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BEA France reports on methods used to locate debris following A380 engine failure over Greenland
9 May 2019

BEA France released a technical report, detailing their search efforts to locate parts engine parts relating to an uncontained engine failure on an Airbus A380 over Greenland in September 2017.

The Airbus A380-800, operated by Air France, was performing a flight from Paris (France) to Los Angeles (United States of America). Following a failure on the N° 4 engine while the plane was climbing to FL370, the flight crew diverted to Goose Bay Airport (Canada). The accident occurred over Greenland, but the Danish Accident Investigation Board delegated the safety investigation to the BEA.

Initially, some large engine parts were located and recovered from the snow. Quite early in the investigation, it was established that the recovery of the missing parts, especially of the fan hub fragments, was the key to supporting the investigation of the cause of the engine failure.

Search and recovery operations of the fallen parts were very challenging. The area is remote and weather conditions are extreme most of the year. Soon after the first parts were visually spotted and recovered, snowfalls prevented further helicopter flights to the site again. Snow finally covered all the parts that were still lying on the ground, preventing any new visual detection.

After a capabilities prospection phase, BEA decided to setup two consecutive operations:
– 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.

The technical report details all the work carried out on these search operations. Despite the amount of work and efforts deployed, the fan hub fragments were not reliably detected at the end of June 2018. A new search operation will be launched in 2019.