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EasyJet will recreate Iceland volcanic eruption to test ash warning system

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Budget UK airline Easyjet will help create an artificial volcanic ash cloud for the final test of new aircraft systems capable of detecting and avoiding volcanic debris. The company teamed up with Nicarnia Aviation and Airbus last year to test the AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector) system, and will use a tonne of volcanic ash collected from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland — which helped ground hundreds of thousands of flights when it erupted in 2010.

The test will begin in August and involve two Airbus planes, one of which will disperse ash into the atmosphere to create an artificial cloud at over 30,000 feet, while the other uses AVOID technology fitted to its fuselage to detect and navigate around the volcanic debris from as far as 100 kilometers away. If the tests are successful, the AVOID system may gain approval from aviation authorities and enable airlines to fly safely in the event of a volcanic eruption, ensuring that the mass-grounding of planes in 2010 never happens again.