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TSB issues Swissair 111 recommendations

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TSB issues Swissair 111 recommendations

Old 29th Aug 2001, 02:52
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Post TSB issues Swissair 111 recommendations

From Canoe

More recommendations from Swissair probe
By SUE BAILEY-- The Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) -- Investigators into the 1998 Swissair crash called
Tuesday for a ban on flammable materials in planes and tougher aircraft
wiring tests, a move hailed as a huge step by one of the aviation industry's
most vocal critics.

"That's a giant leap for humankind," said Ed Block, a wiring and air crash
expert based near Philadelphia.

Faulty wires are "the igniter" of many potentially deadly inflight problems,
he said.

The Transportation Safety Board, which is continuing its probe of the
disaster, also wants a reassessment of systems such as air conditioning
which could help feed oxygen to onboard fires.

Swissair Flight 111, an MD-11, slammed into the ocean off Nova Scotia
on Sept. 2, 1998, killing all 229 people on board.

"We are recommending a far more stringent certification test regime for
electrical wires -- one that takes into account the various ways in which
wires may fail," said the safety board.

"Over the years, manufacturers have become very good at making sure
that seats and interior cabin panels burn as little as possible in ... a crash,"
said chairman Benoit Bouchard.

"But it is also true that in behind those panels -- often in places where
there are few, if any, defences in terms of fire detection and suppression --
you can find various materials that can sustain a fire. And these materials
don't just burn; they can also emit toxic gases and excessive amounts of

They include a rubber-like substance called elastomeric material, used on
MD-11s to cap unused duct openings in air conditioning systems.

"An airplane should not crash as a result of one ignition source," said Vic
Gerden, chief investigator into the Swissair tragedy.

Time and more research are needed to discern the cost and practicality of
the board's fourth round of recommendations, Gerden said.

Block has been fighting for safer aircraft wiring for years. He co-authored
a report, released earlier this month, that studied international aviation
incidents over the last three decades. It cites more than 400 cases of
wire-related problems from 1972 to 2000, ranging from fatal crashes to
reports of cockpit smoke.

Block praised the safety board for recommending tougher tests that he
says are long overdue. But real change will depend on whether regulatory
agencies such as the powerful Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in
the United States turns the recommendations into new rules.

"This is an issue that is being addressed with research that the FAA
started and more will be done over the next few years," said spokesman
Les Dorr.

"We feel we need to upgrade those," he said of performance tests
currently conducted on aircraft wiring.

"I cannot speculate on what our formal response to the (board)
recommendations might be. But certainly we will consider them."

An MD-11 contains about 250 kilometres of electrical wire and rewiring
a single plane would cost several million dollars.

Canada's safety board is testing 20 burnt wires it believes were damaged
by electrical arcs between wires on the doomed Swissair flight.

It has found evidence that fire developed in the ceiling near the cockpit,
but hasn't discovered the cause. Wiring problems have long been

The board, along with its counterpart in the United States, has issued
several recommendations and advisories since the ongoing probe began.

"Our purpose in issuing these recommendations now is to enhance the
safety of the travelling public as quickly as possible," said Bouchard, 61,
who is retiring after five years as chairman.

The probe is not expected to wrap up before next year.

"It would be nice to see it solved," said Miles Gerety of Connecticut,
whose brother Pierce, 56, was on Flight 111. "But the older I get and the
longer it goes on, I don't know what solved is.

"The fact that my brother died in a terrible crash, it makes me concerned
about air safety, but it doesn't make me obsessed with it," he said, adding
he's still a frequent flier.

Tuesday's wiring recommendation will have a major impact, said Cliff
MacKay, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada,
representing airlines and flight schools.

"It's going to be very important not just to Canada but to the industry
around the world.

"Costs are always an issue, but it's never been something that the industry
has flinched at."

Previous safety board recommendations include:

-- Inspect cockpit wiring on all MD-11s.

-- Give flight recorders independent power sources and the capacity to
record up to two hours rather than 30 minutes.

-- Reduce or eliminate metallized Mylar blanket insulation, found to be
flammable. Mylar is currently being removed from aircraft worldwide at an
estimated cost of at least $1 billion.

-- Review firefighting capabilities and improve fire suppression and
detection equipment on aircraft.

The painstaking Swissair investigation has so far cost $52 million, much of
it spent lifting more than two million pieces of wreckage from the ocean
floor off Peggy's Cove, N.S.

Pilots aboard the plane reported smoke in the cockpit about 53 minutes
after leaving New York en route to Geneva. The plane's electrical systems
began failing some 15 minutes later before the jet plunged into the Atlantic

Canada's safety board is an independent agency that reports to
Parliament. It promotes safety in marine, pipeline, rail, and air travel by
investigating accidents to assess causes and contributing factors.

It makes recommendations geared to fix or reduce such problems and
makes its findings public.
Squawk 8888 is offline  
Old 29th Aug 2001, 11:57
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The Guvnor
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I have a copy of the report if anyone is interested - email addy in my profile.
Old 29th Aug 2001, 13:08
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Also in full at:

Dagger Dirk is offline  
Old 29th Aug 2001, 20:14
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Here are the links to the TSB press release and recommendations:


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