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Flight Design CT monitoring volcanic ash output from Grimsvotn, Iceland.

When you think of an aircraft being intentionally flown into bad weather to gather scientific data, images of a P-3 Orion flying around in the eye of a hurricane come to mind.

Add the German light sport Flight Design CT to the list of aircraft unusually suited to a specific research mission. For the second consecutive year, researchers have flown the aircraft into a volcanic ash cloud to find out if the cloud’s extent and density matched predictions.

Grimstovn volcano, IcelandOn May 21, Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano erupted beneath its covering glacier, sending plumes of ash into the sky and disrupting air travel, especially in Europe. Abrasive particles in volcanic ash have the potential to choke or damage engines, making avoidance essential.

Confirming the clouds’ presence and measuring what they’re made of is a tailor-made mission for the CT, which is powered by a Rotax engine considered at low risk of particle damage.

If it seems that you have read this story before, you have. In April 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, causing chaos in worldwide air travel and inflicting severe economic losses.

After both eruptions, German scientists used the CT to sample ash clouds, with this year’s research over northern Germany also comparing the ash emissions of the two eruptions.

The CT microlight aircraft flown this year was equipped with a laser-based particle spectrometer. The CT’s next mission using that equipment was in progress from July 1 to July 10 at Sicily’s Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, said spokesman Uwe Post.

More than 1,700 CT (composite technology) series aircraft are now flying in 40 countries, the company said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.

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