Test aircraft fly through ash cloud

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Test flights conducted by Airbus on 19 April have shown that an A340 and an A380 can fly through a cloud of volcanic ash without any irregularities.

Airbus said that it took advantage of scheduled development test flights to assess the impact of the ash cloud caused by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano on the aircraft and their flight systems.

An Airbus A380 MSN 4, powered by four EA engines, and an A340-600 MSN 360, fitted with Rolls-Royce engines, took off at 14:25 and 14:50 (CEST) respectively from Toulouse airport.

The A380 MSN 4 operated up to FL300 (approximately 30,000ft or 9,100m) and landed at 18:00 after three hours and 50 minutes of flight in French airspace. Similarly, the A340-600 MSN 360 flew up to FL410 (around 40,000ft) and landed at 19:40 after five hours of flight in French and German airspace.

The experimental flight test crew observed aircraft and engine behaviours while in the ash cloud.

According to Airbus, the test crew did not notice anything abnormal and the post-flight inspection showed no irregularities.

Airbus has passed this information to engine manufacturers and airworthiness authorities to support them in evaluating safe conditions for flight.

‘We are fully committed to work in close co-ordination with the aeronautical community and provide all the technical assistance we can,’ said Tom Enders, president and chief executive officer of Airbus. ‘Obviously, the entire industry wants to find a solution as soon as possible and see aircraft flying again in the European skies.’

The UK’s Met Office reported today that eruptions from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano continued overnight and that weather patterns continue to blow areas of ash towards the UK.