EasyJet, the low-cost European carrier, has flown a ton of Icelandic volcanic ash to Reykjavik to be used in a test for a new system designed to help aircraft avoid potential catastrophe.
Ever since the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in April 2010, which stranded millions of passengers and cost airlines lost billions of dollars, engineers have been working on a new technology to help pilots and the high-tech planes they fly avoid potentially deadly volcanic ash clouds.
If ash is sucked into a plane's engine, it can melt and clog parts.
According to the BBC, engineers from Airbus, and scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NIAR) and Oxford University, came up with a technology called Avoid (Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector), which uses infrared technology to pick out volcanic ash in the air.
According to Travel Weekly, the ash will be dried to create the consistency of fine talc and used in an experiment this summer.
The experiment will involve two Airbus test aircraft, with one of them dispersing the ash in the atmosphere to create an artificial ash cloud while the second — fitted with AVOID — flying behind at 30,000 feet.
The August test flight will also bring into play two satellites aligned to be able to detect the ash cloud from space, providing images that help to gauge the accuracy and effectiveness of the technology at detecting the ash.
If the system is effective, pilots will be able to take action to avoid it.
Britain's Daily Mail quoted EasyJet engineering director Ian Davies as saying:
"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 ton of volcanic ash from Iceland is an important step in the final journey of testing the technology and moving towards commercial certification."
According to the BBC, Davies added:
"It means that in the event of another eruption and ash coming down over Europe we'll be able to determine where it is and fly in areas that are absolutely safe."