IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM [IFEN]

ON SWISSAIR AIRCRAFT [MD-11 AND B-747]


Ader, January 28, 1999

 

1. IFEN CONTRACTING

In October, 1994 Interactive Flight Technologies, Inc. [IFT] entered into an Intellectual Property Agreement with Fortunet, Inc. This license granted IFT a worldwide perpetual to Fortunet’s current and future patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and related know-how covering a computerized system for use in all fields other than bingo halls. This license is exclusive to IFT within the airline industry. IFT and Fortunet are family liaised [Itkis family].

Question: who was Swissair’s contracting party for IFEN? IFT? Fortunet?

2. DESIGNATED ALTERATION STATION [DAS]

Swissair’s fleet of 16 MD-11s and 5 B-747s was going to be provided with IFEN from November, 1996 onwards. Neither IFT nor Fortunet held FAA licenses authorizing the installation of IFEN. Two names in respect of installing IFEN aboard aircraft have been circulating: Santa Barbara Aerospace [SBA] and Hollingshead. There is still not adequate information available concerning their functional roles in this venture. An FAA non-transferable DAS [Designated Alteration Station] license must have been held by [at least] one of these two companies to allow approved installation and certification. Additionally, a Supplemental Type Certificate [STC] must exclusively be issued by a DAS held licensee. Reports so far show that SBA was DAS license holder and therefore authorized to issue STC. Hollingshead could either have supplied specific parts for final IFEN installation [SBA installing the system in total] or could have been assigned by SBA to install the entire IFEN.

About Hollingshead there is some interesting information available, although coming from their own resources:

Text of an advertisement in Avionics Magazine, January 1999 (available from Phillips Publishing. Avionics Magazine 1201 Seven Locks Road Potomac, MD 20854 email: avionics@phillips.com TEL: 301-340-1520 FAX: 301-340-0542 "FOR A TOTAL SOLUTION TO AVIONICS MODIFICATION, REMEMBER OUR NUMBER 1.

Only one company does it all....Hollingshead International. We're #1 in avionics modification kits. From start to finish, Hollingshead takes a total system approach. We design the modification kit, manufacture the kit (including custom packaging of LRU's (Line Replaceable Units) and then we not only install the kit, but we even certify the installation via our Designated Alteration Station (DAS). By recognizing an understanding all of these critical areas of expertise, Hollingshead is able to integrate them into a single package that can save you money, while delivering the highest standards of quality possible. That's why Hollingshead leads the way in integration and kits for cabin pressurization upgrades, TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System), GPS (Global Satellite System), SATCOM (Satellite Communications), smoke detection/fire suppression, in-flight entertainment and telephone systems. Our expertise includes advanced interface solutions for all the latest avionics technologies. For a total solution to avionics modification, talk to Hollingshead. We're #1 in avionics kits. For more information, call us at 800-927-2026. Hollingshead International A DAH Company www.hollingsead.com (there was no "h" following the "s". Browse their site and see if you can learn anything more. My last address for them was in Santa Fe Springs, California. If so, the STC if they applied for it should also be obtainable through the FAA's Pacific Region Office.

Question: what was the specific function of SBA and Hollingshead in terms of installation and approval?

3. FAA APPROVAL

FAR Part 21 deals with DAS procedures. FAR covers all possible safety features in respect of installing the system aboard aircraft. See for further reference Sec 21.439 [Eligibility], Sec 21.441 [Procedure Manual] and Sec 21.461 [Equivalent Safety Provisions]. FAR leaves all main responsibilities in terms of installation and safety matters to DAS licensee.

May I specifically refer to Sec 21.463 [Supplemental Type Certificates], [a]:

For each Supplemental Type Certificate issued under this subpart, the DAS shall follow the procedure manual prescribed in Sec 21.441 and shall, before issuing the certificate

(1) Submit to the Administrator a statement describing –

(i) The type design change;

(ii) The airworthiness requirements … etc. …

(iii) The proposed program for meeting the applicable airworthiness requirements.

(2) Find that each applicable airworthiness requirement is met; and

(3) Find that the type of product for which the STC is to be issued … etc. … is of proper design for safe operation.

The above therefore does not exclude FAA field inspection, but the responsibility for correct installing and working is exclusively transferred to DAS.

Question: Did the DAS licensee obey the correct procedures as described above and did the FAA conduct one or more field inspections on IFEN installed aboard that aircraft? If so, has this been properly documented?

4. SUPPLEMENTAL TYPE CERTIFICATE

According to the Swiss Aviation Agency [Bundesamt für Zivilluftfahrt] STC #ST00236LA-D applied to the installation of IFEN on sr111 [as well]. This STC was FAA stamped and dated August 7, 1997, and signed by Mr. Glen Mills. This STC should have covered the installation of IFEN aboard the first seven aircraft [including sr111], but was – according to my Swiss source - only applicable to the modification of one aircraft with registration HB-ICW. This [first] STC [number unknown at time of writing] was FAA stamped and dated Nov 19, 1996. According to the Swiss Aviation Agency the STC #ST00236LA-D applied – without restrictions - to the installation of IFEN on all remaining aircraft. Glen Mills being authorized by the FAA [in respect of DAS qualifications] to issue STC did therefore not raise [further] questions or doubt about the STC validity. The Swiss Aviation Agency did not know if Glen Mills needed to have the STC verified and approved by the FAA in terms of safety and so airworthiness.

