“I put together a database of eight in-service events using 17 data points from test beds with ash and material that looks like ash to produce a chart that’s now known as the Clarkson chart, which shows the concentration of the ash. Total avoidance of flying led to the problems of 2010 so we needed to get to a place where customers could operate in some levels of ash.”
After more than a year of calculations, checking and comparing the data points, Rory got the Trent family of engines to a place where they could all fly in some level of ash with no safety implications. But his work didn’t stop there.
“After speaking to the Board, I got the go-ahead to make our method available to anyone who needed or wanted it. Would any other engine company do that? I’m not sure they would, but we felt strongly that this solution was about safety and therefore was for the benefit of humanity and aviation. We’re neighbourly for the right reasons: short-termism helps no-one.”
UK Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg described the Clarkson chart as “an outstanding contribution to aviation safety, demonstrating the kind of innovative work that is vital to this field.”
Rory’s breakthrough was also recognised with a UK Civil Aviation Authority flight safety award and laid the groundwork for our industry-leading research into the effects of other atmospheric events, such as sandstorms or hurricanes, on engine performance.
As the volcano was located under the jet stream, its debris was distributed straight towards Europe. Because part of the eruption happened beneath a thick layer of ice, the resulting water vapour added to the explosive force, and much of the lava cooled exceptionally quickly, creating a cloud of coarse ash – chock-full of fresh glass shards.
Were this ash ingested into a jet engine, the particulates would melt in the scorching core clogging cooling vents, distorting turbine blades and corroding compressor blades. It’s safe to say aircraft and volcanic ash do not mix well – result: airlines grounding planes.
VIDEO: Bloomberg TV report from the day of the eruptions.
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