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easyJet to test AVOID ash detection technology through creation of artificial volcanic ash cloud

  • Ash collected from Icelandic volcanoes and transported on easyJet in preparation for testing

easyJet and its partners Airbus and Nicarnica are planning the final stage of testing for the AVOID technology. Last week easyJet flew back a tonne of volcanic ash from Iceland collected by the Institute of Earth Sciences in Reykjavik. The ash, dried to create the consistency of fine talc, will be used in a unique experiment which is planned for this summer.

The next phase of testing will involve two Airbus test planes, one of which has the ability to disperse the ash into the atmosphere, thereby creating an artificial ash cloud for a second Airbus test aircraft with the AVOID technology fitted to detect and avoid at over 30,000ft.

The experiment, which is expected to be conducted in August, will take place when the Seviri and Calypso satellites are aligned to be able to image the ash cloud from space thereby helping to prove the accuracy and effectiveness of the AVOID technology.

Ian Davies, easyJet's Engineering Director, commented: "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, said: "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.  AVOID will then measure it and demonstrate the technology."

Manfred Birnfeld, Senior flight Test Engineer for Airbus,  said: "We are all working towards reducing the impact of volcanic ash clouds, and the technology being developed in AVOID could prove valuable in identifying airspace free of ash contamination and provide data for pilots and airlines on the precise localisation of ash clouds.

"This is why Airbus is supporting the development of AVOID and we hope this system will contribute towards three dimensional, dynamic mapping tools to allow the airlines to take necessary decisions for a safe flight under the full knowledge of current location of ash clouds."

The AVOID system can be likened to a weather radar for ash. Created by Dr Fred Prata, Chief Technology Officer at Nicarnica Aviation, the system comprises of infrared technology (developed by the US military) fitted to aircraft to supply images to pilots and an airline’s operations control centre. The images will enable pilots to see an ash cloud, up to 100 km ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes between 5,000ft and 50,000ft, thus allowing them to make small adjustments to the plane’s flight path to avoid any ash cloud. The concept is very similar to weather radars which are standard on commercial airliners today.

On the ground, information from aircraft with AVOID technology would be used to build an accurate image of the volcanic ash cloud using real time data. This could open up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption, which would benefit passengers by minimising disruption.

ENDS

For further for information please contact the easyJet Press Office on 01582 525252 or log onto www.easyJet.com

Footage and interviews from previous AVOID tests is available to download from the Digital News Agency at: http://www.digitalnewsagency.com/stories/5457-easyjet-trial-ash-cloud-detector

Notes to Editors:

Ian Davies - Technical Director and Head of Engineering at easyJet

Ian is the Technical Director and Head of Engineering at easyJet where he is responsible for the airworthiness of all easyJet’s 204 Airbus A320 family of aircraft. He runs a team of around 250 support managers and engineering staff who ensure easyJet aircraft are always kept in a safe and highly maintained condition.

Ian initially discovered the work of Dr Fred Prata whilst the first Icelandic eruption was taking place. He convinced him to collaborate with easyJet to develop the technology for use on easyJet aircraft and in the wider commercial airline industry.

Since the start of his involvement he has become recognised as an industry expert on the subject of volcanic ash and its effects on aircraft, and participated with a European Team of Expert Scientific Research Agencies as a full partner with the aim of testing the effects of volcanic ash on turbine engine components. This should provide viable evidence of turbine engine tolerance limit to ash and further increase our knowledge of how to operate safely in contaminated airspace.

Ian is a Licensed Aircraft Engineer with over 35 years of experience in civil aviation and has worked for easyJet for almost four years. Prior to his appointment at easyJet Ian was Director of Engineering at BMI British Midland for seven years.

In recognition for their work on AVOID, Ian Davies and Dr Fred Prata were named Flightglobal’s Aviators of the Year in 2012. The prestigious award is given each year to the individual or team who has done most to advance the cause of safety and operational best practice in the field of aviation.

Dr Fred Prata/Nicarnica Aviation

Dr Fred Prata is a Chief Technology Officer of Nicarnica Aviation, a spin-off company of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU). Nicarnica Aviation AS was specifically set up to develop and commercialize IR technology for the detection of volcanic ash and other hazards to the aviation industry.


About easyJet:
easyJet operates Europe's No. 1 air transport network with a leading presence on Europe's top 100 routes and at Europe's 50 largest airports.

easyJet flies over 200 aircraft on more than 600 routes between over 130 airports in 30 countries. More than 300 million Europeans live within one hour's drive of an easyJet airport, more than any other airline.

The airline takes sustainability seriously. easyJet invests in the latest technology, operates efficiently and fills most of its seats which means that an easyJet passenger's carbon footprint is 22% less than a passenger on a traditional airline, flying the same aircraft on the same route.