EasyJet, a British budget airline company, is spending $1.47m (£1m) on developing and testing an infra-red technology system that will make it possible for pilots to observe tiny ash particles up to 62 miles ahead at altitudes between 5,000 and 50,000 feet in order to safely fly around ash clouds by changing the direction of the plane. If the results go on as expected, it will come as a welcome development for many air passengers particularly those who were affected by the recent air traffic delays in Europe caused by Icelandic volcanic ash clouds.
EasyJets chief executive has described the “pioneering technology as the silver bullet that will make large-scale ash disruption history.” The new system will be called the Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector (AVOID) and it will be tested by Airbus on behalf of EasyJet in the next couple of months. It will involve placing two cameras with infrared sensors on the aircraft to send images to the pilots and flight control centre.
EasyJet lost about £75m when around 215,000 passengers flights were disrupted as a result of the volcanic ash in April hence the decision to develop and test AVOID. The airline hopes to use the system on 12 of its jets by the end of the year, subject to test results.
Do you think aviation authorities around Europe panicked and were overly cautious by canceling flights during the volcanic ash crisis?