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Sat, Jul 02, 2011

Flight Design CT Pressed Back Into Airborne Ash Measurement Duty

Returns To Mission First Undertaken After 2010 Iceland Eruptions

European travel was recently interrupted  for a second year by volcanic eruptions in Iceland. This time, it was the Grimsvötn volcano that spewed ash into the atmosphere, presenting a major expense for airlines and airports plus inconvenience for passengers. The Eyjafjallajökull eruption, in April 2010, caused the largest closure of European airspace since World War II, with losses estimated at between $2.2 and $3.6 billion.

To determine the extent of the problem as it compares to last year, the Laboratory for Environmental Monitoring of the Fachhochschule Düsseldorf (FHD) lead by Prof. Dr. Konradin Weber conducted volcanic ash test flights over northern Germany, especially in the region of Bremen, Hamburg and Schleswig, Holstein, in a Flight Design CT microlight airplane. The London Volcanic Ash Advisory Center had predicted significantly increased volcanic ash concentrations for this region due to the eruption of Grimsvötn causing airport closures as a safety precaution.

The test flights were carried out on behalf of the Deutscher Wetterdienst (German Weather Forecast, the federal German organization responsible for measurement of airborne radioactive particles etc.). The aircraft selected for this measurement was a high performance light aircraft called the Flight Design CT fitted with a laser-based particle spectrometer (GRIMM OPC). After the volcanic ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano a year ago this equipment was used successfully gaining international attention. The aim of the 2011 testing flights over northern Germany was to obtain data in-situ regarding the volcanic ash cloud, and in particular to gain data on the level of concentration and the distribution of volcanic ash. During the flight, ash particles were collected from the air for later examination using electron microscopy.

The research aircraft operated by Professor Weber and his team detected structures of the volcanic ash cloud at an altitude range 2.300 to 3.200 meters. At this altitude, the volcanic ash cloud was observed as a horizontal gray-brown seam. The volcanic ash concentrations measured in the Bremen-Hamburg area proved to be comparatively low. The cost to determine this was a fraction of the expense if large aircraft were used for this investigation.

The next use of this equipment is planned for early July 2011. "The Measurement campaign will run from 1 to July 10 at Etna volcano in Sizilia, Italy," said spokesman Uwe Post.

"We are proud to help aviation safety in airliners through the very economical use of our CT aircraft," reported Flight Design GmbH CEO, Matthias Betsch. "While we enjoy flying our aircraft, our personnel also use airline travel and we are pleased to help insure their safe travel."

FMI: www.flightdesign.com

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