The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. Winston Churchill

Subject: [Fwd:

More on Inflight Entertainment Systems

-as a weak link

I'm left on the right issues and right on what's left. Now that's an issue I left right in front of you to debate. David Epstein No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach.

Date: Sun, 01 Nov 1998 01:13:00 +0800
From: IASA Safety []
To: Patrick Price
CC: David Evans , Edward Block,
Ross Coulthart

This is a copy (below) of an Email I sent much earlier today to Ross Coulthart.
Obviously I was on the right track.
The key to the foolish installation is in this extract:
Investigators also were concerned to learn that the system was
                 attached to an electrical "bus" that feeds electricity to key aircraft
                 systems, rather than to a bus designed for "nonessential" systems such
                 as cabin lighting.

Obviously in an electric jet such as the MD11 that "essential" bus was
never designed to be shut off during a smoke in the cockpit drill. I
would even surmise that no position of the infamous SMOKE/ELEC switch
would have secured that particular essential bus (only perhaps changed
the source of its power -GEN2/GEN3/ADG etc). I'd further suggest that
the power drain of this high falutin Entertainment & Gambling System was
likely so high that it could not have been powered off any ancillary
bus (except maybe the Galley - but that was likely riding practical
limits anyway). When they look further into it I'll bet they find that
the system, as well as generating too much heat, was improperly
protected by CB's. I'd also bet the modification's STC was sketchily
approved by the FAA and installed by off-the-street Rockapes (not
licensed aircraft mechs) - with loads of rubber-stamping by all

It just increases my cynicism about the run amuck pace of
computerization and gay electrification of these all-electric jets. It
certainly supports my contention that immediate pilot selection of a
stand-alone, get-you-home "VIRGIN" bus is the only way to go for a
logical, safe smoke checklist. As the article says, that whole extra
system never got a mention in the Flight Manual, the pilots were unaware
of its plumbing and it's very likely that it could never have been
isolated anyway - because of how it was unbelievably hooked in to a
critical flight essential bus.

I wonder if anyone down back noticed any anomaly in the entertainment
system and thought to mention it to the Captain (or whether a Flight
Engineer, taking a wander down the back, would have noticed glitches in
the seat-back systems and put two and two together). It's quite possible
that the short circuit during installation of the new bus-tie sensing
relay on 4 Aug damaged that entertainment system's wiring insulation (or
it could have been an induced insulation defect in any of the wiring in
the tight agglomeration above the flight-deck door that set it off on 2
Sep). The final kick-off may have been something as simple as First and
Business class being full and all the seat-back sets being therefore on
at once - triggering a current overload in that tight-knit wire bundle
that penetrated the forward bulkhead.

As to whether there was any sound insulation running through that area,
the answer is yes. If you look at the photo on my site (second last
story - #24 "THE KINDLING") at:
you'll see that the metallized mylar is everywhere including just
forward of the flight deck bulkhead, above the pilots' overhead panels
and likely also above the front LH pax cabin door. It's designed to go
anywhere it will fit between ribs. I'd suggest Swissair probably
insisted upon Kapton because that was the aircraft's original
manufacture specification. I suspect that (because it wasn't a new
aircraft inclusion) Boeing certification and EMI checks were likely
notional and that the aircraft's airworthiness certificate never came
into any equations. It was likely a typical rushed installation that
reduced out of service time to a minimum. I hope that whoever the bent
FAA chappie was who signed off on that job is getting precious little
sleep now. If there has to be a sacrificial lamb (and there always must
be) he's sure to get a guernsey.

The Investigator is, as always, reluctant to draw conclusions - but I
think he's on a winner with this one. He still needs a triggering event
though - and I think they'll eventually conclude that this accident
started way back on 4 Aug.

IASA Safety

Subject: More on Inflight Entertainment Systems -as a weak link
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 13:01:14 +0800
From: IASA Safety
To: Ross Coulthart

           I wonder if a lot of these "keep up with the Jones" type ad hoc add-on
            systems are being thoroughly researched and the proposed modifications
            to the aircraft wiring being inspected and endorsed by the manufacturer
            - before incorporation. It sounds to me that conversely, the systems are
            being bought off the shelf with an installation agreement included.
           Close inspection may reveal that these systems are either not being
            installed by licenced aircraft mechs or, at the very least, are being jury-rigged
            into the aircraft electrical system much as you and I used to install
            the latest AM/FM stereo-casette players into our cars. Then again on
            reconsideration I don't think Swissair would be that irresponsible
            (Garuda definitely, Swissair never). But it's a thought.

