Icelanders Recover Lost Airplane Engine in Greenland

A team of Icelanders successfully recently retrieved a part of an Air France aeroplane engine which fell off over the Greenland ice shelf in 2017.

On September 30, 2017, an Airbus A380 Air France aeroplane en route to Los Angeles from Paris suffered an uncontained engine failure. Part of one of its engines fell from a height of 30,000 feet, plunging into the ice shelf. The Engine Alliance engine dismantled 150 kilometres southeast of Paamiut, Greenland while the aeroplane was in cruise with its 521 occupants. The plane eventually made an emergency landing at Goose Bay Airport in Canada.

20-month long mission
The mission was organized by The French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA). A team from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) discovered the fan hub after a two-year-long search, buried four metres into the ice shelf. The Icelandic team was then dispatched to the ice shelf to find the fan hub, dig it up, and deliver it for further inspection. The whole mission, which took 20 months and encompassed of four different phases, was funded on a case-by-case basis by various stakeholders of the event such as AIB Denmark, Airbus, Air France, BEA & Engine Alliance. The manufacturer Engine Alliance has now received the parts to investigate further, and it is hoped that the investigation will shed further light on what went wrong during the flight.

Video of the retrieval from the BEA’s YouTube channel

“I was in contact with a Norwegian scientist who I studied with a long time ago”, said Arnar Ingi Gunnarsson when asked how the Icelanders got involved with the project. Arnar was then asked to find two others who had experience with technically difficult glacial work to go up onto the Greenland glacier and retrieve the engine.

Arnar contacted Tómas Eldjárn Vilhjálmsson and Anton Aðalsteinsson, his colleagues from the Aviation Rescue Squad of Reykjavík. Tómas had recently had his second child, “I didn’t know whether to believe him at first but I couldn’t say no. It took a little bit of time to convince the wife but I was successful in the end.”

Originally, the project was supposed to take two weeks, but the team retrieved the engine in only two days between June 29-30. “It was supposed to take two weeks at maximum, but we had hoped that we would be quicker. When we reached the area, we were quite quick. We were quick to dig and set things up. Then when we reached the part which we were looking for, we could use a mountain rescue system to heave it up. It saved us a lot of time,” Arnar said.

The risk of polar bears is everpresent on the ice shelf, so the team set up a system of wires around their tents, equipped with an alarm bell. Team members also slept with rifles on both sides, to make sure. The engine part itself was just over 150 kilograms heavy, but the team made easy of the work. “Tómas hit it with his shovel and realized that it was something other than ice. The whole team was merry,” Arnar said.

“It was a great adventure, and of course one would like to head on this type of adventure. I could very well think to make it my life’s work,” Tómas said.

BEA technical report (Link 1):

BEA technical report (Link 2):

Full list of events from the Aviation Herald:

Russia’s Embargo of Iceland Still Stands Four Years Later

Today, fours years have passed since Russia placed a trade embargo on Iceland. Previously, Iceland had officially supported sanctions placed on Russia by the EU, USA, and more Western nations. The sanctions followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. Russia thus placed a trade embargo on Iceland, along with several other western countries, on August 14 2015. The sanctions placed on Russia involved politicians, wealthy individuals, and weapons trade, amongst other things, while Russia’s embargo mostly focused on consumer goods, especially food.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, says it’s imperative that Iceland continues to take a stance with the nations which believe international laws should be respected. Therefore, it would be unwise to concede to the embargo and switch Iceland’s stance at this point in time. “International laws were broken quite crudely. We witnessed a change of borders by force, which we have not seen the like of since World War II,” he stated. The Icelandic government initially considered withdrawing its support of sanctions against Russia, but ultimately decided to uphold the sanctions.

Fishing industry affected
The Icelandic fishing industry has lobbied hard against Iceland’s stance on the matter from the beginning. Fisheries Iceland, an association of fishing companies, believe that Iceland’s continued participation in the sanctions against Russia leads to severe losses for them. The association states on its website that the Icelandic’s government actions are a ‘useless sacrifice’ in an article released on the four-year juncture of the embargo. According to them, Iceland has been proportionally hit the hardest by the embargo as 90% of the exports to Russia were derived from the fishing industry. The value of trade balance to Russia, which has not included service business and used ships for the last four years, has reduced severely.

The value of trade to Russia was ISK 26 billion (€187m, $209m) in 2014 but stood at ISK 4 billion (€29m, $32m) in 2018. The largest part of the reduction has taken place in exports related to the fishing industry. Fisheries Iceland state that even though new markets have been found for goods which previously went to Russia, the augmented value is significantly less.

“No industry, or at least very few, depends on international laws being respected as much as the fishing industry. We can’t take this out of context. It’s in the interest of everyone to abide by international laws, but especially so for the smallest,” Guðlaugur Þór stated, alluding to Iceland’s size in today’s globalized world. He mentioned that trade with Russia is increasing in other industries. High-tech companies will likely increase foreign exchange earnings significantly following recent contracts made with Russian food manufacturing companies. “Since I arrived in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and probably before that time as well, we’ve been hard at work to increased trade between Iceland and Russia. Luckily, we’re seeing the fruit of our labour in a significant increase between years, even though it is not in the same industries as before they placed the embargo on us,” Guðlaugur stated.

For those wishing to read the article from the Fisheries Iceland, it can be found here in Icelandic:

NASA Higlights Ok Glacier’s Disappearance on Satellite Photos

Nasa Earth has released a video which showcases the difference in the ice cover of Okjökull glacier between 1986 and 2019 using satellite photos. Okjökull is the first Icelandic glacier to officially lose its status as a glacier.

A memorial service will be held on August 18 to remember the former glacier, which officially lost its glacier status in 2014. A hike onto Ok mountain, where Okjökull glacier previously sat, will be organized scientist and scholars from Rice University. Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason, who wrote the text on Ok’s memorial plaque, will be joining the service.

[media-credit name=”Rice University Press Release” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

The monument is styled as a “Letter to the future,” and reads:

Ok is the first glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it. August 2019, 415ppm CO2

Oddur Sigurðsson, an Icelandic glaciologist, was the first to declare that Okjökull glacier was no longer a glacier. Since 2014, 56 of the 300 total small glaciers have been lost in North Iceland.

Okjökull was the subject of a 2018 documentary called Not Ok, made by Rice anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer. Narrated by former Reykjavík mayor and comedian Jón Gnarr According to the filmmakers, scientists fear that all of Iceland’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200.

“By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire,” Cymene remarked in the press release. “These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance.” The monument is said to be the first of its kind in the world.

You can find more information about the documentary and RSVP to take part in the monument ceremony at