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Air Transport Disrupted by Volcanic Ash (Again)

The recent eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano in Iceland provides an opportunity to reflect on what has been learnt from last year’s problems with volcanic ash. It would appear so far that the various agencies involved – eg in meteorology and air traffic control – are much better prepared than last year and are applying a much more flexible, evidence-based, approach. Already however, Ryanair has (unsuccessfully) challenged the Irish Aviation Authority’s approach as being too cautious and one can expect further challenges to the prevailing consensus if the disruption persists.

Whilst governments and agencies should be commended for taking prompt action to address the obvious lessons from last year’s incident the more interesting question is whether the more fundamental issues have been tackled. One such issue, that was raised again in the last few months, was the need for more scientific input into the UK Government’s National Risk Register. It is important after any incident to identify not only the scenario-specific issues that arose but also, more importantly, those that could potentially feature in many different scenarios. Planning around these generic issues forms the basis of effective, flexible business continuity plans.