Subject: Entertainment Systems

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 15:02:38 -0500
From:  (David Evans)

As you may be aware, the in-flight entertainment system
on the SR 111 was wired into the cockpit. The manufacturer has refused to tell me the wire type (Kapton?). In addition, these wires may have
been part of a bundle, committing the sin of routing low and high
power circuits in the same bundle -- a practice the NTSB said
earlier this year should be avoided. Apparently this in-flight
entertainment system, which features a gambling capability,
generates a lot of heat -- so much so that potential airline
purchasers in the U.S. said no thanks (the system is built by a
U.S. firm that hasn't made any U.S. sales and is going into another
line of work manufacturing dry cleaning equipment).
All of this has been duly covered in the latest Air Safety Week,
a copy of which will be en route to you by next Monday.
The system was installed based on an FAA-approved supplemental
type certificate. So we have a number of instances that quite
properly raise the bottom-line question: is the FAA doing its job.
Here are just a few cases:
* The SR 111 entertainment system.
* The inadequate FAA-required testing of thermal/acoustic
insulation blankets that allowed Mylar to be used in all Douglas products.

* The crash of an EMB-120 from icing, a year after a mid-level
FAA official warned, in writing, something had to be done about
EMB-120s in icing conditions.

* The internal field office memo recommending the grounding of
ValuJet about 4 mos. before ValuJet flight 592 crashed into the

Just a few instances, but that is the gist of my thinking.
Many thanks for sending along the materials.



Fire Traces Found in Swissair Jet's Wiring

By Don Phillips

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, October 30, 1998; Page A01


Jury: Twelve people who determine which client has the better lawyer. Robert Frost

Investigators discovered evidence of fire and electrical damage in the wiring of Swissair Flight 111's in-flight entertainment and gambling system, prompting the airline yesterday to disconnect it on its other planes. Sources close to the probe of the Sept. 2 crash said all the insulation was burned off three of the four sets of wires coming from the sophisticated system, located above and behind the cockpit, and there was clear evidence of electrical arcing, or sparks. A preliminary investigation has raised concerns about the amount of heat that the cutting-edge electronics produces, as well as the manner in which it was connected to the aircraft's main electrical power, the sources said.

Swissair and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in brief statements that there is insufficient evidence so far to determine whether the wiring played a role in the New York-Geneva flight's plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 229 onboard. The Canadian board said it is possible the damage was "merely the byproduct of other events" on the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jet. Although the Canadian safety board said that this particular system was "unique to the Swissair fleet," sources said investigators and regulators want to take a new look at onboard video and gaming systems that some airlines are installing on long-distance jets to woo customers.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which must certify the entertainment equipment and the repair facility that installs it, is said to be already poring over the paperwork involved in earlier approvals, and has inspected one Swissair MD-11 at Los Angeles, finding no problems. Swissair was a pioneer in onboard gambling systems, installing the first one early last year. The system consists of large processors and recorders above the forward part of the cabin with wires leading through the roof and walls to flat color LCD displays at each seat. In addition to gambling, passengers simply touch the screen to choose from about a dozen movies, music in 10 languages and numerous other features. Swissair, in its promotional literature, touted the system as providing "the Swissair passenger with an unprecedented degree of freedom and choice." The airline said yesterday that it would turn off the systems on its remaining 15 MD-11s and a similar system on three Boeing 747s, forcing passengers back to the older system of a single movie and limited music selection. The system "has not been identified as a cause of the accident of sr111," the airline said in a statement, adding it may reactivate the system, depending on the outcome of the investigation.

Weeks or months may be required to determine whether the entertainment system was a crash cause. However, the investigation may result in safety upgrades for the system, just as the crash already has resulted in an FAA announcement that aircraft heat and sound insulation has inadequate fire-retardant capabilities and will have to be replaced on almost all jetliners over time. Other foreign airlines are moving slowly toward these onboard video systems, although they are an electricity drain and are expensive. Swissair paid $70 million to $80 million for its entertainment package, designed by Interactive Flight Technologies Inc. of Phoenix, a troubled company that is leaving the inflight business after suffering financial difficulties and a recent boardroom coup.

Officials said none of these systems was installed on U.S. airliners, largely because they produce too much heat for the U.S. industry, cost too much and because Congress has outlawed gambling on U.S. air routes. The Canadian safety board statement said examination of debris "has revealed that some of the wiring and structure, located in the ceiling in the vicinity of the cockpit, shows signs of significant heat damage." The official statement did not mention fire or electrical arcing, which was mentioned by several other sources. The burned wiring was found among debris dredged from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean just off Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. The MD-11 slammed into the ocean about 16 minutes after the crew reported smoke in the cockpit and donned oxygen masks.

