VOLCEX23 Debrief, VOLCEX24 Planning and VOLCEX/SG/18 Meetings, Vila do Porto, Azores, Portugal - 22 and 23 January 2024

The VOLCEX23 Debrief, VOLCEX24 Planning and VOLCEX/SG/18 Meetings were held on 22 and 23 January 2024 in Vila do Porto, Azores, Portugal. The meetings were attended by a total of 74 participants from 22 States, 2 Airlines and 3 International Organizations. The objectives of the meetings were to 1) develop recommendations from the volcanic ash exercise conducted on 21 November 2023 called VOLCEX23 and 2) consider these recommendations in the objectives of the volcanic ash exercise that will be conducted on 19 November 2024 called VOLCEX24.


One significant achievement observed in VOLCEX23 was that no State that participated in the exercise closed their airspace, which is the third time in a row since these exercises began over a decade and a half ago. This proved that States have adopted the acceptance of the Safety Risk Assessment (SRA) approach provided by operators, which is in accordance to the Volcanic Ash Contingency Plan for the EUR and NAT Regions. Routinely conducting volcanic ash exercises is essential because stakeholders continue to improve their readiness for a real volcanic ash event.

On 19 November 2024, VOLCEX24 will simulate a volcano eruption of Santa Barbara located in the Azores, Portugal. The simulated volcanic ash cloud is expected to affect the eastern Atlantic, western and central Europe, Adriatic into northern Africa.


Furthermore, testing the Dynamic Airborne Reroute Procedure (DARP) in oceanic airspace is a VOLCEX24 objective. Training of ATC on the use of Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) loadable uplinks to reroute multiple aircraft in real time is a necessary component of DARP. This will mitigate the potential for human error in the flight deck and reduce ATC workload as well as provide a safer airspace.


In addition, the new Quantitative Volcanic Ash (QVA) information will be made available in VOLCEX24 in order for stakeholders to familiarize themselves with this new volcanic ash information, though it will not be used operationally.


The associated draft Summary of Discussions (SoD) of these events is currently being reviewed by key participants and will be posted on the portal under group name VOLCEXSG by the end of this month.

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