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Emergency as Air France A380 engine explodes

October 3, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Big four-engine aircraft like the B747 and A380 use more fuel than their two-engine rivals – but when an engine explodes mid-flight and the whole plane vibrates for several minutes afterwards, as happened in the weekend, it’s reassuring to know that on an aircraft with four engines, you have three engines left.

An Air France Airbus A380 flying from Paris to Los Angeles on flight AF066 made an emergency diversion to a remote airstrip in Canada on Saturday after one of its engines exploded over the southern tip of Greenland.

A mighty blast as the engine disintegrated had the aircraft vibrating for several minutes afterwards, passengers said.

The plane, carrying 496 passengers and 24 crew, was in as remote a position as they come – about 200 nautical miles southeast of Nuuk (Greenland). The pilot diverted to Goose Bay Airport in Labrador, on the far northeast edge of Canada, where the plane landed safely.

Vivid photos and videos taken by passengers and shared on social media show the extent of the damage. The whole interior of an engine is exposed, its covering blown completely away.

Such incidents are extremely rare. Back in 2010, Qantas suspended all A380 flights after an engine on one of its A380 fleet exploded over western Indonesia shortly after take-off from Singapore en route to Sydney.

The engine involved in the Qantas incident was a Rolls-Royce Trent 900. The latest Air France incident involved a totally different engine, made by a different manufacturer: Engine Alliance (EA), based in Connecticut, USA. EA is a 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric, and Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies.

Air France said in a statement that the engine had suffered “serious damage” but the plane landed safely.

“The regularly trained pilots and cabin crew handled this serious incident perfectly,” the Air France statement said.

Passengers applauded when the plane landed.

The New York Times quoted passenger John Birkhead, who was flying with his wife, saying: “Suddenly there was an enormous bang, and the whole plane shook. We were lucky we weren’t tossed to the ground.”

Another passenger said that about 20 minutes later, the captain, sounding shaken, announced that an engine had exploded.

Teams were sent to Goose Bay to assist as Air France re-routed passengers to Los Angeles.

Air France later issued the following statement:

Air France confirms that the crew of flight AF066 operated by A380 from Paris-CDG to Los Angeles decided to divert to Goose Bay airport (Canada) following serious damage to one of its four engines.

The aircraft landed safely at 15:42 (GMT), and the regularly trained pilots and cabin crew handled this serious incident perfectly. The passengers are currently being assisted by teams dispatched to the location.

To ensure that all 497 passengers of flight AF066 reach their destination, Air France has immediately decided to make arrangements for two flights:

  • A first flight operated by Boeing 737, a specially leased aircraft by Air France, will arrive in Los Angeles at 6.00am local time following a technical stopover in Winnipeg.
  • A second flight operated by an Air France Boeing 777-300 will join Atlanta where Delta will arrange for passengers to be flown to their final destination, notably Los Angeles by a specially leased flight.

Air France apologizes once again to all its customers affected by this incident for which specific commercial measures will be implemented.

An investigation is currently underway to shed light on this serious incident notably with representatives from the BEA (French Aviation Accident Investigation Bureau), the aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Air France.

Written by Peter Needham

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