STATEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE TRANSPORTATION SAFETY

 

BOARD OF CANADA CONCERNING THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE ACCIDENT

 

SOUTH OF HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, INVOLVING A SWISSAIR

 

MCDONNELL DOUGLAS MD-11

 

 

ON THE NIGHT OF 02 SEPTEMBER 1998

     At approximately 1030 Atlantic daylight time on the night of 02 September 1998, Swissair Flight No. 111, en route from New York to Geneva, declared an emergency and disappeared from air traffic control radar off the east coast of Nova Scotia. Wreckage has been found approximately 8 km from Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. It is understood that 229 persons were on board the McDonnell Douglas MD11. There are no reported signs of survivors. Search and Rescue is looking for survivors and recovering the victims as a top priority.

     "First, I would like to express my most sincere sympathies to the family and loved ones of the victims. To those who lost loved ones in this terrible accident, the Board is promising that there will be a thorough and complete investigation. All of the resources necessary will be made available to the investigation team in the search to determine what happened to Swissair Flight 111 and, more importantly, why this tragedy occurred."

     The TSB has dispatched a multi-disciplinary team of investigators to conduct the investigation into this accident. In accordance with Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention, the TSB's investigation team may be assisted by representatives of the state of manufacture of the aircraft and the engines (the United States) and the state of registration of the aircraft (Switzerland).

     As is normal in all such investigations of major transportation occurrences, a comprehensive systematic investigation will be made of any aspect that may have compromised the safety of Flight 111. This will include an examination of the airworthiness and technical serviceability of all the aircraft's structures and operating systems, the appropriateness of all aspects of flight and ground crew performance, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, company safety management and regulatory oversight.

     It is too early in the investigation to say how much of the wreckage can be located, and how much will be recovered. Priority will be given to recovering the aircraft's on-board flight recorders.

     Little factual information concerning the accident is known at this early stage of the investigation. The TSB will provide daily press briefings to summarize the day's activities.

     Initial investigative efforts will focus on the recovery of all related voice and flight data recorders as well as any other perishable evidence necessary to guide the conduct of the investigation. Investigators are working with the emergency response organizations to co-ordinate recovery efforts.

     The TSB is an independent agency with the mandate to investigate transportation occurrences with a view to making findings as to causes and contributing factors. In particular, the TSB seeks to identify those systemic safety deficiencies in the transportation system which may put persons, property or the environment at risk. It is not the object of the Board to determine criminal or civil liability.

     In the event that TSB's investigators find any evidence of criminal wrong-doing, it will be immediately passed to the RCMP to facilitate any necessary police investigation.

     All queries regarding the on-board passengers should be directed to Swissair's representatives at 1-800-801-0088.

 



Last Updated: 2001/02/07

TSB A 12/98

THE TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD OF CANADA IS SENDING A TEAM OF INVESTIGATORS

TO THE SITE OF THE ACCIDENT SOUTH OF HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA

INVOLVING A SWISSAIR MD-11 FLYING FROM NEW YORK TO GENEVA

ON THE NIGHT OF 02 SEPTEMBER 1998

     (Hull, Québec - 03-September 1998) - An investigation team from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is being sent to the site of the accident south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, involving a Swissair MD-11 with a reported 228 persons on board. The accident occurred at approximately 2230 Atlantic Daylight Time 02 September 1998.

     The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 was on a flight from New York to Geneva, Switzerland. The crew declared an emergency to air traffic control at approximately 2215 ADT. The crew had reported smoke in the cockpit and were attempting to reach Halifax International Airport.

     Search operations are in progress and TSB investigators are co-ordinating their initial work with emergency response organizations.

     Under international agreements, Canada, as the state of occurrence, will conduct the investigation with assistance from the United States and Switzerland.

     Under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, the TSB has the exclusive jurisdiction to investigate this occurrence in order to make findings as to its causes and contributing factors.

