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It is just "a matter of time" before another volcano in Iceland erupts - disrupting flights over here in the UK, and the rest of Europe once again That is the view of experts from the South who are developing a system for aeroplanes that will detect ash in the sky.
Back in 2010, most airline services in the region, and much of the UK were grounded because of a drifting Icelandic ash cloud following a volcanic eruption. Mike Pearse reports.
EasyJet and its partners Airbus and Nicarnica are planning the final stage of testing for the AVOID technology. Over the weekend they flew back a tonne of volcanic ash from Iceland collected by the Institute of Earth Sciences in Reykjavik. It will be used for testing by Airbus & Oxford University.
The ash, dried to create the consistency of fine talc, will be used in a unique experiment which is planned for this summer. T
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.
Experts say it is just "a matter of time" before another volcano in Iceland erupts with the potential to cause major disruption to flights like in 2010. Then most services in Europe were grounded for a total of eight days causing misery to millions of people.
The problem is that when a volcano explodes it can send millions of ash particles into the air causing a cloud. If a plane flies into it engines can be badly affected and even stop.
So now Easyjet and Airbus are developing a system called AVOID that would better detect ash in the sky. Planes would be fitted with sensors that detect it and they would be directed around the ash by air controllers.
Airlines say it is a much better alternative to the current system which is to ground flights over a wide area. The sensors feed back information from the system which is added to data from satellites.
The aim is to keep more planes flying and reduce the type of disruption in 2010.
Since then easyJet have been leading the industry research into the problem. They say by developing a system that identifies where the ash is in the sky will enable planes to keep flying without the need to close larger areas of our skis to planes.
Instead airspace closures could be targeted to where the clouds of ash are rather than the current system of closures over a wider area. Meanwhile experts at Oxford University are researching the effect of the ash and why volcanos are erupting more frequently than ever before.
Global warming is thought to be part of the reason. Ash brought back from Iceland at the weekend will be analysed as part of the research.