Easyjet along with most other European airlines was badly affected in the Icelandic ash cloud debacle of 2010. For almost 2 weeks UK airspace was closed and thousands of passengers were delayed and disrupted by the ash in the atmosphere that was too dangerous to fly through.
Easyjet has now announced that one of their aircraft will be fitted with the AVOID - Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector - system which will be able to detect volcanic ash particles more than 60 miles ahead. The technology involves the fitting of infrared cameras to the wings and the resulting data will allow for a picture to be built of the location and density of any ash cloud. Initially one Easyjet aircraft will be equipped but eventually up to 20 aeroplanes in the fleet might carry it.
AVOID has been developed by Dr Fred Prata from Nicarnica Aviation to give the pilot an accurate view of the ash cloud and the ability to manoeuvre to avoid any risk. Testing has been taking place near Mt Etna in Sicily and the results have now led to the successful release of AVOID.
It is hoped that other airline fleets will also take up the AVOID system and for data from a number of sources to be collated to allow for even more detailed reporting. With this in place future volcanic ash clouds should not pose the sort of problems that they have in the past. In fact if AVOID had been available in 2010 it is likely that the extent of the airspace closure could have been reduced by 95% and most of the passengers would simply not have been affected.
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