IFEN system was connected to a flight essential bus on sr111 (and 15 other MD11 sister-ships)


IFEN is in question as an ignition source on sr111


IFEN could not be successfully deactivated by the crew, given the
checklist procedure, since it was connected to an essential bus instead of a
cabin bus (which is how it is normally done because an IFE is obviously a
non-essential item for flying an a/c.)


Wiring for the IFEN was improperly mixed with the harder Kapton
insulated wire in the installation and bent at 90 degree angles against the
recommendations of the manufacturer, McDonnell Douglas. Patrick Price said
it's also evident installers used pliers to bend the wires, another faux
pas. "You don't dare do that with insulation material -- you might damage
it," said Price (Canadian News)


It was reported in a 1997 Swissair internal newsletter that
Swissair was in a hurry to have this IFEN/IFE installed on their MD11
aircraft. (Source; David Evans, Air Safety Week)


In late October of 1998, Swissair disconnected the entertainment
system on their remaining fleet of MD11s (15 sister-ships) because the
investigators found the wiring to this system (Tefzel) as well as Kapton
wiring in the forward section of the plane to have traces of electrical


The FAA has issued an AD prohibiting the use of this IFEN/IFE (
unique to Swissair), to be used on commercial a/c.


The FAA (see Evans/Wojnar interview), stated that the IFEN/IFE was
incompatible with the electrical design philosophy of the airplane.*


SBA was both the STC applicant and the approving organization under
their DAS.*


Santa Barbara Aerospace who issued the certification for this
system, surrendered the DAS on July 1, 1999. The latest status is that SBA
has declared bankruptcy and shut the doors.*


Within hours after the crash, before the burnt wiring was
discovered by the investigators, the FAA was looking at the supplemental
type certificate (system) installed on the accident aircraft.*


The FAA stated (Wojnar) that the installers of this system
(Hollingsead) 'didn't use good industry practices for the installations on
the wiring'.*


"The entertainment set-up, whose power supply runs through the
cockpit, was identified as one system with sufficient electrical energy to
disrupt power to the affected flight deck units and with components in a
position to feed smoke into the cockpit, but not the cabin. TSB officials
said they have no evidence that the smoke infiltrated the passenger cabin."
(Source Aviation Week)


Qantas elected not to purchase the IFE system from IFT because
they determined that the system required too much power usage. (Source;


 Though pulling the IFEN circuit breakers (the only means Swissair
flight crews had of removing power to the IFEN) was a part of the 'parking
checklist', it was not added onto the emergency checklist. It should be
noted that aircraft circuit breakers (CBs) should not be used as switches.
They were not designed to be used that way and constant use will increase
the failure rate of their primary function. 'Frequent action of the circuit
breaker can lead to 'floppy' action and CBs so used may fail to pop when
they should. When the circuit protective device fails to open a faulty
circuit, one can reasonably expect electrical fireworks to result. Fireworks
may occur at the distribution bus, the loss of which means loss of systems
en masse.' Source: Air Safety Week


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
proposed 14 airworthiness directives (ADs) that would ensure flight
crews have the ability to shut off in-flight entertainment systems
on several transport aircraft models when necessary. An
extensive review of current in-flight entertainment systems
revealed that these systems can remain powered despite current
flight crew procedures. (source:FAA)

"During the introduction to service of the MD-11 IFEN, in the spring of
1998, numerous problems with overheating of the IFEN had been experienced.
The SR MD-11 Chief Pilot later admitted (in an Air Safety Week interview)
that they had had to vary the operating range of the MD-11's
air-conditioning control selections in order to overcome this." (Source:Tim
van Beveren)

Hazards Penetrated Supplemental Certification Process

Changes Ordered for In-flight Entertainment Systems In-flight entertainment systems that cannot be turned off unless pilots pull circuit breakers must be modified, disconnected or removed outright.

Operators of 74 U.S.- registered aircraft have 18 months to accomplish the work, according to a battery of airworthiness directives (ADs) issued March 2 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The directives stem from a wider investigative net cast by the FAA after the fiasco over the IFE installed in Swissair MD-11 and B747 aircraft. When one of the MD-11s crashed at Halifax, Canada, in 1998, and burned Kapton wires were recovered from the IFE, Swissair officials immediately ordered the same IFE installations disconnected on remaining aircraft. Circuit breakers were pulled and power cables literally were cut and capped, pursuant to complete removal at a more deliberate pace.

The FAA had approved the system's installation under a Special Type Certificate (STC).

A Special Review     Two months after the Swissair MD-11 crashed, FAA officials launched a special certification review of the IFE system installed in the accident airplane. The team found gaps in FAA requirements and procedures to ensure that the IFE installation did not compromise safety ( ASW, Sept. 13, 1999).

Specifically, the IFE was connected to a flight essential bus, not a cabin bus, and the only way it could be de-powered was by pulling circuit breakers.

In other words, de-powering the cabin bus would not disconnect power to the IFE. As an FAA official said at the time, the arrangement "wasn't inherently unsafe, although it wasn't understandable to the flight crew, it wasn't clear to them in an emergency situation."

