Thursday 26 May 2011

What volcanic dust?

Advanced borescopes employed to investigate effects of volcanic dust

As volcanic dust once more creates havoc in Northern European airspace, controversy reigns over the levels of dust in which air travel is safe. As one of the measures to assess the effects of the ash, airlines and engine manufacturers are therefore looking to be able to assess the internal components of engines.

Speaking in a BBC interview and clutching a vial of volcanic ash (to demonstrate the low levels involved), Willie Walsh (right) explained that a BA plane has flown though the 'red zone' for about 45 minutes at different altitudes. The aircraft then returned and video borescopes were employed to examine the engines and found no evidence of volcanic ash. (Item in BBC Radio news programme  25th May 2011)

Alan Hasson from Ashtead Technology says "The latest video borescopes are ideal for this purpose, because they provide users with a comprehensive evaluation of the internal components of an engine, without having to dismantle it, which would be costly and time-consuming."

Following the previous Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010, Ashtead Technology was contacted by an aviation maintenance firm looking to hire a high specification endoscope for emergency aircraft engine examinations.

Avalon Aero, based at Biggin Hill Airport in Kent (GB), performed internal inspections of engines following flights in the ‘red zone’; an area in which ash might be encountered, but was deemed safe to fly by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

Martin Darling, Avalon Aero’s Technical Director, explained: “Ashtead Technology’s engineers recommended hiring the Olympus IPLEX SAII Videoscope and the device proved extremely useful, providing quick and easy visual access to the internal components of aircraft engines. Our investigations did not find any ash within the engines and this evidence was of course extremely valuable to our clients.”

Alan Hasson believes that aircraft engine inspection is a perfect example of the benefits of instrument rental: "The latest technology can be expensive to own, so instrument hire provides fast access to the best available equipment, which is especially useful when unforeseen situations occur," he says.

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