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Search and recovery of aircraft parts in ice-sheet crevasse fields using airborne and in situ geophysical sensors

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  • Kenneth D. Mankoff, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
  • ,
  • Dirk Van As, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Greenland Guidance
  • ,
  • Austin Lines, Polar Research Equipment, Dartmouth College
  • ,
  • Thue Bording
  • Joshua Elliott, Polar Research Equipment, Dartmouth College
  • ,
  • Rune Kraghede
  • Hubert Cantalloube, Universite Paris-Saclay
  • ,
  • Hélène Oriot, Universite Paris-Saclay
  • ,
  • Pascale Dubois-Fernandez, ONERA DEMR
  • ,
  • Olivier Ruault Du Plessis, ONERA DEMR
  • ,
  • Anders Vest Christiansen
  • Esben Auken
  • Karina Hansen, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
  • ,
  • William Colgan, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
  • ,
  • Nanna B. Karlsson, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland

On 30 September 2017, an Air France Airbus A380-800 suffered a failure of its fourth engine while over Greenland. This failure resulted in the loss of the engine fan hub, fan blades and surrounding structure. An initial search recovered 30 pieces of light debris, but the primary part of interest, a ∼220 kg titanium fan hub, was not recovered because it had a different fall trajectory than the light debris, impacted into the ice-sheet's snow surface, and was quickly covered by drifting snow. Here we describe the methods used for the detection of the fan hub and details of the field campaigns. The search area included two crevasse fields of at least 50 snow-covered crevasses 1 to ∼30 m wide with similar snow bridge thicknesses. After 21 months and six campaigns, using airborne synthetic aperture radar, ground-penetrating radar, transient electromagnetics and an autonomous vehicle to survey the crevasse fields, the fan hub was found within ∼1 m of a crevasse at a depth of ∼3.3 to 4 m and was excavated with shovels, chain saws, an electric winch, sleds and a gasoline heater, by workers using fall-arrest systems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Pages (from-to)496-508
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

    Research areas

  • Applied glaciology, crevasses, glacier hazards, glaciological instruments and methods, GREENLAND, MASS-BALANCE, MCMURDO SHEAR ZONE

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