Budget airline easyJet is paving the way to make ash disruption a thing of the past.
The airline is working alongside Airbus and Nicarnica to trial the new AVOID system, which would enable aircraft to navigate through ash clouds without risk.
The move comes after the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in April 2010 caused widescale disruption across Europe.The volcanic ash cloud closed most European airspace for five days – the highest level of air travel disruption since the Second World War – leaving many timeshare owning families “stranded” at their resorts abroad, until they found alternative ways to return home or flights resumed again.
The AVOID system uses infrared technology which supply images to both the pilot and an airline’s flight control centre. The images enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 100km ahead of the aircraft and at high altitudes, meaning the plane’s flight path can be altered to avoid any ash.
Ash has also been collected from Icelandic volcanoes and transported on easyJet to be used to create artificial clouds to test the system this August.
Ian Davies, easyJet’s engineering director, said: “The threat from Icelandic volcanoes continues and so finalising the approval of the AVOID technology is as crucial now as ever to ensure we never again see the scenes of spring 2010 when all flying ceased for several days.
“Transporting a tonne of volcanic ash from Iceland is an important step in the final journey of testing the technology and moving towards commercial certification.”
Dr Fred Prata, inventor of the AVOID technology, added: “This is the perfect science experiment. We will know exactly how much ash we have placed in the atmosphere, and also its concentration and composition.”