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Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft face checks after part is recovered from 2017 engine explosion

22 August 2019

An investigation into a mid-air engine explosion on an Air France A380 in 2017 is now focused on a part showing evidence of metal fatigue recently recovered from the Greenland icecap.

Airbus A380 - Image: Air France-KLM
Airbus A380 - Image: Air France-KLM

According to a Reuters report, the titanium alloy part is the centrepiece of a 3-metre-wide fan on engines built for the world’s largest airliner by US-based Engine Alliance, co-owned by General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.

It had sat buried in Greenland’s ice sheet since September 2017 when one of four engines on Air France flight 66 abruptly disintegrated en route from Paris to Los Angeles. It was prised from the ice in June after a high-tech aerial radar search.

Confirming the focus of the probe after Reuters reported the plans for inspections, France’s BEA air accident agency said it had discovered a “sub-surface fatigue crack” on the recovered part and the engine maker was preparing checks.

The people familiar with the matter linked the crack to a suspected manufacturing flaw and said the checks - to be carried out urgently on engines that have conducted a certain number of flights - would affect dozens of the double-decker jets.

The people said the suspect part was fabricated on behalf of consortium member Pratt & Whitney, which declined to comment.

Engine Alliance is one of two engine suppliers for the Airbus A380 in competition with Britain’s Rolls-Royce. Its engines power a total of 152 aircraft or just over 60% of the 237 A380s in service.

Nobody was hurt in the September 2017 incident, in which the Air France superjumbo diverted safely to Goose Bay in Canada.

Besides Air France, other airlines operating the A380 with Engine Alliance powerplants include Dubai’s Emirates, Qatar Airways, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad and Korean Air.

Air France said in July it would retire its fleet of 10 A380s by 2022.

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