     The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is an independent agency operating under its own Act of Parliament. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

(This communique was released early on the morning of 3 September 1998, before the final number of 229 persons on board the aircraft was confirmed.)

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

Note: Check against delivery

SPEAKING NOTES FOR THE TSB CHAIRMAN

TSB NEWS CONFERENCE

CFB SHEARWATER

1:30PM, 27 OCTOBER 1998


INTRODUCTION

  • On the night of the Swissair accident, I said all the resources necessary would be made available to determine what happened to Flight 111, and more importantly to determine why this tragedy happened.
  • During the past two days, I have had an opportunity to see first hand how the resources of the TSB, and the other agencies involved, are being employed to deal with the aftermath of this accident.

APPRECIATION

  • One day, early in September, more than 2000 individuals were involved - in some capacity or another - contending with the wake of Swissair 111.
  • This tragedy has brought into play expertise other than that normally associated with an air investigation.
  • The Canadian Forces, the RCMP, the Canadian Coast Guard, our own Transportation Safety Board investigators, the United States Navy, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Nova Scotia Chief Medical Examiner and the Provincial and Federal Emergency Measures Organization have all played important roles, under very difficult and demanding circumstances.
  • Canadians have made and continue to make a large financial contribution to the accident investigation and other aspects of this operation. Preliminary figures indicate that, to date, the federal government has incurred costs of $20 million.

     

  • I would like again to express my appreciation, on behalf of the Board, to those who have been working around the clock here in the Halifax and St. Margaret's Bay area. I would like to emphasize the tremendous generosity and the precious help that the people of Nova Scotia and the many volunteers from across the Maritimes have brought to this collective effort.

    At the memorial service last month in Indian Harbour, I was deeply moved by the words of Claire Mortimer who lost her father and stepmother on September 2nd. Ms. Mortimer noted that many continue to work day and night. "Your grace, your generosity and your compassion mean so much," she said at the service.

  • It is gratifying to see how the work of those involved in the search, recovery and investigation has been received by the victims' families, the aviation industry and by Canadians from coast to coast.

PROFESSIONAL TEAM EFFORT

  • The investigation of the Swissair crash has brought together a multi-disciplined team of investigators from around the world. Some of the world's leading experts are working in this area - and at laboratories, like our own TSB Engineering Laboratory in Ottawa - and in other locations across the globe.
  • We have gathered together pilots, engineers, technicians, scientists, researchers and experts in air navigation, cabin procedures and other aspects of modern flight. They are all working to achieve one goal - to determine what happened on September 2nd, and what needs to be changed to make aviation even safer.
  • There is an international protocol which sets out how investigators from around the world work together on a major air crash, such as Swissair Flight 111. That is Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. This investigation is once again demonstrating the effectiveness of such international cooperation through such formal protocols.
  • The merits of objective and independent investigation of transportation accidents have been demonstrated to Canadians on several occasions. Our Canadian legislation has set in place an independent investigation capacity that is enhanced by international cooperation - not bound by borders, nor specialties, nor vested interests.

 

