NASA tests volcanic plane ash risk on plane engines

Aviation experts do not totally understand the risks of flying through potentially deadly volcanic ash clouds – with the result that air travellers are being put at risk.

The effect of volcanic ash on the engines of airplanes is only bow being tested by NASA but it could be next summer before the agency can give sold scientific answers

The effect of volcanic ash on the engines of airplanes is only now being tested by NASA but it could be next summer before the agency can give sold scientific answers. Image by Andiseno Estudio

Following the Icelandic ash problems of five years ago, hundreds of planes were tested to see what impact the natural phenomenon had in terms of engine contamination – but the results have not been released yet.

Hot ash may have been responsible for bringing down 80 planes in the period before the 2010 Icelandic  eruptions which caused international flying chaos

Hot ash may have been responsible for bringing down 80 planes in the period before the 2010 Icelandic eruptions which caused international flying chaos Image by Sparkling Motion / CC BY 2.0

The Daily Express reports that it was  NASA and not the industry itself, which had carried out the safety risk to planes which had flown through ash clouds.

It recently undertook the test of passing volcanic ash dust through the engines of airplanes but a report on its effect won’t be released until next year.

NASA disclosed that 80 planes were potentially brought down before the mayhem of 2010 by volcanic ash. A spokesman for the US space agency explained that it based its findings on a US Geological Survey which stated that 80 commercial aircraft encountered ash in flight and at airports between 1993 and 2008.

"The 2010 volcanic eruption - which disrupted 10 million air travellers in a six day period - came as NASA sought to develop engine health management systems as well as smart sensors to improve the area for next generation commercial aircraft engines.

A VIPR project manager, based at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, Paul Krasa, said the impact of the Icelandic volcano led to an increased interest in the aviation community in seeing what effect volcanic ash had on engines.

A NASA spokesman said they would release their results, probably next summer, when they could make solid scientific conclusions on how damaging volcanic can be to engines.

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