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Low cost carrier Easyjet has been developing an ash avoidance system, and is now calling on other European airlines and the European Union to help fund the project’s completion.
The project started last year, when Easyjet announced it had teamed up with scientist Fred Prata to develop what is effectively an ash radar.
A prototype has now been created, which is ready to test – the team plan to carry out trials of the technology in the Far East and Alaska.
Easyjet has funded the development of the Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector (AVOID) so far, and is now preparing a request for funding from the European Commission (EC).
Ian Davies, Head of Engineering, easyJet said: “We can’t predict exactly when another volcano will erupt and send an ash cloud into European airspace but we can say with certainty that it will happen at some stage.
“Our industry is better prepared today than it was last year but we need to go further. We call for more support from the rest of the industry for this and other new solutions to deal with the volcanic threat.”
AVOID uses infrared technology to enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 100km ahead of the aircraft, at altitudes of between 5,000 and 50,000 feet.
Similar to a weather radar, used as standard on commercial aircraft today, it means pilots can alter their flight path to avoid any clouds of ash.
According to the airline, if 100 aircraft across Europe were to be fitted with the AVOID equipment, including 20 of Easyjet’s, an accurate map of the presence of ash across Europe could be created and maintained.
This would mean airlines could fly safely, within the limits set by aviation authorities.
Andrew Haines, CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority, said: “We welcome this type of initiative and encourage other UK operators to explore solutions to the problems volcanic ash poses to aircraft.
“Passengers have a right to expect the aviation industry to do everything possible to lessen future ash related disruption.”