Volcanic ash threat to flights

Easyjet is the biggest airline in the south and is leading the way in trying to reduce disruption caused by volcanic ash. They have revealed to ITV News Meridian that in 2010 the ash crisis cost them £55m.

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  1. Mike Pearse

Icelandic volcano could erupt again - grounding UK flights once more

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.

Tonne of ash to be used in flight test

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.

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

– Ian Davies, easyJet's Engineering Director


  1. Mike Pearse, Transport Correspondent

More volcanic air disruption "certain"

Ash plume of the volcano Eyjafjoell, 120 km east of Iceland's capital Reykjavik, Iceland, on May 15, 2010 Credit: De Malglaive Etienne/ABACA/Press Association Images

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.

iew of the volcano from Reykjavik. Eyjafjoell is 120 km east of Iceland's capital, Iceland, on May 15, 2010 Credit: Etienne de Malglaive/ABACAPRESS.COM

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.

Volcanic ash crisis could happen again

The 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull disrupted flights across the UK

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.

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