Dear Members,

We would like to give you a heads up on the current situation of the volcano Cumbre Vieja located on the Canary Island of La Palma in this editorial.

Increased attention is appropriate in the entire area of the Canary Islands. Information about ash concentrations in the air layers as well as the extent of the contaminated areas, which can be taken from the reports of the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center Toulouse, may not be complete and sufficiently up to date. For example, there are no ash concentration charts for the eruption on La Palma.

To be well prepared for all eventualities, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the appropriate procedures regarding "Volcanic Ash Encounter" as described in your flight operations manuals.

Vivianne Schumacher
Director Flight Safety

In addition, EASA Safety Bulletin SIB 2010-17R7 also provides helpful recommendations for operating in airspace where high ash concentrations may occur. ICAO Doc 9691 provides guidance that flight crews should use oxygen masks set to 100 % when encountering SO2 clouds. The current eruption on La Palma is producing significant amounts of SO2, according to press reports, and the use of oxygen masks may be required (recommended if there is a significant amount of volcanic ash in the cockpit or if there is a strong smell of sulfur).

In addition, it will certainly help colleagues operating in the same airspace or planning to enter the affected airspace if you report such information to air traffic control by radio (AIREP) as soon as possible.

If you suspect that you have flown through an ash cloud, you should create a tech log entry so that a technical inspection can be performed according to the manufacturer's specifications. Ash sightings count as reportable events and must be reported through the operator's reporting system. For those who do not have access to a reporting system, EASA provides "Volcanic Ash Report" forms on its website.

A flight can never be completely free of risks. However, we have tools available to reduce the overall risk of conducting a flight to an acceptable level. These include adequate and increased situational awareness and that we share information with others so that everyone is able to get a clear picture of the situation. In this sense, we hope that the above information helps you to operate safely even under less than optimal conditions, such as those currently prevailing in the Canary Islands area.

Further information can be found in Klaus Sievers' (volcanic ash expert and member of the ATM Working Group) article "Die Bedeutung von Informationen zu Vulkanausbr├╝chen f├╝r den Flugverkehr" on the Earth System Knowledge Platform (in German, klick here for a similar article by Klaus in English which is a little older: Volcanic Eruptions and Aviation) and in ICAO Doc 9974 "Flight Safety and Volcanic Ash".

New Advisory Council with 27 Members

On October 14, 2021, the results of the electronic election for the Advisory Council were determined at 2:00 pm. A total of 22 election groups were able to submit candidatures in advance. Nine election groups cannot be filled with VC members for the Advisory Council, in nine election groups the candidates are sent to the Advisory Council without election, so that voting took place in four election groups.

The new Advisory Council will consist of 27 members. According to the distribution of the election groups, a maximum strength of 42 Council members would have been possible.

We have published the exact result as well as the names of the new Advisory Council members, who will represent the VC members towards the Executive Board for three years starting in January 2022, in a circular letter. This information can also be found on the VC website in the members area under "Elections".

We congratulate all elected and delegated Advisory Council members and wish them good luck for their work in the next three years.

Offer for VC Members: Supplemental Health Care Insurance

R+V Versicherung is offering a supplemental insurance for VC members that adds to the benefits provided by statutory health insurance. The offer is only valid until 01 November 2021. The key points:

  • No health check for active pilots (i.e. everyone holding a medical)
  • Co-insurance of family members possible
  • Flat-rate contribution for active VC members of 35.84 euros per month
  • Benefits include:
    • Treatment by chief physician ("Chefarztbehandlung")
    • Double room accommodation
    • Dental prosthesis: 70 % with crediting of the GKV allowance
    • Ambulant preventive medical checkups and vaccinations up to 400 euros every two calendar years.

All details can be found in the members area of the VC website in German. Go to Service / Partners and Discounts / Insurances (login required). If you need Information in English, please don't hesitate to contact the member support team:

Good News: Amount of old NOTAMs is declining

ICAO's large-scale international NOTAM campaign is beginning to show positive effects, according to an IFALPA report. The campaign aims to reduce the total number of NOTAMs, so that safety can be improved by focusing on actual critical information. According to ICAO guidelines, a NOTAM should remain valid for a maximum of three months and, if necessary, only be replaced once. If there is a need to distribute information for a longer period, this should be done in the relevant publications, for example via an AIP Supplement.

In an international comparison, Chile has taken the lead in this effort, repealing nearly all of its almost 100 old or very old NOTAMs. Fortunately, Germany is also on the right track according to ICAO figures. In the so-called NOTAMeter, Germany is on "green" in terms of progress. We would like to encourage the responsible authorities to continue on this path in order to also check the remaining more than 100 old and very old NOTAMS (as of 20 October 2021) for their validity and to remove them if possible.

In the VC Aviation Safety Concept SafeSKY, we have summarized our recommendations on NOTAMs (see chapter 4.2.2, pp. 16), which go beyond the objectives of the ICAO campaign:

The format of NOTAMs provided should be adapted to meet the requirements of users. VC recommends a structured categorization und discernible prioritization of contained information. In particular, adjustments in the presentation and filtering options (i.e. consideration of take-off and landing times for possible delays, expected runway in use, available landing systems and navigation aids, color coded where applicable) would facilitate and accelerate the comprehension and processing of information, thus contributing to flight safety. The revised format should then be implemented as a common standard worldwide. Furthermore, there should be a backup or update option via an uplink to guarantee the validity of NOTAMs anytime, even during flight.

2021 EASA Annual Safety Conference - Safety in Air Traffic Management

This year's virtual EASA Safety Conference is all about safety in air traffic management. On November 10, starting at 9:30 a.m., three panel discussions will deal with the topics "ATM Safety Performance before / during / after Covid", "Green Single European Sky" and "New technologies and transformation in ATM". The event is accessible online without registration fee.

Click here for the agenda / Click here to register

One of these Days... Interim Report on severe Malfunction of a Boeing 737-400

Not only the MAX, but also older Boeing 737s can have trim problems. Like the 737-400 in which "the control chain in the drive of the control mechanism for the trim of the horizontal stabilizer had come loose" (translated from German). That's according to the BFU's interim report investigating the serious malfunction.

After the autopilot had failed to maintain a constant altitude at FL280, the pilots switched to manual control, which required considerable force. The two of them took several turns in the process. During the long final approach on runway 14L at Cologne-Bonn Airport, it also turned out that the flap lever could not be moved to position 5 or further. The subsequent landing at a correspondingly increased speed proceeded without further incidents.

As a conclusion from the BFU's interim report, it can be stated that one must expect the unexpected at all times! Click here for the BFU Bulletin July 2021, go to page 21 for the report, pictures and graphics (in German only).

Last European MD-11 decommissioned

The last MD-11 of Lufthansa Cargo is out of service. After 23 years in commercial flight operation with Lufthansa Cargo, the popular tri-jet is thus history in Germany. According to the airline, the D-ALCC was even the last MD-11 registered in Europe. Many thanks to Sarah Tegge for the picture of this wonderful aircraft on its last landing in service with Lufthansa Cargo in Frankfurt.

News from Associations, Organisations and Regulators

Ifalpa - Position papers on GNSS disruptions and winter operations in Finland

OPS Group - North Atlantic

  • ICAO has updated its NAT Ops Bulletin "Oceanic Errors" - which has led OPS Group to compile loads of advice for flying over the north Atlantic: (Not so) New on the NAT 

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