Air France A380 Engine Fragments Found In Greenland After Huge Search

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In September 2017, an Air France Airbus A380 suffered an uncontained engine failure. The incident occurred over Greenland with parts of the engine falling to the ground. Now, almost two years later, pieces of the engine have been found.

Air France Airbus A380
In September 2017 an Air France A380 suffered an uncontained engine failure over Greenland. Photo: Air France

Air France flight 66 from Paris to Los Angeles was affected by an uncontained engine failure on September 30th, 2017. This means that when the engine failed, parts escaped the engine cowling.

It seemed as though recovering the parts would be an impossible mission. However, the Geological Society of Denmark and Greenland proved this wrong, as they have now located and retrieved a missing part from the engine.

Why was recovery difficult?

Greenland is a nation covered largely by ice. Indeed, the job of retrieving the parts of the engine was seen by some as an impossible task. Firstly, while the point of engine failure could be determined from aircraft data, the parts could have fallen over a huge area of land.

The incident occurred while the aircraft was flying at 37,000ft. Now, that’s a long way for an engine piece to fall. However, the second challenge facing investigators was the landscape reclaiming the pieces. Of particular concern was that ice would cover up the pieces. This concern was well founded as photos from Greenland Guidance show how much ice was covering the piece:

A380 Engine Part Recovery
The part was buried deep within the snow. Photo: Dick van As of Greenland Guidance

How did they find it?

The story of how the part was found is rather interesting in itself. Indeed, The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) played a huge part in its rescue. They have so far mounted four expeditions to find parts. The latest search took 13 weeks.

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The GEUS used a single robot to help locate the part beneath the surface of the ice. It is called FrostyBoy and is developed by Polar Research Equipment.

A380 Engine Failure Parts Search
FrostyBoy helped locate the piece below the snow and ice. Photo: Austin Lines, Polar Research Equipment via GEUS

Then, a sensor was used: known as the Transient ElectroMagnetic Instrument, it was adapted by Aarhus University in order to aid the search for pieces. These robots together were able to successfully locate the piece. It then took two days and a number of teams working together, to retrieve the part from a crevice that had been filled with snow.

Air France A380 Engine Failure
SnowTEM also assisted with the search. Photo: Austin Lines, Polar Research Equipment via GEUS

What’s next?

Now that the engine piece has been recovered, it will be examined by the French authorities. The part will hopefully help investigators discover the true cause of AF66’s engine failure. This should enable the findings to be applied to other Airbus A380 aircraft to ensure a similar engine failure does not occur.

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What do you make of the daring recovery? Let us know in the comments!

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