Air France is facing a daunting technical challenge to repair an extensively damaged A380 at one of Canada’s most remote airports. Flight 66 from Paris to Los Angeles was almost across the Atlantic when the No. 4 engine had an uncontained failure that blew off the cowl and caused the fan to separate. The crew diverted to Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. Twitter photos show extensive damage to the engine and it appears the pylon and perhaps the wing are also affected. Passengers reported hearing a loud noise followed by vibration and an hourlong flight to Goose Bay. It’s the second uncontained engine failure on an A380 but the first one, on a Qantas super jumbo in 2010, involved a Rolls-Royce engine. The engine that blew on Saturday was made by Engine Alliance, a joint venture by GE and Pratt & Whitney. The aircraft had about 520 passengers and crew on board and the airport is not equipped to handle that kind of influx so passengers were kept on the airplane waiting for a Boeing 777 and a chartered Boeing 737 to pick them up. They made it to LAX almost 24 hours after landing in Goose Bay. The A380 likely isn’t going anywhere soon.
Goose Bay is a former U.S. Air Force Base used in the Cold War as a nuclear weapons staging base and it has 11,000-foot and 9,000-foot runways. These days only a small Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter squadron is based there. Only regional airlines offer scheduled service so it doesn’t have facilities to do major repairs on an A380. The airline will have to ship in the parts and create temporary facilities to fix the plane. Last February a Swiss Global Airlines Boeing 777 had to land in Iqaluit, Nunavut, due to engine problems and the airline swapped the engine in a large tent. But there was no secondary damage to the aircraft in that incident and the A380 repairs are likely to be more involved. Engine Alliance says it’s investigating the incident.