The European air safety agency has proposed new procedures that would drastically shrink the no-fly zone around volcanic ash particles, a move that should decrease future airspace closures and travel delays.

Daniel Hoeltgen, spokesman for the European aviation safety agency, said yesterday that the new solution adopts the US practice of imposing a 190 km no—fly buffer zone for all aircraft in the vicinity of any visible ash plume. This no-fly zone is hundreds of kilometres smaller than the one used now in Europe.

Last month, a large part of European airspace was closed for five days when ash from the Icelandic volcano drifted over northern and western parts of the continent. It forced the cancellation of 100,000 flights, stranded millions of passengers and caused losses of over USD 2 billion to the airlines.

Many airlines criticised the European airspace closures as an unnecessary overreaction.

Flying directly through the plume of a volcanic eruption can damage jet engines, block a plane’s sensor instruments and cause other damage. But there is scant evidence so far that the abrasive volcanic ash particles can cause damage if they are dispersed by the wind.

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