ByÂ Kenneth Ehigiator
Aviation and aerospace experts will gather in Iceland next month to co-ordinate the global response to future volcanic eruptions.
The conference follows an aviation crisis in April and May when Icelandâ€™s Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, spewing vast clouds of ash around Europe, grounding flights and leaving thousands of passengers stranded, many for a week or more.
Experts from major governments, international organisations, aerospace companies and airlines will meet in the town of Keflavik from September 15-16.
â€œThis should produce some clear indication of where the international community is heading to ensure the effects of a big eruption are minimised in the future,â€ Henry Gaudry, President of the European Volcanological Society said.
The closure of most of Europeâ€™s airspace cost airlines more than USD$1.7 billion in lost revenue.
Specialists say even worse chaos could follow if a number of other currently dormant or mildly active volcanoes in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Far Eastern Russia were to erupt.
The conference organisers, Icelandâ€™s Keilir Aviation Academy, said the September meeting would try to determine who should do what in the case of a volcanic eruption to minimise harm to the aviation sector.
Airline and airport bodies complained bitterly about the European airspace closure, a move they said was hasty and could have been avoided.
Aviation specialists said the crisis was partly caused by lack of co-ordination among several authorities on how to respond to the Icelandic eruption.
Many experts, including Gaudry, said at the time that European authorities had little choice but to act as they did to avoid potential disasters from the clogging of aircraft engines by the fine-glass dust.
Eyjafjallajokull is now calm, although it will not be until September or October that it can be declared dormant again. Initial fears that its eruption would bring its much larger neighbour Katla to life were proven unfounded.