Monday, August 27, 2001

Plane wiring singed by watchdog's report Swissair 111 crash caused by wire fire, airline analyst claims HALIFAX (CP) - Experts investigating three decades of international aviation incidents have found more than 400 cases of wire-related problems, many of them involving the insulation material suspected in the crash of Swissair Flight 111.

The private watchdog group, which examined air incidents from 1972 to 2000, compiled a list this month that includes everything from fatal crashes to reports of smoke spewing out of aircraft cockpits because of wiring and electrical flaws.

"I was shocked at the numbers," said report co-author Ed Block, a wiring expert with the International Aviation Safety Association.

"Seeing them compiled into one report really raised the red flag to me to say, "This is the proof we need to show that wiring has been a concern and will be a concern'," he said from Philadelphia.

"This is kind of like the ... smoking gun that's been there all along."

Block sifted through hundreds of incidents recorded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to produce the list.

The findings, which Block said have been passed on to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, cite dozens of incidents involving Kapton wiring insulation.

The controversial material has been implicated in several accidents, including the crash of Swissair Flight 111, an MD-11 that plunged into the ocean off Nova Scotia in 1998, killing all 229 people on board.

Canada's safety board has found evidence fire developed in the ceiling near Flight 111's cockpit but haven't discovered the cause. The aircraft's in-flight entertainment system shows damage to its power-supply wires, raising questions about whether it was the source of fire. The agency has also determined that wire covered in Kapton was charred and that there were signs of arcing, a phenomenon similar to a short circuit.

The problem can ultimately lead to an explosive fire that burns at 5,000 C, incinerating everything in its path. Block is convinced such a fire caused the Swissair crash.

Pilots aboard Flight 111 reported smoke in the cockpit about after leaving New York. The plane's electrical systems began failing about 15 minutes later. Six minutes after that, the jet plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean.

Block said aviation officials have known since the early 1970s that Kapton is potentially flammable, but have done little about it.


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http://www.hfxnews.southam.ca/NatStory5.html
Monday, August 27, 2001 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

Aviation watchdog critical of wiring
By Alison Auld / The Canadian Press

Experts investigating three decades of international aviation incidents have found more than 400 cases of wire-related problems, many of them involving the insulation material suspected in the crash of Swissair Flight 111.

The private watchdog group, which examined air incidents from 1972 to 2000, compiled a list this month that includes everything from fatal crashes to reports of smoke spewing out of aircraft cockpits because of wiring and electrical flaws.

"I was shocked at the numbers," said report co-author Ed Block, a wiring expert with the International Aviation Safety Association.

"Seeing them compiled into one report really raised the red flag to me to say, 'This is the proof we need to show that wiring has been a concern and will be a concern'," he said from Philadelphia.

"This nails the history of wiring."

Block sifted through hundreds of incidents recorded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to produce a list he says further supports claims that aircraft wiring is a systemic but overlooked problem.

The findings, which Block said have been passed on to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, cite dozens of incidents involving Kapton wiring insulation.

The controversial material has been implicated in several accidents, including the crash of Swissair Flight 111, an MD-11 that plunged into the ocean off Nova Scotia in 1998 killing all 229 people on board.

Canada's safety board, which is testing 20 burnt wires it believes were damaged by sparks between wires, has found evidence fire developed in the ceiling near Flight 111's cockpit but haven't discovered the cause.

The aircraft's in-flight entertainment system shows damage to its power-supply wires, raising questions about whether it was the source of fire.

The agency has also determined that wire covered in Kapton was charred and that there were signs of arcing, a phenomenon similar to a short circuit.

The problem can ultimately lead to an explosive fire that burns at 5,000 C, incinerating everything in its path. Block is convinced such a fire caused the Swissair crash.

Pilots aboard Flight 111 reported smoke in the cockpit about 53 minutes after leaving New York. The plane's electrical systems began failing about 15 minutes later.

Six minutes after that, the jet plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean.

Block, who also sits on an FAA committee, said aviation officials have known since the early 1970s, when the first incident of arc-tracking was reported, that Kapton is potentially flammable, but have done little about it.

"This is kind of like the ... smoking gun that's been there all along," said Block, who last year inspected four of Swissair's MD-11s.

http://www.herald.ns.ca/stories/2001/08/27/f148.raw.html 


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Monday, Aug. 27, 2001


August 26, 2001
Wiring, electrical problems linked to 400 airplane incidents: report
HALIFAX (CP) -- Experts investigating three decades of international aviation incidents have found more than 400 cases of wire-related problems, many of them involving the insulation material suspected in the crash of Swissair Flight 111.
 The private watchdog group, which examined air incidents from 1972 to 2000, compiled a list this month that includes everything from fatal crashes to reports of smoke spewing out of aircraft cockpits because of wiring and electrical flaws.

