EASA On Ash Clouds: See And Avoid

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EASA has updated its safety guidance on flying in volcanic ash-contaminated airspace, revamping its recommendations to reflect the latest work done by industry groups studying the threat of ash to airliner operations.

Among the notable changes: a new Recommendation 1 that should leave no doubt in operators' minds:

(1) Avoid operation in visible volcanic ash.

While that lead suggestion may seem obvious, previous versions of the safety information bulletin (SIB)--including the most recent update, issued in May 2011--were heavy on minimizing the impact of ash clouds on jetliners. While flying through ash was never condoned, EASA's previous recommendations focused on what to do after operating in or near ash-contaminated airspace.

Among the groups that shaped EASA's SIB was ICAO's Volcanic Ash Task Force, which wrapped up its four-meeting run last June. Another effort, ICAO's International Airways Volcano Watch Operations Group, is still going strong; its seventh meeting is slated for March 18-22 in Bangkok.

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