Chapter 1: What Happened and Lessons Learned: A European and International Perspective
Alberto Alemanno More than 20 years after the EU eliminated its internal land borders, the Union still lacks an integrated airspace. This seems to the most immediate regulatory lesson learnt from the recent volcanic ash crisis. In this introductory chapter, I provide a ﬁrst-hand analysis of the regulatory answer developed across Europe in the aftermath of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull and qualify it as a case in point for an analysis of the concept of ‘emergency risk regulation’. While reconstructing the unfolding of the events and the procedures followed by the regulators, I will attempt to address some of the following questions: What did the assessment of the danger of volcanic ash mean for airplanes? 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? 1.1 THE EMERGENCY REGULATORY RESPONSE Following the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull on 14 April 2010, a cloud of ash quickly spread across Europe, helped by favourable winds. As a result, most European civil aviation authorities closed their respective airspaces.1 The ﬂying bans came amid fears that the volcanic ash – a mixture of glass, sand and rock particles – could seriously damage aircraft engines. The national measures were based...
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