Quirks & Quarks

A jumbo jet lost an engine over Greenland — these researchers found it

Ice scientists used radar and an improvised metal detector to find components of the jet engine that self-destructed in flight in 2017

Ice scientists used radar and an improvised metal detector to find components of the jet

This jet engine fan hub was found by a search team led by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland after two years of intense searching. (Submitted by Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland)

Canadian climatologist William Colgan was part of a team of researchers who this summer recovered a critical engine component that fell from an airliner and buried itself in the snow and glacial ice in Greenland.

In 2017 an Air France A380 jumbo jet flying from Paris to Los Angeles had a terrifying engine failure just as it was passing over the southern tip of Greenland.  One of it's four giant engines tore itself apart, scattering components into the air. The plane was able to safely continue on three engines and make an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Labrador.

Investigators wanted to find the shattered components of the engine in order to understand why the accident occurred. They were particularly interested in the titanium core of the giant engine fan, or "fan hub."  Their calculations suggested it had landed somewhere on a six by three kilometre area of glacial plateau.  However because of its 100 kg mass and the great height it had fallen from, it would have buried itself deep in the snow.

In 2017 an Air France Airbus A380 had to make an emergency landing in Goose Bay, N.L., after its engine tore itself apart over Greenland (Submitted by Richard Fines)

The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Colgan's employers, were approached by air safety authorities to find the fan hub because of their expertise in operating in the difficult and dangerous conditions. 

The team made several expeditions to find the lost engine part. Their initial attempt used ice-penetrating radar, but found nothing.  Another effort with an improvised device that used the unique signature of the electrical conductivity of titanium to find detect the device ended up finding the fan hub.

All that was left was an excavation down through 4 metres of packed snow to extract the object.

 

 

 

 

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