Sky Detectives – a BEA documentary featuring Greenland Guidance

Recently the "Sky Detectives" documentary aired on French television showcasing the high level of expertise by the French bureau for investigating civil aviation safety, the BEA. Central to the storyline is a project the BEA coordinated in Greenland, in which Greenland Guidance played its part.

On 30 September 2017 a large Airbus A380 airplane lost parts of its number 4 engine, which were scattered over the Greenland ice sheet. Luckily nobody got hurt. An investigation into the cause of the accident was started immediately, but the critical engine piece needed for the investigation, the fan hub, was nowhere to be found in the area searched by helicopters. A new expedition could not be launched until the next spring due to the onset of cold and dark Greenland winter. So in spring 2018 an airborne radar team and a ground radar team combed the 15 km2 search area to find … nothing.

Director Louis-Pascal Couvelaire interviewing GEUS researcher Liam Colgan for “Sky Detectives”.

The search for the (now two-part) fan hub proved extremely difficult because the heavy titanium had impacted into the snow surface. It got covered by increasing amounts of winter snow as time progressed, rendering visual detection impossible. Also the radar systems initially proved impractical as subsurface ice layers, of which there are many in this part of Greenland, could be mistaken for engine pieces.

Having improved their processing techniques of the airborne radar data, by 2019 Onera, the French aerospace lab, had identified a few potential targets for the ground team to inspect. And shortly after, on the last day of an expedition suffering from several storm delays, a team led by researcher Ken Mankoff of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) detected a metal object at 3-4 meters below the surface. Right between two large, potentially dangerous, snow-covered crevasses.

Dirk van As on behalf of Greenland Guidance and GEUS in “Sky Detectives”.

The final expedition to the ice sheet took place in June 2019. A team of 5 including 3 Greenland Guidance mountaineers flew to the dig site armed with shovels and lots of safety equipment. The much desired fan hub fragment was extracted on 30 June.

Central to the investigation was the BEA, the French bureau for investigating civil aviation safety. They got all partners together and working towards retrieving the missing fan hub pieces. Recently, Elephant Productions finished a documentary on the BEA in which the Greenland project gets ample attention. The documentary was made for TV channel France 5, and its French title is Les détectives du ciel. It’s a 87 minute documentary that features Greenland Guidance quite prominently!

A shorter, English version called “Sky Detectives” will be broadcasted internationally. Keep an eye on our @GreenlandGdnc Twitter feed to find out where you can see it.

“Under Ice”, a documentary focussing on the final fan hub recovery expedition, by Arnar Ingi Gunnarsson / Gale Force North.

BBC revisits Greenland glacier and sees … change

A few weeks ago Greenland Guidance helped the BBC with their operations in Greenland. They spoke with locals, interviewed climate scientists including professor Jason Box, and documented a tree planting project. Their expedition resulted in stunning footage, showcased in several news segments about Greenland and climate change. We were very happy to support this BBC operation and once again see how they operate – with a high level of professionalism.

Check out some of their Greenland footage here: Climate change: Greenland’s ice faces melting ‘death sentence’.

Documentary on climate change shot in Greenland

Documentary makers Jeannette and Stefan: “Greenland Guidance made our lives as TV makers in Greenland much easier. For operations in Paris, Rome or Madrid you can make last-minute arrangements, but Greenland is a country that is difficult to reach, where you are left wandering without proper input in advance. On several occasions we have praised ourselves lucky with the ideas of Greenland Guidance: for instance that science cruise that we could join instead of a packed tourist ship. Not only do they have great knowledge of the country, they also have ample contacts that come in handy. Do not go to Greenland without them!”

Dutch TV in Greenland

Greenland Guidance aided in setting up an expedition to Greenland by production company Witfilm. They are producing a series of episodes on climate change entitled “The Rising Water”, to be aired in fall 2019 on NTR, a Dutch public service broadcaster specialising in information, education and culture.

Fact checking for CNN

In July 2017 CNN filmed in east Greenland for their documentary “Global Warning” to report on the effects of climate change on the ice sheet and beyond. See the stunning footage in the Arctic Melt episode here: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2017/12/04/global-warning.cnn. Greenland Guidance was hired to check the episode for scientific accuracy.