PROGRESS

  • I am most impressed with what has been accomplished to date here in the Halifax and St. Margaret's Bay area. So far, 60 per cent of the accident aircraft wreckage, including the three engines, has been recovered.
  • Our Investigator-in-Charge, Mr. Gerden will bring us up to date in a moment.
  • Before he does, I wanted to say that it will take some time to get the answers to the many questions that this crash has raised. Various teams of experts must carefully examine every piece of wreckage. All the information that the investigators have gathered, and will gather, must be correlated to get a clearer picture of what happened. Some of the work will be done at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater and other work will be undertaken at special facilities such as the TSB Engineering Laboratory.
  • This crash investigation is very complicated and complex and this work will take time. It will likely be more than a year before Members of the Transportation Safety Board and I will be able to issue the report that will be based on the work carried out by Mr. Gerden and his team. The report may contain recommendations to deal with any safety deficiencies that are found.
  • However, if during the investigation, anything is found that requires immediate action, Board Members will not hesitate to act.
  • Yesterday, we issued interim recommendations stemming from the ongoing investigation into a crash last June of a Fairchild Metroliner at Mirabel. The NTSB, which continues to work with us on that investigation, as it is on this one, issued recommendations of its own yesterday.
  • These interim recommendations, issued by the TSB and the NTSB, are independent, but mutually supportive. I wanted to point this out as an example of how the two investigative agencies working in harmony can respond to identified safety deficiencies.
  • You may rest assured that the many professionals from around the world who are working here in the Halifax and St. Margaret's Bay area and elsewhere will strive to provide as many answers as possible concerning Swissair 111.
  • I remain optimistic that we will identify any safety deficiencies that may exist, and that we will be able to make recommendations as to what corrective action should be taken.
  • My Board's commitment to those who travel by air is that we will do everything possible to reduce the risks associated with flying. That, in short, is our mandate - advancing transportation safety.
  • I would like Vic to update you now on the ongoing investigation he is directing.

 

 

INVESTIGATION UPDATE A98H0003

 

SWISSAIR FLIGHT 111

 

(Halifax, Nova Scotia - 21 October 1998) - The deep-sea heavy-lift operation to retrieve the remaining material from Swissair Flight 111 is continuing. Vic Gerden, the investigator-in-charge of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigation into this accident, said, "although the operation has been slowed by weather and sea conditions, approximately 25 per cent of the aircraft has now been recovered and it is our intent to recover as much of the material as possible."

Mr. Gerden was very appreciative of the way in which the recovery operation, involving the RCMP, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Forces, the Chief Medical Examiner for Nova Scotia, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States, the TSB and Le Groupe Océan, has been working, despite the delays caused by the weather. He said, "they have been working as a team with one goal in mind - to recover human remains as quickly as possible and to recover wreckage as soon as possible - so that investigators can determine why Flight 111 crashed and identify any safety deficiencies that may be involved."

So far, during the recovery phase:

  • Engine No. 2, the middle engine located in the tail, along with its Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), was recovered. The FADEC has been taken by a TSB investigator to the manufacturer's facility in the United States for analysis. The FADEC chip is providing data, but it will be some time before we get a complete analysis of that data.
  • One of the under-wing engines has also been recovered.
  • A quantity of electronic circuit boards, some of which include non-volatile memory (NVM) chips, have been recovered. The chips have been sent to the manufacturer for analysis.
  • Considerable quantities of wire and wiring bundles have been recovered. Some of the wiring comes from the forward portion of the aircraft and will be analysed in more detail.
  • Portions of the fuselage have been recovered, including portions of the forward section and the cockpit.
  • The left main landing gear has recently been recovered. The recovered landing gear, including the right main and the nose gear that were recovered in September, indicate that the landing gear was in the retracted position at the time of impact.

The crews are out on the "SEA SORCERESS" today and there is every indication that the lift is proceeding well. In fact, the third engine was brought up on the first lift late this afternoon.

The material, when it is lifted from the bottom, is deposited on the barge "ATL 2401" where it is sorted. Any human remains are immediately taken to refrigerated containers. The wreckage is then sorted quickly and any pieces that require special processing, such as NVM, are placed in special containers. The rest of the wreckage is then placed in cargo nets and loaded aboard Coast Guard ship "EARL GREY" and taken to Canadian Forces Base Shearwater. Another crew further cleans and sorts the material on shore. The wreckage is then taken to a facility for tagging and examination.

Many RCMP, Canadian Forces personnel and TSB investigators are involved in this operation to preserve evidence. Analysis of some of the specialized parts is being undertaken, but closer examination and analysis of the wreckage will be done later, once the heavy-lift operation is completed.