Others in the industry have taken a harsher view, saying the special certification review of the Swissair IFE installation reflects "a complete blow-out of oversight."

An Expanded Look     Similar shortcomings were found when FAA officials expanded their examination to include other IFE systems installed on a variety of aircraft.

As in the Swissair IFE case, they focused on the safety of the interface between the IFE and aircraft systems, and whether flight crews were sufficiently aware of the system's configuration in order to safely disconnect the IFE in an emergency. The basic answer: "No" on both counts.

Although the IFE installation on Swissair's jets was not thought to be "inherently unsafe," the ADs just issued for these other jets now patently declare "an unsafe condition exists".

Operators of the affected airplanes face potentially millions of dollars in costs to modify or remove the systems and other costs associated with breaking contract arrangements with content providers.

FAA officials declined to release the report of the investigation that launched the latest round of ADs, asserting that it contains proprietary information. Four more will follow the 14 ADs already issued in the near future.

Separate from these ADs, it is understood that one foreign carrier in the Pacific has decided unilaterally to give the flight service director (FSD) in the cabin direct access to an IFE master isolation switch. It will be located near the video controls in the first and business class sections of B767 aircraft.

Cutting Power    This arrangement will enable the FSD or any flight attendant to cut power to the whole seat-back adjustment mechanism, seat power ports, and the IFE without having to hunt for a circuit breaker in the cockpit. The inference from this initial change in business and first-class is that it might become wider policy, in terms of getting power off the wiring as expeditiously as possible.

Slow off the Mark?

A chronology of Swissair and FAA Actions Regarding In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) Systems Sept. 1998 Swissair Flight 111 crashes at Halifax, Canada. Canadian investigators find heat-damaged wires from the accident MD-11's high-power interactive IFE.

Oct. 1998  Swissair disconnects the IFE installed on all its aircraft, as a first step to complete removal from its aircraft. FAA officials begin inspections of IFE installations on sister Swissair MD-11s.

Nov. 1998  Swiss Federal Office for civil aviation (BAZL) withdraws operating permit for the IFE installed on Swissair jets.

FAA launches Special Certification Review of the IFE installed in Swissair airplanes.

Dec. 1998 Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada authorities investigating the Swissair crash advise U.S. officials that IFE wires were a considerable portion of heat damaged wires recovered from the wreckage.

June 1999  Special Certification Review of Swissair IFE system STC final report completed. Report concluded that the IFE installation was incompatible with the aircraft's electrical system design philosophy, that it was connected to a flight essential power bus, and that the crew could only deactivate it by pulling circuit breakers ( ASW, Sept. 13, 1999).

Sept. 1999 FAA officials declare STC authorizing installation of the IFE in Swissair jets no longer valid (10 months after BAZL action).

March 2001 FAA orders operators to modify, deactivate or remove various IFE systems on some 180 other aircraft (29 months after Swissair disconnected the improperly installed IFE on its aircraft).

Sources: FAA, TSB, BAZL, Swissair

Modify, Deactivate, Remove Summary of Mandated Actions B737-300 and B737-700. Modify IFE. FAA rationale: "The IFE system...is connected to an electrical bus that cannot be deactivated without also cutting power to airplane systems necessary for safe flight.... Also, there is no means available the flight or cabin crew to remove power from flight manual (AFM) and cabin crew the IFE system without pulling circuit breakers.... The airplane manual do not provide clear instructions on how to remove power from the IFE.... This condition, if not corrected, could result in...inability to control smoke or fumes in the airplane..." Mandated modifications include installing a master switch to cut IFE power and explaining its functioning in the AFM.

B757-200. Deactivate air-to-ground telephone system. Rationale: Similar to B737 above - no means to cut power with pulling CBs. Emergency procedures not revised to advise crew.

B767-200. Modify IFE. Rationale: Similar to above. Mandated modifications include changing the source of IFE electrical power from the main bus to a utility bus that does not affect systems required for safe flight.

B767-300. Remove IFE. Rationale: Same as above.

B747-100/200. Deactivate. Rationale: As above. Procedure: Opening and "collaring" relevant CBs, capping and stowing related wires.

B747-400. Modify. Rationale: As above. Modification: Install relays and cables allowing IFE to be controlled by existing "UTILITY BUS ON/OFF" switches in cockpit. Modify AFM accordingly.

DC-9-50/80. Deactivate. Rationale: As above. Method: Remove CBs and install plug buttons in the holes, stow associated wires, remove audio and video equipment.

DC-10-30 with IFEs installed per STC SA8452SW. Modify. Rationale: Similar to that for B737 above.

DC-10-30 with IFEs installed per STC ST00054SE. Remove.

A340. Modify. Rationale: As above. In addition, a portion of the IFE electrical load is not included in the existing "COMMERCIAL" load shed circuits, leaving the cockpit crew with no means available "to remove power from that portion of the (IFE) without locating and pulling circuit breakers...which are located in the avionics compartment." Method: Replace 3-unit busbar with a 2-unit busbar and install associated wiring, allowing power for the entire system to be controlled by the "COMMERCIAL" load shed switch in the cockpit.

Source: FAA