Raymond M Romano, born July 14th 1954, was a certified public accountant and partner with the international accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick. He graduated from Valhalla High School in 1972 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from Mercy College and Master of Business Administration degree from Pace University. In October 1981, he married Lyn Towndrow and was the proud father of three children, Raymond, Randy and Kathy.
Seven years ago today on September 2nd 1998, Raymond M Romano boarded Swissair Flight 111 at JFK Airport, New York on a scheduled flight to Geneva, Switzerland, with 214 passengers and 14 crewmembers. About 53 minutes after departure, while cruising at flight level 330, the flight crew smelled an abnormal odour in the cockpit. 13 minutes later the aircraft's flight data recorder began to record a rapid succession of aircraft systems-related failures. The flight crew declared an emergency. One minute later, radio communications and secondary radar contact with the aircraft were lost, and the flight recorders stopped functioning. Five and a half minutes later, the aircraft crashed into the ocean about five nautical miles southwest of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada. Raymond, together with the other two hundred and twenty eight people, was dead.
It was against this tragic, horrific background that Raymond’s wife, Lyn S Romano, formed the International Aviation Safety Association (IASA). IASA, a non-profit organization, was officially formed on March 4th 1999, albeit the idea was conceived within weeks of the crash. A crash that in addition to the lives it abruptly and needlessly ended, has directly affected hundreds if not thousands of people. In Raymond’s case, the crash robbed Lyn of a husband, three children of their father, a mother of her son, a sister of her brother, a mother-in-law of her son-in-law, a sister-in-law of her brother-in-law and so on. Then there were his friends, work colleagues and professional associates. The point is, aviation safety should never be considered in a vacuum; passengers are not the same as ‘seat numbers’ and when regulatory agencies speak in terms of ‘perceived benefit’ they should take stock of not only the lives lost in this and other tragedies but those left behind whose nights are plagued with nightmares and whose days are an ongoing battle to try to make some sort of sense of the loss they have suffered.
This is why IASA was formed. In an arena dominated by regulatory and commercial interests, a force was needed that could work through the myriad of technical data and make a meaningful contribution to that debate whilst tending to the human issues that aviation safety encompasses. IASA was also unique in that Lyn Romano would fund it and would not accept donations. In a February 23rd 1999 interview with the Canadian Press, Lyn stated:
"They’re going to try to pay me off for my husband’s life… It’s blood money; I can’t touch it. The beauty is that with what they give me I get to go after them and everybody else to do what they should have done in the first place."
With the ‘blood money’ IASA established principal offices in New York, the United Kingdom and Australia in addition to temporary offices in Holland and Canada. By virtue of our financial independence, IASA has become an often candid and refreshingly unbiased voice; a voice that has penetrated the Executive Office of the President of the United States of America, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the General Accounting Office (GAO), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the FAA, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), the United Kingdom House of Commons Transportation Select Committee and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA).
In the seven years since the crash of Swissair 111, IASA has not only tackled issues specific to Swissair. The September 11th 2001 terrorist atrocities, shifted attention to security issues and to an extent halted progress in relation to other, non-security related, issues. In spite of this, we have been unrelenting in our quest to make flying as safe a form of transport as is humanly possible. Through our website, www.iasa-intl.com, IASA offers both the flying public and those engaged in the aviation and related industries, a comprehensive resource of data and the opportunity to contact us in the strictest of confidence. Some have contacted us to express their thanks for the work we do whilst others have a question or a concern that warrants our attention. Regardless of the source of the communication we are always willing to lend whatever assistance we can. It is as important to us to answer a legitimate enquiry from a worried passenger as it is to address our concerns to a government agency. Both sides of the spectrum are essential in progressing issues that, if left unchecked, result in the loss of innocent lives.
It is our sincere hope that through this report we can highlight our primary activities in the field of aviation safety since our formation and offer you an insight into the brutal realities of a commercial airline disaster.
We dedicate this retrospective to the two hundred and twenty nine people that were killed in the September 2nd 1998 crash of Swissair 111 and the many others that have lost their lives in other aviation disasters both before and since.
May they rest in peace.