This document collates the ways and means that existing sensors can identify the platform’s exposure to volcanic ash. The capabilities include real-time detection and estimation, and post flight determinations of exposure and intensity. The document includes results of initiatives with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Transport Canada, various research organizations, Industry and other subject matter experts. The document illustrates the ways that an aircraft can use existing sensors to act as health monitoring tools so as to assess the operational and maintenance effects related to volcanic ash incidents and possibly help determine what remedial action to take after encountering a volcanic ash (VA) event. Finally, the document provides insight into emerging technologies and capabilities that have been specifically pursued to detect volcanic ash encounters but are not yet a part of an airplane’s standard fit.
The constituents, concentration, and size of volcanic ash particles are highly variable. Volcanic ash can also damage or degrade aircraft sub-systems. In the past 30 years, more than 90 jet-powered commercial airplanes have encountered clouds of volcanic ash and suffered damage as a result. The increased availability of satellites and the technology to transform satellite data into useful information for operators have reduced the number of volcanic ash encounters, but the damage that these encounters can inflict on aircraft sub-systems is also highly variable and has the potential to be catastrophic. Understanding how sensors on an airborne platform could help determine that an aircraft is in a volcanic ash environment or has recently flown through volcanic ash is thus of considerable value.