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EasyJet pushes ash cloud plans

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Budget airline easyJet has announced that it is ready to test a prototype of its volcanic ash cloud detection system pending approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The low-cost carrier is investing £1 million to develop the system - known as Avoid (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) - and says that it is asking for additional financial support from the EC.

The Avoid system, developed by scientist Fred Pata of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, is effectively a weather radar for ash.

It comprises infrared technology fitted to aircraft to supply images to pilots and an airline's flight control centre.

The images will enable pilots to see an ash cloud, up to 60 miles ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes between 5,000ft and 50,000ft, allowing them to make adjustments to the plane's flight path to avoid the cloud.

Last summer, easyJet had said that it hoped to install the system on 12 of its planes by the end of 2010, but the device has yet to go on to any passenger aircraft as the airline waits for testing approval.

EasyJet was one of the many airlines severely hit by last April's Icelandic ash cloud crisis which saw airports shut and thousands of flights cancelled.

The event highlights the need for the new detection device and adequate travel insurance that offers cover for transport disruptions during trips.

EasyJet said that plans to combat any future aviation volcanic ash cloud crisis must push ahead.

© Press Association 2011