In September 2017 I wrote about how an Air France A380 (with the registration code F-HPJE) bound from Paris to Los Angeles diverted to Goose Bay, Canada, after losing an engine part somewhere over Greenland.
The pictures of the engine were pretty incredible. Fortunately the plane landed safely and the worst thing that happened is that passengers were inconvenienced (well, and I’m guessing this wasn’t cheap to fix either).
— Tomáš Richtr (@TomRichtrF1) September 30, 2017
I had completely forgotten about this incident, though as it turns out there had been an effort to recover the part of the engine that was lost. The primary motivation for recovering it was being able to do a proper investigation and see what went wrong, to prevent something like this from happening again.
This work has been carried out by BEA (the Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority), as they were delegated the task by the Danish Accident Investigation Board.
In late June, just under two years from when the incident occurred, the engine part was finally recovered in Greenland. It was buried deep in ice and was in an unpopulated area (as most of Greenland is).
Investigators knew early on that the incident occurred about 150km Southeast of the city of Paamiut, located in Western Greenland. Soon after the event the parts were visually spotted, but it got more challenging from there.
Due to extreme weather and snowfall, further helicopter flights to this area couldn’t happen for quite a while. By the time they could return to the area the parts were completely covered in snow, making any visual detection impossible.
It wasn’t possible to return to this area during winter, so they resumed recovery operations in the spring of 2018. So from there the efforts consisted of two parts:
- an aerial campaign, consisting in the use of synthetic aperture radars operated from an airplane, to try to detect and locate the missing parts on the ice sheet under the snow layer
- a ground campaign, consisting in recovering the parts previously located during the aerial campaign, or in performing a systematic search with help of ground penetrating radars in case the aerial phase was unsuccessful
This project turned out to be so complex that it took more than a year to recover the parts. For anyone who is interested in reading more, here is the full report.
Here’s a video of when they finally recover the engine fan:
What a project. Most other places you’d think recovering something like this wouldn’t be so complicated, but given the extreme conditions, this ended up being a nearly two year project. That’s not too surprising, when you consider how deep in ice this was buried by the time they got to it.
Meanwhile we’re all just still scratching our heads about MH370…