Were you one of the unlucky people who were stranded abroad during the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in April last year? The volcanic ash cloud closed most European Airspace for five days – the highest level of air travel disruption since the Second World War and saw thousands of UK airline passengers trapped.
A year on from the Icelandic eruption, easyJet today announces the latest progress of the AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) system and calls upon the aviation industry to work together to avoid further disruption in European airspace from future volcanic activity. The new equipment is set to be fitted to 20 of the airlines aircraft and it is hoped it will radically change air travel, giving easyJet the ability to navigate around future ash clouds without incurring risk.
The AVOID system is effectively a weather radar for ash. The system comprises of infrared technology fitted to aircraft to supply images to pilots and an airline's flight control centre. These 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. This will allow pilots to make adjustments to the plane's flight path to avoid any ash and therefore greatly reducing any future disruption to air travel.
The next phase of the project is to further test the equipment by flying close to volcanic ash. The testing is expected to take place over the next few months. In addition to the larger roll out of the AVOID system, easyJet plans to have the AVOID equipment certified and ready to fit to one of its aircraft in the event should another volcano erupt in Europe. EasyJet believes that if 100 aircraft (20 of which would be EasyJet aircraft) across Europe were to be fitted with AVOID equipment, this would provide comprehensive coverage of the continent.