"The primary focus now is getting the aircraft debris up from the seabed. Weather conditions are still the major limiting factor in this phase of the recovery operation," said Gerden. "There has been some shifting of the debris pile on the ocean floor which underlies the need to complete this lift as soon as practicable. There are volunteer groups on shore that are ready to pick up any debris that may drift from the operation area."

To date, the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RCMP, the United States Navy, the TSB, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Nova Scotia Chief Medical Examiner, the NTSB and a legion of volunteers that make up the Emergency Measures Organization, have been involved in the recovery effort, under difficult and demanding circumstances. It is hoped that this recovery effort will bring some comfort to the next-of-kin and contribute to the timely identification of potential safety problems.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

 

HEAVY-LIFT EQUIPMENT TO JOIN

SWISSAIR FLIGHT 111 RECOVERY EFFORT

 


(Halifax, Nova Scotia - 02 October 1998) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) announced today that it is intensifying its wreckage recovery efforts for Swissair Flight 111 and contract discussions are taking place with possible suppliers to bring in heavy-lift equipment.

The "heavy-lift" option is being considered because of the challenges presented by the shattered wreckage and of the recovery team's desire to carry out a safe and thorough recovery from the site some 190 feet below the surface. According to Vic Gerden, the investigator-in-charge, "we are confident that the addition of the heavy-lift operation will help us to continue our investigation aimed at identifying safety problems and to find answers for the families while ensuring the safety of the recovery dive teams." "Canadian Navy and US Navy dive teams have done heroic work so far in finding and retrieving human remains and portions of the shattered aircraft," Gerden pointed out, "we want to reduce the risk to the divers."

A heavy-lift operation will have the capability of retrieving the major portion of the wreckage in the debris field thereby greatly reducing the time and efforts required to bring up human remains and important wreckage from the very challenging deep-water site before winter storms complicate the recovery effort even further. It is expected that once the lift is completed, other vessels will return to the site to carry out the rest of the recovery.

Options currently being considered for this heavy-lift operation include a contract with the Le Groupe Océan to utilize the crane-equipped "SEA SORCERESS" to scoop wreckage up from the seabed and onto a barge . The "SAIPEM S7000" could also be contracted for the recovery team should a special lift be required.

 

Gerden said that "the companies involved have been very helpful and cooperative in evaluating our various options. We now have a better appreciation of the technical capabilities of the vessels and, from where we stand right now, there is only a small likelihood that we will need to call on Saipem."

The investigator-in-charge also noted that, "the cooperation of Saipem, Sable Offshore Energery Incorporated and Le Groupe Océan is consistent with our experience since the early hours of the Flight 111 tragedy. Individuals, governments, businesses and communities have participated in an unprecedented way to assist in the investigation." Gerden stated, "the genuine support and efforts of the Government of Nova Scotia and the volunteer-led Nova Scotia International Air Show, fishermen, community groups, and many more have assisted the investigation recovery effort and demonstrated a level of compassion and respect for the victims' families that we can all draw strength from."

The need to use heavy-lift equipment arises from a number of factors:

  • •There is a continuing high priority to recover human remains as quickly as possible.
  • •The rate of recovery of both human remains and wreckage from the site has been impeded by the very challenging deep-ocean location (190 feet depth) and the potentially hazardous, shattered and concentrated debris field.
  • •This type of equipment will dramatically speed up the recovery of wreckage which may contribute to the identification of safety problems.
  • •The winter storm season usually starts near the end of October or in early November, making further sustained diving operations highly unlikely until the spring of 1999.
  • •The ocean effects of winter storms and the "cobble" nature of the ocean floor could scatter the wreckage making the recovery effort more difficult. ("Cobble" refers to a seabed comprised of round stones that have a tendency to roll and move in current.)

To date, the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, the RCMP, the United States Navy, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Ocean, the Nova Scotia Chief Medical Examiner, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and a legion of volunteers that make up the Emergency Measures Organization, have been involved in the recovery effort, under difficult and demanding circumstances. It is hoped this next phase will contribute to the timely identification of potential safety problems.