Wiring from the entertainment system is easily identified, running through the roof in four strings, or "twists," of three wires each. These strings are bunched with numerous other wires into a wire saddle stretching over the front cabin doors. The damage to this area, especially the entertainment system wires, was significant, sources said. Investigators still do not know why the plane crashed. But sources said a clear heat and fire damage pattern is emerging, with no fire or heat damage noted in most parts of the aircraft so far. The damage area begins in the instrument panel above the pilots' heads, stretching back to the roof area over the front doors of the passenger cabin where the in-flight entertainment system is located. Pieces of plastic and other easily melted material located in the wall areas below the ceiling show no signs of heat. Debris from the high-voltage electronics bay below the pilots, one of the first areas of concern, has shown no fire or electrical damage so far. There also is no evidence so far of a fire inside the passenger cabin, and several sources said it was doubtful that passengers were subjected to fire or even to appreciable amounts of smoke .

After looking at other versions of the entertainment system made by Interactive Flight Technologies, investigators became concerned about the amount of heat produced by its design. In effect, the system places powerful personal computers at each seat, and draws an unusually high amount of power. Some systems need supplemental cooling power. Investigators also were concerned to learn that the system was attached to an electrical "bus" that feeds electricity to key aircraft systems, rather than to a bus designed for "nonessential" systems such as cabin lighting. The "nonessential" bus is the first to be shut down by pilots during a checklist to search for the source of smoke in the cockpit. Investigators do not yet know whether the Swissair crew cut power to any electrical bus, but they point out that many of the wires for nonessential systems run through the roof of the aircraft and are bundled with the flight entertainment wires. Therefore, power still would be flowing through an area of the aircraft that otherwise is devoid of electrical power as part of the trouble-shooting effort.

Sources said investigators do not yet know whether the pilots were told of this fact, but it is not mentioned in Swissair flight manuals. The sources said investigators also are concerned that high-voltage and low-voltage wires are bundled together in the overhead area. Airline manufacturers, such as Boeing, do not make these systems. On older aircraft, they are an "after-market" item made by various companies and installed by others. Under FAA rules, the systems must be approved by the FAA or by a private FAA-approved facility called a "designated alteration station," which must be a domestic U.S. repair station with certain engineering qualifications.

If the designated alteration station approves new systems, the paperwork -- called a "supplemental type certificate" -- must be forwarded to the FAA for inspection. The airline's country of origin also must approve the system, in this case the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation. In the Swissair case, the certificate was issued by Santa Barbara Aerospace of Santa Barbara, Calif., to Interactive Flight Technologies. Hans Klaus, a Swissair spokesman, said the IFT system was installed at the airline's Zurich maintenance base by another California company, Hollingead, with representatives of Swissair and the Phoenix company assisting and inspecting the installation. Interactive Flight Technologies was founded in early 1994, and in July of 1996 landed the Swissair contract to install the system in 21 jets. But the company's prospects quickly faded as other airlines expected to order the system, such as Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd., decided not to use it.

The company -- whose board members once included former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr. -- all but stopped selling the systems this year, and in July said it would move into the retail dry-cleaning business. Last month, a group called Ocean Castle Partners wrested control of the company in a proxy contest and ousted the old board.

Moshe Porat, one of the new board members, said he had been assured by the company and its lawyers that the Swissair incident didn't pose any problem for the company. He said he joined at the request of new board chairman Irwin L. Gross, who Porat said wanted to "enhance shareholder value" in the company. Porat said the board is in the process of designing a new corporate

strategy across "a whole spectrum of businesses, including financial." The company's stock, which was $16 a share in 1996, has plunged in value. Yesterday it fell 12 1/2 cents, or 14 percent, to close at 75 cents.

Staff writer Steven Mufson contributed to this report.

Copyright The Washington Post Company




To all: In that list of '37 in-flights, this one was found to be similar.

Item 27. Data source, NTSB Database.

12/11/96, Boeing 757-225 at Terre Haute, In. Registration: N603AU, U.S.AIR. NTSB

Identification: CHI97IA041. Injuries: 184 Uninjured. "Before departing on a scheduled passenger flight, a flight attendant noticed an electrical odor in the airplane's rear section. She advised the first officer, who consulted a mechanic. The mechanic found nothing wrong, and the flight departed a short time later.

While en route, a flight attendant reported an electrical odor in the same area. After an investigation by the captain, the odor diminished, and the rear cabin temperature was lowered. Shortly after this action, smoke and fire were visible in the floor and side wall area. The captain declared an emergency and diverted to an alternate airport. During approach to the airport, the fire was extinguished, then an uneventful landing was made. Examination of the burned area revealed an audio-entertainment system cable had become shorted. Burning had resulted in minor damage to the airplane. Further investigation revealed that the cable had not been properly installed, and that the STC did not provide specific instructions for cable routing, except that it should be placed under a seat rail cover.

Probable Cause; inadequate installation of electrical wiring for an audio entertainment system associated with Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) SA5537NM, and a subsequent short in the wiring. Factors relating to the accident were: inadequate design (installation instructions) by the STC holder (Hughes-Avicom International), and inadequate maintenance by company maintenance personnel."


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