Volcanic Ash

Ausbrechender Vulkan in Island
© Imago

For the event of a volcanic eruption within or in the vicinity of the European Airspace Region, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has defined measures applicable for all Swiss AOC-Holders. These measures are based on guidance and recommendations of ICAO, Eurocontrol and EASA.

In order to achieve a common approach for aircraft operation during a volcanic eruption in Europe, Eurocontrol made a proposal for a new Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) for the European states concerning flight operation during volcanic ash events. The FOCA has adopted this AIC proposal and it is applicable to all Swiss operators of turbine powered aircraft after its publication date of November 13th, 2014.

Member States will normally not close airspace that is forecast to contain ash contamination anymore. Airspace closure will be an action of last resort.

In general, following basic rules will apply:

  • Operation in areas of known contamination with volcanic ash (low, medium or high) may only be conducted if the operator has an accepted safety risk assesssment
  • Operating procedures and instructions provided by the aircraft manufacturer shall strictly be adhered to
  • Any encounter with volcanic ash has to be reported immediately to the ATS Unit providing service in that airspace. Operators shall -  in addition to the established reporting to FOCA - report any encounter with volcanic ash also to EASA directly, address: report@easa.europa.eu, with the available EASA-reporting form (see below)

The categories of contamination are defined as low, medium and high levels of contamination:

  • Area of low contamination means: contamination < 2x10-3 g/m3
  • Area of medium contamination means: contamination > 2x10-3 g/ m3 but < 4x10-3 g/ m3
  • Area of high contamination means: contamination ≥ 4x10-3 g/ m3 or areas where no ash concentration guidance is available.

AFTER November 13th, 2014 the new rules for operators for flights through areas of volcanic ash contamination shall be adapted as published in AIC 009/2014A (Template on volcanic ash).

The new rules applied in Switzerland will be fully in line with Eurocontrol:

  •  If an operator intends to plan flights into airspace forecast to be, or aerodromes known to be, contaminated with volcanic ash (low, medium or high level of contamination), the operator must have in place an identifiable safety risk assessment (SRA) within its Safety Management System (SMS). This SRA must be accepted by the competent authority before operation in such areas may be planned. The guiding principle for a safety risk management approach, as described in ICAO Doc 9974 and EASA Safety Information Bulletin (SIB) 2010-17R7.

The operator remains responsible for the safety of its operations under the oversight of their respective State regulatory authority.


Further information

https://www.bazl.admin.ch/content/bazl/en/home/fachleute/flugverkehr/flugoperationen/volcanic-ash.html