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EasyJet Buzzes Above Active Volcanoes to Test Anti-Ash Technology

Where: Sicily, Italy
December 8, 2011 at 10:49 AM | by | ()

Has it already been nearly two years since the massive, international air travel mess that was the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano? We suppose it's awesome that the world hasn't ended in the meantime, but now when the holiday travel season rolls around, we get a little anxious. Any weird Earth-spewing activity can throw a wrench into the whole delicate system, but not if EasyJet has anything to say about it.

In June 2010, the European low-cost carrier announced that they'd had enough of this volcano nonsense and would take it into their own hands (and US government laboratories) to develop a system to detect ash in the air in the plane's flightpath. It's called AVOID—airborne volcanic object imaging detector—and that's exactly the idea, to avoid ash so it doesn't gum up the engine and crash or cause malfunctions in planes.

To test the AVOID system, EasyJet has been buzzing a test plane around Sicily's active Mount Etna and Stromboli volcanoes. It hasn't crashed yet, but the technology is still very much in test stage, with the hope that it can be rolled out come summer 2012.

Most pointedly, EasyJet has said that "analysis of the two recent Icelandic eruptions showed that the majority of flight cancellations would have been prevented with AVOID technology." Well, duh. The reason that so many flights were cancelled during the Eyjafjallajokull situation was out of an abundance of caution...and because we didn't yet have fancy things like the AVOID system. Here's to an ash-free future!

[Photo: mattingham]

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