ASH CLOUD: Initial inspection of BA test aircraft reveals no problems

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British Airways is awaiting the results of tests on engine filters from one of its aircraft used to probe the area of high-density volcanic ash, but its initial examination has revealed no problems.

BA dispatched the Airbus A320 from Manchester on the evening of 24 May to fly towards Newcastle in northeast England, then over the Scottish airports of Edinburgh and Glasgow before returning down the east coast of the UK to London Heathrow. The aircraft was in the high-density 'red zone' of volcanic ash for around 45min.

The flight was undertaken to help determine procedures to continue flying in accordance with risk assessment methodology developed by ICAO over the past year, said the airline.

Before departure, the aircraft was examined and external areas such as leading edges, cockpit windows and various moving parts were photographed to provide a baseline record of its condition. Additionally, its engines were examined and fitted with new filters.

Following its return to Heathrow, BA carried out an overnight visual inspection of the aircraft and conducted borescope inspections of the engines, with no problems detected, said the carrier.

The filters have been sent to a specialist laboratory for examination to find levels of dust particles.

"We will make all this data available to the Civil Aviation Authority. What we were looking to produce was extra data and analysis to help the industry understand the limitations of the models being used to model ash dispersion."

He added that considerable progress had been made in determining the risk from volcanic ash since the last episode of disruption in 2010. If the restrictions in effect in 2010 had still been in place, "the UK would have been shut yesterday".