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Investigation Update

 

A98H0003

 

(Halifax, Nova Scotia, 20-11-98) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation into the accident involving Swissair Flight 111 MD-11 is continuing.

Recovery operations are still under way. The "ANNE S. PIERCE", a scallop dragger fishing vessel from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, has been very effective in recovering material from the seabed. A smaller steel mesh scallop net now being used to recover more of the remaining wreckage has successfully raised smaller debris including pieces of aircraft structure, wires, electrical components, and personal effects.

Approximately 80 per cent of the aircraft by weight has now been recovered. The material continues to be tagged, sorted, and examined; much of it is being stored in about 480 containers located in "J" Hangar, a temporary structure erected expressly for this purpose by the TSB at CFB Shearwater.

Laser-line-scan and side-scan sonar of the aircraft debris field are being carried out to establish the outer limits of the field and to locate additional debris. Recovery operations using a scallop dragger will resume following analysis of the sonar data.

The forward fuselage reconstruction jig has been built and delivered to the Shearwater investigation operations hangar by the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works. Investigators now have approximately 40 per cent of the material constituting the aircraft's forward fuselage and are beginning the partial reconstruction process.

The recovery operation continues to raise aircraft material that shows varying amounts of heat distress. The heat-damaged material includes a few small pieces of melted aluminium, from the ceiling area just aft of the cockpit door. Other signs of heat damage include some electrical wires with melted copper, arcing damage, and charred or missing wire insulation. The sheepskin fabric on the observer seat, located in the cockpit behind the pilots' seats, has a few drops of imbedded melted plastic. A few small pieces of metalized Mylar show discolouration from exposure to heat. The heat-damaged material found to date is located in the forward upper area just forward and aft of the cockpit bulkhead. The damage is consistent with a localized high heat source or a localized fire in this section of the aircraft. To date, there are no signs of fire in any other section of the aircraft.

The Flight Recorder Group is continuing its analysis of the recorder data, and is correlating and integrating recorder data with other information such as data from the engine Full Authority Digital Electronic Controllers (FADECs) and pieces of wreckage.

The Operations Group continues to analyze all areas concerning the operation of the aircraft. As more information is derived from the technical investigation being carried out at the operations hangar in Shearwater and from the recorder data analysis in Ottawa, it will be integrated into the operations analysis.

Work is under way on the engines and engine accessories are being examined along with the engines to determine the operating condition of the engines at the time of impact. Information obtained to date indicates that the Number 2 engine was not producing power at water impact; damage to the Number 1 and Number 3 engines is consistent with power being produced at the time of impact.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will continue to provide investigation updates as additional factual information becomes available.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

September 17, 1998

(Halifax, NS) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada today provided details on the challenging state of the primary wreckage site and an update on the ongoing investigation of Swissair Flight 111.

According to Vic Gerden, Investigator in Charge for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, divers working at 180 feet below the surface of the Atlantic, confirm that there are few large pieces of the MD-11 that crashed on the night of September 2 off Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. "The wreckage comprises a field of approximately 70 metres by 30 metres littered with shattered pieces of the aircraft," said Gerden.

The head of the investigation and recovery team praised the divers and surface recovery workers from the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The team continues to place the recovery of human remains as the top priority of the operation. In addition, divers have been instructed to identify and recover key components from the cockpit and avionics bay as well as other areas of the aircraft that have "non-volatile memory" that may yield information important to the investigation. Gerden noted "we have areas of interest and priorities for the recovery and examination teams in Halifax and Ottawa." However, he stressed that no conclusions have been arrived at to this time. "We are in pursuit of facts."

