Topic: Coming Soon- NOVA-Swissair 111 Crash
Member # 1
posted February 09, 2004 12:33 PM
aero-news.net article that CD posted (thanks, CD) states:
Board concluded that the arc on this electrical cable was
likely associated with the fire initiation event. The Board
also concluded that it is likely that one or more additional
wires were involved in the lead arcing event, and that the
additional wire or wires could have been either IFEN or
aircraft wires. Therefore, it could not be concluded that
the known arcing event on the IFEN cable located in the area
where the fire most likely originated was by itself the lead
language here is tricky. The TSB's term "lead event"
apparently refers to the actual source of ignition. However
... The existence of the arced IFEN wire implies that there
must have been a second wire involved, since there has to be
an electrical potential to create an arc. And the insulation
on both wires had to be breached. So whether or not
the second wire was an IFEN wire, and regardless of which
wire was involved in the "lead event", it is clear that the
IFEN wire's insulation failed. In the absence of this
failure, the second wire would have been irrelevant, since
there would have been no arc.
At the press conference for the release of the TSB's final
report, lead investigator Vic Gerden was asked, "Had the
IFEN not been present, would Swissair 111 have crashed?" He
refused to answer the question directly, emphasizing the
role of the metalized mylar insulation in the spread of the
fire. However, I believe the evidence reported by the TSB
shows clearly that the answer should have been no. Without
the IFEN, there would have been no crash.
I understand that the TSB's position is that the greater
good is served by those actions which most effectively
reduce future risk ... and since IFT's IFEN posed no future
risk, it received lesser emphasis.
This is the ugly politics of air safety at its worst. If the
IFEN is to blame, and the IFEN is gone, there is no need for
further corrective action. If Gerden had answered the
question directly and (IMHO) truthfully, he would have
seriously undermined the TSB's ability to influence the
safety improvements they recommended.
Member # 8
posted February 09, 2004 05:49 AM
NOVA: The Deadly Legacy Of Swiss Air 111
PBS Program Focuses On In-Flight Fire Danger
A new program to air on PBS later this month reports the
majority of America's civil aviation fleet is prone to
undetectable and unfightable in-flight fires. "NOVA
Presents: Crash Of Flight 111" further alleges the FAA and
the airline industry have been aware of this problem since
1993 and have, in the case of most recommendations from the
Canadian Transportation Safety Board, failed to act.
NOVA, renowned for its scientific approach to technically
complex stories, takes an inside look at the Canadian
investigation into the watery crash of Swiss Air Flight 111.
On September 2, 1998, the crew aboard that New York to
Geneva flight reported smelling smoke in the cockpit
approximately 53 minutes into the flight. The MD-11 was
diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a non-emergency
landing. Upon reaching the vicinity of the airport, the crew
decided the aircraft was too high and too heavy for a safe
landing -- especially given the possibility of a fire. So
they turned back out to sea to dump fuel and lose altitude.
That's when things started going horribly wrong for Flight
111. The CTSB, in a report last year, wrote, "About 13
minutes after the abnormal odor was first detected, the
aircraft's flight data recorder began to record a rapid
succession of aircraft systems-related failures. The flight
crew declared an emergency and indicated a need to land
immediately. About one minute later, radio communications
and secondary radar contact with the aircraft were lost, and
the flight recorders stopped functioning. About five and
one-half minutes later, at 10:31 p.m. Atlantic daylight
saving time (ADT), the aircraft crashed into the ocean about
five nautical miles southwest of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia,
Canada. The aircraft was destroyed and there were no
That was the beginning of a four-and-a-half year long, $39
million investigation into why Flight 111, with all 221
people on board, disintegrated upon impact with the Atlantic
Ocean, just six smiles from Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.
Investigators knew there had been a fire on board Flight
111. But they were unable to figure out where or how it
WGBH-TV in Boston (MA), which produces NOVA, reports the
investigation was all but finished without conclusion when a
Canadian investigator, wrapping up his inconclusive report
on the accident, came across evidence that an electrical arc
within the aircraft's in-flight entertainment network (IFEN)
may have sparked the fire. Eventually, the CTSB concluded,
"Reconstruction of the wreckage indicated that a segment of
arced electrical cable associated with the in-flight
entertainment network (IFEN) had been located in the area
where the fire most likely originated. The Board concluded
that the arc on this electrical cable was likely associated
with the fire initiation event. The Board also concluded
that it is likely that one or more additional wires were
involved in the lead arcing event, and that the additional
wire or wires could have been either IFEN or aircraft wires.
Therefore, it could not be concluded that the known arcing
event on the IFEN cable located in the area where the fire
most likely originated was by itself the lead event."
NOVA reports the electrical arc, generating up to 12,000
degrees (F), ignited the supposedly fireproof mylar
insulation surrounding the interior of the aircraft. The
program quotes experts who say, in aircraft where there's as
much as 150 miles of wire on board, there can be up to 1500
cracks in wiring insulation. Couple that with the type of
condensation typical in the upper compartments of an
aircraft in flight and NOVA's experts suggest the
possibility for a disastrous in-flight fire event are
Isn't that metalized mylar insulation, variants of which are
used in most commercial aircraft, supposed to be fireproof?