Mr. Frank Gomer, IFT’s President, currently e-mailed me and supplied following information [in quote]:

His Message No. 1:

IFT was informed by Swissair on 29 October of its decision to deactivate the company's in-flight entertainment system on all Swissair MD-11s and 747s. Swissair told IFT that this precautionary measure was taken in response to recent technical investigations conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and by the Technical Services Division of Swissair.

These investigations, which are a normal occurence following an aircraft accident, identified some concerns with the installation of the company's system. However, the company specifically has been told by representatives of the Transport Safety Board of Canada, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, and Swissair that these concerns have not been related, in any way, to the cause of the crash of Swissair Flight 111. In addition, these agencies have advised IFT that there has been no indication that its system malfunctioned or failed during the flight prior to the crash.

The system installed on Swissair airplanes met all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations and was certified by the FAA. IFT and its system integrator/installation contractor, Hollingsead International, Inc., intend to work closely with Swissair to address any installation concerns and to take the necessary steps that will allow Swissair to reactivate the system as quickly as possible. Finally, the company will continue to provide on-site engineering support to the investigative team of the Canadian Transportation Safety Board in Halifax.

signed: FRANK GOMER, PRESIDENT

His Message No. 2:

"The STC for the installation of our system on Swissair MD-11s was issued on November 19, 1996 [my comments: see: above; this was the first STC that should only have applied to the modification of one aircraft], and subsequently amended on December 18, 1996 and January 24, 1997 [my comments: the author does not refer to STC #ST00236LA-D of August 7, 1997] . PMA for the MD-11 shipset configuration was issued in 2 parts, dated February 20, and April 18, 1997."

signed: FRANK GOMER, PRESIDENT

Question: there is some confusion here. Swissair should provide the documents to clarify the exact course of the STC procedures, and within the correct time line.

5. HORRIFYING HURRY?

Sources in Switzerland and reports in American and Canadian media point to Swissair having been in a hurry to have IFEN installed aboard their MD-11 and B-747 fleet. Swissair presumably considered IFEN an asset to the tools to beat the competition. As usual purely commercial reasons were the driving force, and not because [potential] passengers were ‘just waiting for this system’. Hardly any [potential] passenger could have been aware of the entertainment possibilities of IFEN.

Because of strong competition between the airlines and the necessity for them to focus on ‘specific advantages’, or – in the marketing language - unique-selling-points it was in the interest of Swissair to focus on IFEN as one of the main tools to attract more ‘new’ passengers and to consolidate already existing customers. The battle field changed from meals and leg space to IFEN.

There was another reason for Swissair to push IFEN: Swissair would virtually be the first airline offering video-on-demand features. As far as I know Qantas and Alitalia did not enter into an agreement with IFT/Fortunet, while further interest was only shown at that time [1996] by UK based Debonair Airways and Madrid based Oasis International Airlines.

IFT was particularly interested in a deal with Swissair. This Swiss national airline could be the yardstick for future sales to other [main] airlines. It is not beyond imagination that IFT was willing to offer Swissair a special price/discount deal to have IFEN installed aboard major part of their long-haul fleet.

For both IFT and Swissair the time line played an important role. Both were engaged to having IFEN installed and operative as quickly as possible.

IFT’s Vice-President, Mr. Steve Fieldman, gave following statement to the press: "once those fastidious Swiss engineers have checked out our system, you don’t need any more due diligence." This statement denies the functionality of DAS and the FAA. And the gambling features were indeed high on IFT’s agenda: "…after the Chinese the Spanish are the biggest gamblers in Las Vegas." [Fieldman referred here to Oasis].

Question: under the circumstance that IFT and Swissair were in a hurry to have IFEN installed it is important to retrieve documents that clearly show the urgency and that hint on the priority of installation instead of on the priority of safety.

REPEATABLE?:  Questions over laptop power outlet safety (at this link)

6. INSTALLATION

Wire experts have pointed out in the media that the IFEN installation was amateurishly done, and that X-link Tefzel was mixed with the original [McDD/Boeing’s installed] Kapton wire. Photo’s clearly show shoddy wire installation techniques. IFEN was tied to a major electrical power buss [which is against all customary and correct installation practices], instead of opting for revamping/distributing IFEN energy lines to a separate buss [CABIN 2]. This decision was taken because of time [the installation would have taken up much more time, with the aircraft grounded] and finance [correct installation would have been considerably more costing]. Swissair’s Chief Pilot, Mr. Hildebrand, reported to the media [ASW] that IFEN generated so much heat that the aircon had to be adjusted see also item paragraph 7]. DAS STC did not prevent the installation company from malpractice.

The mentioned photographs clearly show that either the FAA did not physically inspect the wire outlay and the electrical power configuration, or the FAA did it between two drinks. Taking into consideration FAA 337 form and the gravity of the changes affecting the aircraft’s electrical design, weight and integrity, it is in my opinion beyond any question that DAS STC did not relief the FAA from physical thorough inspection of the entire layout.

Question: apart from the installer’s culpability there are reasons to believe that no FAA field inspection was ordered. But if the FAA inspected in accordance with the gravity of the changes needed to comply with IFEN installation, field inspection reports must be put available to show their case.

7. SWISSAIR TECH CENTER ZÜRICH

As far as I know all maintenance/overhaul of Swissair’s fleet is done by Swissair Tech Center [coincidentally the same abbreviation: STC]. STC Zürich must have had all technical details from ......

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

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