Gerden pointed out that the investigation will not be finished soon. "Let me be clear. My team wants to find the answers as soon as possible. We want to find them for the families. We want to find them for safety reasons. We want to find them as professionals. However, let me be just as clear that 'as soon as possible' will not be tomorrow or next week. It may not be even next month. It is a long and painstaking process. It is important that it be done right.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

Swissair Flight Recorders Stopped at the Same Time

 

(Halifax, Nova Scotia, 15 September 1998) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation team in Halifax has determined that both the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) from Swissair Flight 111 stopped at about the same time, approximately six minutes before the aircraft struck the water near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

Significant information concerning the in-flight emergency prior to the last six minutes of flight is being decoded and analysed at the TSB Engineering Laboratory in Ottawa. This information is being correlated with other data, such as the air traffic control voice and radar plot data made public last week. The data from the flight recorders are confirming the presence of several anomalies that are being thoroughly investigated by an international team of multi-disciplinary experts.

Developing a valid understanding of these anomalies will require extensive examination of wiring and aircraft components that have not yet been recovered from the wreckage. To that end, the recovery operation currently being conducted by the USS Grapple of the United States Navy may be critical to identifying any fundamental safety deficiencies that may have contributed to this accident. Both the recovery of the wreckage and the analysis of all available information will be a lengthy painstaking process.

The TSB will make pertinent, verified safety-related information public as the investigation progresses.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

Cockpit Voice Recorder of Swissair Flight 111 Retrieved

 

(Halifax, N.S., 11 September 1998) - The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) from Swissair Flight 111 has been recovered and is on its way to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's (TSB) Engineering Branch Flight Recorder Laboratory in Ottawa, Ontario. The CVR has been placed in a container of fresh water and is being transported to Ottawa this evening.

The CVR was located and retrieved in approximately 180 feet of water by divers operating from the YDT "GRANBY" and was brought to the surface about 6:00 pm ADT. The CVR was recovered from a site near the location where the Flight Data Recorder was found on Sunday, September 6, 1998.

As soon as the Cockpit Voice Recorder arrives in Ottawa, work will begin to determine the condition of the Recorder and prepare it for playback.

Vic Gerden, Investigator-In-Charge, would like to thank the Canadian Forces Naval dive team for their perseverance and dedication in retrieving the CVR.

 

Protection of CVR Information in Canada

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has recovered the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) from Swissair flight 111. It is important to understand the laws governing the use of information from CVRs in Canada. Canadian laws regarding the protection of CVR information conform with the ICAO standards for the conduct of aircraft accident investigation. However, under Canadian law (specifically the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act), provisions require stricter protection for cockpit voice recordings and any transcripts from them than is practised in some ICAO member states. In Canada, recorded CVR information is used strictly for the purpose of advancing transportation safety, and there are tight restrictions on access to it and on its use.

Notwithstanding the very strict controls that will be placed on the access to and use of any CVR information from Swissair flight 111, the Board may release to the public factual information specifically derived from the CVR to facilitate understanding of the accident flight in a timely manner. This may include confirmation of the presence or absence of specific events or activities at particular points in time; it may also include analysis of other cockpit ambient noises such as engine or mechanical sounds. The investigators will not be releasing any transcript of the recorded information in any form to the public, but information from these recordings will be used by a multi-disciplinary team of investigators to help identify safety problems. Any safety deficiencies requiring urgent attention will be dealt with promptly.

In summary, Canadian laws respecting the protection afforded to CVR information give primacy to using only that information necessary to advancing aviation safety, while protecting the privacy of the crews whose voices may be heard on the tapes.

 

TSB # A 19/99



EXCLUSION ZONE AT THE SWISSAIR 111 CRASH SITE HAS BEEN LIFTED

 

(Halifax, Nova Scotia, 01 November 1999) - After 14 months the Exclusion Zone at the Swissair 111 crash site, approximately 10 kilometres south of Peggy's Cove, has been lifted. Both the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have agreed to this change as the final wreckage recovery operations have now been completed. No further recovery operations are planned.

The last recovery operation, employing the suction dredge "Queen of the Netherlands" has been very successful. The sifting of the material brought from the ocean bottom is continuing at Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia. So far, this process has yielded over 20,000 pounds of aircraft material.