It is. But it isn't, reports NOVA. The program quotes one
NTSB official who acknowledged the flammability of metalized
mylar, saying, "I think quite clearly that there was an
oversight, that the testing procedures were not adequate to
reveal the danger from this metalized mylar. And it took a
tragedy such as Swiss Air 111 to highlight that more needed
to be done in this area."
Further, the PBS program reports silicone end caps used in
air circulation ducts -- also certified by the FAA as
fireproof -- burned after just four seconds' exposure to an
ignition source. The end caps were flame-tested at the FAA's
testing center near Atlantic City (NJ).
"I think it was a surprise to a number of people," said a
CTSB official, "and not just our team. It certainly was a
surprise to me. I didn't think it would burn like that. I
never even thought about it. I think that most of the other
pilots in the world would be in the same boat."
With the end caps burned away, fresh air was allowed into
the area where the metalized mylar was already burning,
lending fresh fuel to the fire and forcing the flames toward
the overhead wiring compartments above the cockpit.
NOVA reports the flight crew, which originally believed they
had time to dump fuel and descend at a reasonable rate,
actually ran out of time. The fire burned through the
cockpit ceiling, filling the cockpit with fire, smoke and
toxic fumes. Before their power and sensor leads were burned
out by the fire, the flight data recorder indicated a loss
of primary instrumentation, forcing the flight crew to rely
on hard-to-read backup instruments and, finally, trying to
fly over water at night, peering through a smoke-filled
"The pilots seat was retracted," said Ken Adams, the ALPA
representative to the Swiss Air 111 investigation. "So we
have a pretty good indication he was not in his seat, which
means to me he was actually up fighting the fire. He was
probably using a fire extinguisher. But if he didn't have
any protection from the toxic gasses, then he was probably
The Legacy Of Swiss Air 111
The most stinging allegation uncovered in the NOVA story on
Swiss Air 111 is that the FAA and airlines knew about the
flammability of metalized mylar as far back as 1993, after
an MD-11 burned on the taxiway at an airport in Denmark. The
program reports an MD-87 also burned on the tarmac in China.
In fact, NOVA sources allege there were several aircraft
fires in China during the 1990s -- so many, in fact, that
Chinese officials contacted the FAA and suggested "you guys
might have a flammability problem." But NOVA reports there
was no action taken by the FAA until after the Swiss Air
The FAA eventually did order airlines to remove the
metalized mylar used by McDonnell-Douglass in its passenger
aircraft by this year. The airlines quickly appealed and
were given until next year to remove and replace the
The CTSB issued 23 recommendations on improving the fire
detection and protection philosophies among aircraft
manufacturers and air carriers. Replacing the metalized
mylar was chief among them. But they also included adding
detection capabilities in inaccessible parts of aircraft --
the wiring compartments in particular.
"The TSB believes that the risk to the flying public can be
reduced by re-examining fire-zone designations in order to
identify additional areas of the aircraft that should be
equipped with enhanced smoke/fire detection and suppression
systems. Therefore, the TSB made the following
"Appropriate regulatory authorities, together with the
aviation community, review the methodology for establishing
designated fire zones within the pressurized portion of the
aircraft, with a view to providing improved detection and
suppression capability. A00-17 (issued 4 December 2000)
"Along with initiating the other elements of a comprehensive
firefighting plan, it is essential that flight crews give
attention, without delay, to preparing the aircraft for a
possible landing at the nearest suitable airport. Therefore,
the TSB made the following recommendation:
"Appropriate regulatory authorities take action to ensure
that industry standards reflect a philosophy that when
odor/smoke from an unknown source appears in an aircraft,
the most appropriate course of action is to prepare to land
the aircraft expeditiously. A00-18 (issued 4 December 2000)
"Aircraft accident data indicate that a self-propagating
fire can develop quickly. Therefore, odor/smoke checklists
must be designed to ensure that the appropriate
troubleshooting procedures are completed quickly and
effectively. The TSB is concerned that this is not the case,
and made the following recommendation:
"Appropriate regulatory authorities ensure that emergency
checklist procedures for the condition of odor/smoke of
unknown origin be designed so as to be completed in a time
frame that will minimize the possibility of an in-flight
fire being ignited or sustained. A00-19 (issued 4 December
The problem, according to NOVA, is that these safety
recommendations are not being implemented by the FAA,
considered the world's leader in implementing aviation
"We're presently having new airplanes designed -- they're on
the drawing board," said ALPA's Ken Adams. "Boeing has one.
Airbus has what's called the Airbus 380, a 550 passenger
airplane. The regulations haven't changed. They don't have
to provide any more fire detection or fire protection than
we had on Swiss Air 111."
"NOVA Presents: Crash Of Flight 111" airs on PBS stations
February 17th at 8:00 p.m. EST.
FMI: Canadian TSB Report On Flight 111,
Member # 73
posted February 04, 2004 10:35 PM
documentary appears to be a repeat of several others that
were done before the final report came out last year.
