The European Regulatory Response to the Volcanic Ash Crisis Between Fragmentation and Integration
AbstractMore than twenty years after the EU eliminated its internal land borders, the Union still lacks an integrated airspace. This seems to be the most immediate regulatory lesson of the recent volcanic ash crisis. Yet more research is needed before establishing its net effects. In this brief report, I will provide a first-hand analysis of the regulatory answer developed across Europe in the aftermath of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. While reconstructing the unfolding of the events and the procedures followed by the regulators, I will attempt to address some of the questions that I have repeatedly asked myself when stranded in Washington DC between 16 and 25 April 2010. Who did the assessment of the hazard posed by volcanic ash to jetliners? Who was competent to take risk management decisions, such as the controversial flight bans? Is it true that the safe level of volcanic ash was zero? How to explain the shift to a new safety threshold (of 2,000 mg/m3) only five days after the event? Did regulators overact? To what extent did they manage the perceived risk rather than the actual one? At a time when the impact of the volcanic ash cloud crisis is being closely scrutinised by both public authorities and the affected industries, it seems particularly timely to establish what happened during the worst aviation crisis in European history. This report was written one week after the event and relied on a limited number of sources available by 30 April 2010.
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Date of creation: May 2010
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