This latest wreckage has not yet been sorted, examined, and identified. However, the volume and type of material that was recovered will give investigators an excellent opportunity to find additional clues as to what happened aboard the aircraft. Therefore, investigators are confident that there is no longer a need to maintain the exclusion zone.

This final recovery operation was limited to an area of the crash site on the ocean floor where the vast majority of the remaining wreckage was located. There remains some scattered debris, and investigators are aware that from time to time the occasional piece of the wreckage will turn up.

Both the TSB and the RCMP would like to thank all the fishermen and boating public for respecting the exclusion zone over the past 14 months. Without this cooperation the recovery operations would not have been as successful.

The investigation is continuing.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

INVESTIGATION UPDATE

 

on the Swissair Flight 111 Accident

December 21, 1998

(Halifax, Nova Scotia, 21 December 1998) - The multi-faceted, complex, international investigation into the crash of Swissair Flight 111 continues.

Material is still being recovered from the seabed with the scallop dragger "ANNE S. PIERCE." The laser-line-scanning of the debris field shows that the field has been spread somewhat, although it is still within an area less than a mile square. So far, about 85 % of the aircraft by weight has been recovered, including about 60 % of the forward fuselage. It is estimated that there is still about 19,000 kilograms of aircraft wreckage that has not yet been recovered.

Some of the system components that have been recovered and are being analysed are as follows: all 8 flap actuators; 5 of 6 slat actuators and 30 of 38 slat tracks; all 10 spoiler actuators; 15 of 17 fuel boost pumps; both right and left fuel dump valves; portions of all 3 air conditioning packs; and 118 out of 148 passenger oxygen generators. Other investigation work also under way includes: the identification, examination and analysis of heat-damaged structural components and aircraft wiring; the continuing analysis of flight recorder and FADEC (Full Authority Digital Electronic Control) data; the examination and the analysis of fuel system components, fire extinguishers, engines, and other on-board systems.

The reconstruction of the forward section of the fuselage is continuing. There are more than 5,000 separate pieces that are believed to belong to the area being reconstructed. Many of these pieces are small and distorted by the impact forces; therefore, determining the specific location as to where they fit is a difficult and time-consuming process. The reconstruction of the forward area of the fuselage will give investigators a three-dimensional picture of the heat-damage pattern and will potentially help investigators localize the source of the initiating event.

The TSB investigation into the crash of Swissair Flight 111 has been under way, non-stop, seven days a week, for almost four months. With the Christmas season approaching, operations will be reduced from 23 December, 1998 to 3 January 1999 to allow investigators the opportunity to spend some time with their families.

Vic Gerden, the TSB investigator-in-charge of this accident, said, "although work is continuing to extract all possible information from the aircraft's recorders, the investigation is relying on traditional investigation methods that require the systematic examination of the more than one million pieces of wreckage recovered."

As information on safety deficiencies comes to light throughout this investigation, the information will be passed on to the regulators, the manufacturers, and to the operators. For example, TSB investigators have noted that in some other MD-11s, some wire insulation above the forward right and left passenger doors had been chafed. Although it is not known what relationship, if any, this wiring had with the cause of the accident, this information was provided to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration of the United States). The FAA in turn issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) to all operators of MD-11 aircraft requiring them to inspect the area, to report their findings to the FAA, and to correct any deficiencies encountered.

The TSB investigation into this accident is ongoing. Additional factual information will be provided as it becomes available.

Previous Investigation Updates and photographs may also be viewed at the TSB web site.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

INVESTIGATION UPDATE A98H0003

(Halifax, Nova Scotia, October 29, 1998) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada technical examination of recovered materials from Swissair Flight 111 has revealed that some of the wiring and structure, located in the ceiling in the vicinity of the cockpit, shows signs of heat damage. Some of this wiring is associated with the aircraft`s In Flight Entertainment (IFE) system.