 "I was shocked at the numbers," said report co-author Ed Block, a wiring expert with the International Aviation Safety Association.
 "Seeing them compiled into one report really raised the red flag to me to say, 'This is the proof we need to show that wiring has been a concern and will be a concern'," he said from Philadelphia.
 "This nails the history of wiring."
 Block sifted through hundreds of incidents recorded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to produce a list he says further supports claims that aircraft wiring is a systemic but overlooked problem.
 The findings, which Block said have been passed on to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, cite dozens of incidents involving Kapton wiring insulation.
 The controversial material has been implicated in several accidents, including the crash of Swissair Flight 111, an MD-11 that plunged into the ocean off Nova Scotia in 1998 killing all 229 people on board.
 Canada's safety board, which is testing 20 burnt wires it believes were damaged by sparks between wires, has found evidence fire developed in the ceiling near Flight 111's cockpit but haven't discovered the cause.
 The aircraft's in-flight entertainment system shows damage to its power-supply wires, raising questions about whether it was the source of fire.
 The agency has also determined that wire covered in Kapton was charred and that there were signs of arcing, a phenomenon similar to a short circuit.
 The problem can ultimately lead to an explosive fire that burns at 5,000 C, incinerating everything in its path. Block is convinced such a fire caused the Swissair crash.
 Pilots aboard Flight 111 reported smoke in the cockpit about 53 minutes after leaving New York. The plane's electrical systems began failing about 15 minutes later.
 Six minutes after that, the jet plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean.
 Block, who also sits on an FAA committee, said aviation officials have known since the early 1970s, when the first incident of arc-tracking was reported, that Kapton is potentially flammable, but have done little about it.
 "This is kind of like the ... smoking gun that's been there all along," said Block, who last year inspected four of Swissair's MD-11s.
 "If you add everything up -- the shoddy installation and knowing the history since 1972, the FAA in 1984 saying it's hazardous -- I don't have any questions. To me it's a slam dunk."
 Block says the Transportation Safety Board of Canada should have issued more aggressive recommendations on wiring by now.
 The board plans to release additional safety recommendations on Tuesday as part of its Swissair investigation and Block is hoping they will include measures dealing with wiring.
 "There's no question as to what should have been found by now," he said.
 A spokesman for the FAA said the agency has responded appropriately to the wiring issue, which the U.S. government has called a national concern.
 "The FAA can't make rules or change rules without having good, solid, valid scientific date to back those things up," Les Dorr said from Washington.
 "The data collected shows that if wire is properly designed, installed and maintained, there is no reason it can no longer stay in the aircraft."
 The FAA has issued about 70 safety directives related to wiring on the MD-11, many of them since Swissair 111. It recently announced new training and maintenance programs to resolve the problem of decayed wiring on airplanes.
 The action came five years after the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of New York's Long Island. Investigators believe a spark in the wiring ignited vapors in a fuel tank, killing all 230 people aboard.
 Canada's safety board has issued several recommendations and advisories as a result of the Swissair investigation, one of the longest and most expensive in Canadian aviation history.
 The growing concerns over the placement of aircraft wiring caused Swissair to change its installation of certain wires in the cockpit, near where a fire is suspected to have started on Flight 111.
 Lukas Billeter, Swissair's director of engineering, said one plane has so far been outfitted with fire suppression and detection systems and cameras in more inaccessible sections, and some cockpit wiring has been rerouted.
 "We know in the industry we have a certain amount of wiring defects, like chafing and arcing," Billeter said from Zurich.
 "We tried to minimize this by checking the insulation, by doing proper maintenance, by using material that is the most convenient to the applications."
 

http://www.canoe.ca/NationalTicker/CANOE-wire.Airplane-Wiring.html 

A LETTER to the EDITOR

 From today's Halifax Daily News:  27th August, 2001

 Wiring The real problem behind crash
 To the editor:
   In Aug. 22 edition of The Daily News, reporter Richard Dooley makes the
following statement:
   "The cause of the Swissair crash is still not completely understood, but
it is suspected an electrical short may have ignited a fire in the forward
section ..."
   This is in fact not quite accurate. The cause of the crash is well known;
failure of flight instruments, flight controls and systems. What is not yet
evident is what initiated the invasive flight-deck fire in the first place
which resulted in a chain of errors that led to the demise of Flight 111.
   In hindsight it is evident that Flight 111 had ample time and opportunity
to land at Halifax. Pilot Urs Zimmerman, however, chose to manoeuvre his
aircraft away from Halifax International Airport making the second turn
toward Queensland and directly away from his best alternative.
  A pilot's by-the-book training, fear of company sanctions should his
judgment be faulty, the horrendous costs of delays if he erred and possibly
rigid discipline values delayed the senior pilot's vital decision to land
until it was too late.
  Unlike most airliner tragedies that are over in a matter of seconds,
Flight 111's emergency went on for nearly 20 minutes and in hindsight, was
most likely avoidable.
  The reasons for this are too intricate to address here. The public's
perception of the field of aviation is coloured by inaccurate movie and
televisions depictions of that vocation and tend toward easy explanations as
to how these tragedies occur.
  The Transportation Safety Board's recommendations for two-hour recorders
and other ways of determining what happened during a crash are laudable, but
hardly of any comfort after the fact to the deceased and the relatives of
the deceased of an airplane crash.
  What is needed is to address the problem of aging wiring - the almighty
dollar notwithstanding. The future aim of commercial aviation is to fly
faster, higher and cheaper, which means that there is great danger to be
overcome.
   Costly and hard-earned lessons of the past must be considered and
implemented before we leap into technologies of the future.
 Avoidance of such incidents rather than ingenious technology as to how the
accident happened should be paramount.
 Don Ledger, pilot
 author, Swissair Down
 Bedford

 http://www.hfxnews.southam.ca/