UK's CAA to Introduce New Volcanic Ash Measures

Travel News Asia Latest Travel News Podcasts Videos Tuesday, 18 May 2010

From midday today (Tuesday GMT), the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will implement new measures to reduce disruptive airspace closures caused by the volcanic ash from Iceland. The new measures are a results of discussions with airlines, regulators, and aircraft and engine manufacturers.

A new area of operations is being introduced that creates a Time Limited Zone (TLZ) between the black No Fly Zone (NFZ) and the red Enhanced Procedures Zone (EPZ). Aircraft and engine manufacturers, based on new research and analysis, have agreed that it is safe to allow operations in the new zone for a limited time at higher ash densities than is currently permitted.

To operate in the new zone airlines need to present the CAA with a safety case that includes the agreement of their aircraft and engine manufacturers. UK airline Flybe is the first to achieve this and will therefore be able to use the new zone from midday (GMT) on Tuesday.

The change means that areas of UK airspace that would have previously been closed, can instead open, minimising flight disruption.

"Unprecedented situations require new measures and the challenge faced should not be underestimated. Firstly because the standard default procedure for aircraft that encounter ash, to avoid it completely, doesn't work in our congested airspace. Secondly, the worlds top scientists tell us that we must not simply assume the effects of this volcano will be the same as others elsewhere. Its proximity to the UK, the length of time it is continuously erupting and the weather patterns are all exceptional features," said Andrew Haines, Civil Aviation Authority Chief Executive. "The answer can only come, therefore, from aircraft and engine manufacturers establishing what level of ash their products can safely tolerate. At an international aviation conference we held last Thursday, attended by all the leading airline operators this approach was welcomed and supported. The manufacturers are co-operating fully and urgently in this task and the new zone is an excellent example of how the industry should be working to move the issue forward and I commend Flybe for its work"

The introduction of the TLZ is based on measurements collected from test flights through the current ash cloud over the past month, as well as on data and evidence compiled and analysed from previous volcanic ash incidents combined with additional analysis from manufacturers.

Operations in the newly established TLZ may be subject to time limits and increased maintenance practices. The new zones area will be established using Met Office forecasts, and will be approved by the CAA before operations are allowed within it.

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