After discussions with investigators from the TSB, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)of the United States, and the Swiss Federal Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, Swissair decided that as a precaution, they will voluntarily immediately disconnect the IFE system on all of their aircraft equipped with this particular system. Information available at this time indicates that the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), under which this system was installed, is unique to the Swissair fleet. It is presently being determined if other aircraft may have this system installed.

At this time there is insufficient information to determine if this heat damaged material was related to the heat source, or was merely the by product of other events.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation into this accident is continuing.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

Investigation Update Swissair Flight 111 - August 1999

(Halifax, Nova Scotia, 27 August 1999) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigation into the accident involving Swissair Flight 111 is continuing.


Between early May and the end of July, aircraft wreckage was recovered by the research vessel Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel (CFAV) "ENDEAVOUR", working together with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This operation brought to the surface about 5,100 lbs of wire, portions of the aircraft skin and interior pieces. Some of the recovered pieces were from the forward ceiling area, and showed heat damage. The CFAV "ENDEAVOUR" was also involved in mapping and preparing the bottom area for the next recovery operation.


A final phase of recovery operations, planned for the middle of September, will employ a suction dredge ship for about a week. The recovered material will be transferred to an on-shore containment area to be sifted and sorted. It will likely take up to eight weeks to sift through the dredged materials. Retrieved wreckage items will then be taken to the investigation hangar at Shearwater, Nova Scotia, for identification and processing.


Tests are under way to assess the significance of the arcing found on 14 segments of wire from the accident aircraft. The TSB, in conjunction with a number of engineering laboratories, is working to develop a method to test whether the wires arced as a result of a short circuit in a normal environment or whether, instead, the arcing was a secondary outcome of a fire that damaged the wire insulation, which in turn allowed the wiring to arc. If a suitable test can be developed, the TSB will test some of the wire that has been recovered from the wreckage of Flight 111.


To date, the TSB has promulgated a Safety Advisory and six interim Safety Recommendations resulting from the investigation into this occurrence:

 

  • a Safety Advisory concerning inspection of the wiring in the forward ceiling areas of MD-11 aircraft.
  • four Safety Recommendations concerning flight recorders, dealing with independent power supplies and duration of CVR recordings.
  • two Safety Recommendations dealing with the mitigation of risks associated with the flammability characteristics of certain types of thermal acoustical blanket materials, and the need to develop more rigorous test criteria for thermal acoustic blankets for use on aircraft.
 

The investigation into this occurrence is complex and time-consuming. Work is progressing at an appropriate rate for an accident of this complexity. More fact-finding and safety analysis will be undertaken as the investigation progresses over the coming months. This investigation has already led to the identification of safety deficiencies; should other deficiencies be identified, further safety action will be taken.

At Hangar "A" in Shearwater, investigation progresses both on the analysis of aircraft components, and with the time-consuming reconstruction of portions of the first nine metres of the forward section of the aircraft. Work continues on the identification, examination, heat-damage analysis, and documentation and matching of aircraft front section pieces and recovered wiring. Aircraft maintenance records continue to be reviewed to seek trends or patterns that might assist in the ongoing investigation. Analysis is also continuing into which of the various electrically driven systems, such as the fuel pumps, were or were not functioning at the time of impact.

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Last Updated: 2001/02/07

 

Location of Debris Field

 

Because of the manner in which the debris was scattered on the ocean bottom, it is impossible to identify a specific location of the initial impact of Swissair Flight 111. Below are the four coordinates of the corners of a 500 metre square box that is estimated to contain the initial impact point.

The coordinates are as follows:

Northwest corner - 63deg 58.6134' W, 44deg 24.6973' N,

Northeast corner - 63deg 58.2366' W, 44deg 24.6906' N,

Southwest corner - 63deg 58.6088' W, 44deg 24.4173' N,

Southeast corner - 63deg 58.2321' W, 44deg 24.4205' N.