Experts: Skies still unsafe a decade after Swissair crash
Charles Mandel, Canwest News ServicePublished: Saturday, August 30, 2008
HALIFAX - A decade after Swissair Flight 111 crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said more work needs to be done to satisfy the safety deficiencies identified in the 41/2 year investigation into the accident.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-11, en route to Geneva from New York City, plummeted into the ocean off Peggy's Cove on Sept. 2, 1998.
All 215 passengers and 14 crew members died in the crash.
Since the TSB released its report into the investigation, action is still needed in 18 of the 23 recommendations, said Jonathan Seymour, a TSB board member.
Seymour made his remarks at an industry safety seminar last April, but the TSB only recently made those comments available on its website.
"It's sad that Canada spent so much on this investigation and did such a tremendous job and then to have what it recommended only be implemented at glacial speed," Miles Gerety said Friday. Gerety, a public defender in Connecticut, lost his brother in the crash.
Gerety praised the TSB for its work investigating the accident, but added airline manufacturers needed to embrace all the recommendations. "I'm not at all surprised that everything they recommended hasn't been put in place."
The TSB said since the accident, substantive action has not been taken to comprehensively review the remaining types of insulation currently in use on aircraft. "Instead, regulators are relying on in-service performance to (be) the catalyst for further action," Seymour said.
"In other words, a material has to fail before action is taken."
Worn or faulty entertainment-system wiring surrounding highly flammable material led to a fire which is believed to have downed the doomed jetliner. The TSB spent $57 million on the agency's largest ever investigation and its 338-page final report came out in the spring of 2003.
Seymour criticized the failure of regulators to develop a "test regime that evaluates aircraft electrical wire failure characteristics under realistic operating conditions."
Seymour also called for a systematic approach to preventing fires during flights; one that would comprehensively identify fire zones, implement fire detection systems, provide fire-suppression equipment and systems, and require appropriate training.
Wendy Tadros, chair of the TSB, said actions have been taken in a number of areas, including raising awareness among flight crew to land immediately when there's smoke of an unknown origin. As well, all new aircraft now come with two-hour cockpit voice recorders, Tadros said Friday.
"There are still some areas where we'd like to see further improvements," she said.
Tadros acknowledged that as the 10th anniversary of the crash approached, distraught families who had lost members would once again be questioning what actions had been taken since the tragedy. "I think as a result of this thorough investigation, aviation safety has certainly been advanced," she said. "There's still more work to be done, but it's certainly been advanced."
Greg Phillips, an aviation safety consultant with insurance firm Willis Global Aviation in Washington, D.C., said anytime a large-scale investigation such as the Swissair review is carried out, regulatory authorities should carefully consider its conclusions and proposals. from this link