enough.

However, Flynn said he was confident that a database of approved operators compiled by EASA would help alleviate this if another eruption takes place.

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