This website uses cookies
More information
FlightSafety Wichita Cessna Learning Center
FlightSafety Wichita Cessna Learning Center
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.
See more information from the Business Air News Handbook...
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.

Request your printed copy

Read our latest feature:   Bonus distribution: ACE'22
Me & my aircraft – Cabin Class Twin Pistons: Cranfield's Cessna 421 battles volcanic ash to minimise airspace shutdown
Cranfield Aerospace has been operating the Cessna 421C Golden Eagle aircraft since the Icelandic volcanic ash incident of 2010.
Read this story in our November 2014 printed issue.

Cranfield Aerospace has been operating the Cessna 421C Golden Eagle aircraft since the Icelandic volcanic ash incident of 2010. Following that eruption, Cranfield was contracted to provide an aircraft for the UK Met Office to support better detection and analysis of ash cloud densities in order to provide a more considered and appropriate shutdown of UK airspace in future incidents. At the time of the 2010 eruption, a blanket shutdown of airspace had been issued, costing operators huge amounts of money.

Gordon Dickman explains the reasoning behind the company's Met Office civil contingency aircraft (MOCCA). “It was designed as a facility to provide real-time data and measurement of how the ash cloud is moving. That particular aircraft was chosen for a number of reasons: firstly the purchase price of the aircraft itself is quite low; they are 1970s vintage aircraft. Secondly, they are pressurised up to 25,000 feet, and they have a wealth of payload capability, both in terms of the nose bay, and instrumentation pods on wing pylons with room to put all the scientific equipment inside.

“We can operate it from reason-ably restricted airfields as well, so it enables us to deploy the aircraft to remote forward operating bases.”

There is seismic activity again in Iceland at the moment and MOCCA remains on alert ready to react if there are further ash cloud problems.

“You have to account for the fact that when you pick up a pre-owned aircraft, a few things need sorting,” Dickman continues. “Having said that, once we've got on top of those things, the aircraft is reliable and cost effective. We have experienced a few problems with it, but nothing out of the ordinary considering its age.

“The reliability has proven to be really good. They are quite thirsty aircraft, and that is why those kinds are available on the second-hand market, as people move away from the twins for fuel efficiency. For the types of operations we are doing, it doesn't become a problem.”