EASA launches new initiative to tackle impact of climate change on flight safety


COLOGNE, November 9 – The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has kicked off a new initiative to better understand the effects of climate change on aviation, so as to equip the industry and aviation authorities to cope better with these changes and thus ensure aviation maintains its high level of safety.

The European Network on Impact of Climate Change on Aviation (EN-ICCA) is holding its kick-off meeting at the EASA headquarters in Cologne on November 9-10, 2023.

Scientific evidence shows that climate change increases the impact of severe and extreme weather phenomena, such as storms and hurricanes, drought, floodings and heatwaves, and that it may also increase frequency and severity of natural hazards that can pose a particular threat to aviation safety, such as turbulence, airborne icing and bird populations.

‘EASA is already undertaking a lot of work to reduce the aviation impact on climate and environment. This new initiative will assess the impact of climate change on air travel, as we are already observing a growing number of changes that affect flight operations,’ said EASA Executive Director Luc Tytgat. ‘We have created this group with new partners, from outside aviation, to deal with this emerging situation, so that the high level of safety in air travel is maintained for passengers despite these new threats.’

As an example of the potential impact on aviation safety, climate change is likely to increase the frequency and severity of clear-air turbulence in some regions where international air traffic is dense, such as the North Atlantic, South-East Asia and the North Pacific. Severe clear-air turbulence is already one of the main causes of passenger and cabin crew injuries worldwide.

Other research shows that climate change is predicted to increase the likelihood of encountering large hailstones, with a diameter of several centimetres. In the worst case, such hailstones could cause a multiple engine shutdown at low altitude, damage aircraft equipment in the aircraft’s radome or destroy the windshield.

New strategic objective for EASA

Managing the impact of climate change on aviation safety was a new strategic objective added to EASA’s European Plan for Aviation Safety (refer to EPAS 2023-2025, Volume I). While the EASA Scientific Committee is already compiling scientific research on some weather hazard trends, tackling the safety challenges caused by climate change entails bringing aviation stakeholders into the conversation.

The main objectives of the EN-ICCA are to help aviation stakeholders to better understand the effects of climate change and to define actions to maintain safety and inform the scientific community of priority topics regarding impact of climate change on aviation. This new network will facilitate the exchange of information between all stakeholders and coordination between research projects on climate change, thereby helping EASA and other authorities to manage the effect of climate change on aviation.

The expected outcome is an assessment of the state of relevant scientific knowledge on weather hazard trends and recommendations to help close any knowledge gap. The EN-ICCA will also review the climate change adaptation measures that aviation stakeholders already have in place, to assess their effectiveness and determine what further action can be taken.

A follow-up meeting will take place in 2024.

Note to Editors: EASA is also very active in the reduction of aviation emissions, to decarbonise aviation. Please see this press release New responsibilities place EASA at centre of drive to decarbonise aviation | EASA (europa.eu).

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