Instead of mentioning that the investigators actually found
the arcing on an entertainment system wire, it is referred
to as cable- leaving the viewer confused as to where the
fire originated. An accurate book needs to be written about
this tragedy before the real story fades into oblivion. I
have no problem with the points they bring up but as far as
I can see it leaves a huge part of this story out.
Member # 1
posted February 02, 2004 08:52 AM
The FAA is dragging its feet on safety recommendations
resulting from the crash of Swissair Flight 111 according to
the producers of a documentary television special on the
crash. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board issued 23
recommendations from its investigation of the crash, which
occurred off the coast of Nova Scotia while the flight was
en route from New York to Switzerland. The documentary, to
air Feb. 17 on NOVA, says few of the recommendations have
Member # 1
posted January 29, 2004 11:02 PM
29, 2004 03:27 PM US Eastern Timezone
Exclusive Investigation: NOVA/PBS Investigate the Swissair
Crash of Flight 111 and the Safety Recommendations That Have
Yet to Be Implemented by the FAA
for Tuesday (Feb. 17)
--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Editor's Note - A copy of this program
and expert interviews are available by contacting Jonathan
Renes at 617-300-4427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Press
Release and photography are available at
WHO: NOVA, PBS' award-winning science series that airs
Tuesdays at 8pm ET.
WHAT: NOVA's cameras exclusively document the findings from
investigation of the accident involving Swissair Flight 111.
Swissair Flight 111 took off from New York City bound for
Geneva, Switzerland with 229 people aboard on September 2,
1998. The flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the
of Nova Scotia, leaving no survivors.
WHEN: Crash of Flight 111 airs on NOVA Tuesday, February 17,
8PM ET/PT on PBS (check local listings).
NOVA was given unprecedented access to one of the most
intricate aviation investigations ever mounted. This
investigation cost $40 million, took four years, and
involved a search for evidence among two million pieces of
debris. Investigators eventually confirmed that the cause of
the accident was a fire set off by conditions that still
exist on many planes today.
In March of 2003, the Canadian Transportation Safety Board
made twenty-three recommendations to the FAA to improve
flight safety, including the installation of smoke detectors
and video cameras to reveal hidden fires, providing black
boxes with a back-up power supply, increasing the size and
visibility of standby instruments, stricter standards on
aircraft wiring, new flammability standards and the removal,
from all airplanes, of the insulation material that burned
in the Flight 111 accident, Metalized Mylar. To this date
the FAA has not approved most of the recommendations that
were made - including the installation of additional fire
detection and suppression devices.
"If the cabin of a modern jetliner was a restaurant or a
nursing home, it would fail safety standards and would not
get an occupancy permit," says David Evans, editor-in-chief,
Air Safety Week.
In the end the culprit for the fire on Flight 111 was faulty
wiring located in the attic of the plane above the cockpit.
A spark ignited materials - previously thought to be
nonflammable - spreading smoke and fire in to the cockpit,
blinding the pilots. Had there been fire detection and
suppression devices in the airplane's attic, the disaster
could have been avoided.
Let's just hope this is not still another 'kapton wiring'
documentary. The spark was found on the ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM
WIRING- let's hope Nova mentioned that. There are those that
would blame every crash on kapton wiring- rest assured
swissair wasn't one of them. The Kapton agenda was around
prior to sr111. I think the Canadian final report is pretty
clear on this point. Let's not let the bad guys off the
hook. Mark and I sent them plenty of compelling information
and I hope it wasn't ignored. I just want the truth told
about what happened to my daughter.
Member # 73
posted January 17, 2004 10:18 PM
of Flight 111
Web site launch date: February 3, 2004
Program broadcast date: February 17, 2004
On September 2, 1998, Swissair Flight 111 plummeted into the
sea off Nova Scotia while en route from New York to Geneva.
All 229 people on board were killed. In May 2003, Canada's
Transportation Safety Board published its final conclusions
from an investigation that took more than four years and
cost $30 million. NOVA's cameras were there from the
beginning, revealing the inside story of one of the most
baffling and intricate aviation investigations ever mounted.
On the companion Web site, hear one air-safety expert's
views on what's effective and what's not in crash
investigations and their aftermath. Also, learn of policy
and design changes that have followed crash investigations,
see beneath the skin of a typical passenger jetliner to the
myriad systems that make it run, and more.
A Wireless Black Box?
Black-box data from several recent major crashes, including
SwissAir 111 and all four 9/11 planes, was either lost or
irretrievable. This has left some aviation experts thinking
the time has come to develop technology to transmit such
data to ground stations in real time.
On Crash Investigations
David Evans, the editor of Air Safety Week, discusses the
Swissair 111 investigation with an air-safety expert's deep
knowledge and a seasoned journalist's objectivity.
Making Air Travel Safer
Learn what steps were taken following major commercial
aviation disasters to correct the design of airplanes or the
policies that govern their operation.
Anatomy of a Jetliner
In this interactive, get to know a passenger jet from the
inside out, from its miles of electrical wires, to its
complex ventilation ducts and awesome fuel supplies.