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Ash detection device fitted on BA plane

Four years after the disruption caused by Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, scientists at the Met Office and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) have created a prototype ash detection device.

ScientistNamed after the Greek God of the skies; ZEUS, it is capable of detecting small amounts of ash in the atmosphere and will be fitted to a BA 747 aircraft for 12 months for the purpose of research.

Data collected from the device will be analysed by scientists and in time could help support predictions of ash activity and ultimately help airlines better plan for their future operations.

The plane will continue to fly on its long-haul routes across the globe for a year while being fitted with the device. Data has already been successfully downloaded from the plane's first flight to Johannesburg.

British Airways’ Captain Dean Plumb said:

“We were very keen to be involved in this pioneering research which will be of great value to the aviation industry and beyond. Aircraft regularly encounter small quantities of ash in flights around the world, perfectly safely, and pilots use expert forecasts to plan their routes to avoid more dense ash clouds. ZEUS has the potential to provide a clearer picture of ash distribution and could be used to inform decision making-processes in the event of future volcanic eruptions.”

Eyjafjallajökull is not the only one of Iceland's volcano's to have caused flight concerns - with Iceland's Met Office raising the level of risk of the Bárðarbunga volcano system erupting to orange earlier this year.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) most current advice (24th November) also cautions tourists about ongoing seismic activity in the country:

'Iceland is volcanically and seismically active.

'High levels of seismic and volcanic activity continue in the area around Bárðarbunga volcano on Vatnajökull glacier in the east of Iceland. Extremely high levels of sulphur dioxide, described by the Icelandic authorities as potentially life threatening, have been detected at the eruption site,' the advice reads.

If you are heading off on holiday in the coming weeks or months, it is important to organise comprehensive travel insurance before you travel.

Date Created: 24 November 2014

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