Wings Magazine

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Aviation Safety: March/April 03

Approximately seven minutes after their “emergency” declaration, the aircraft struck the water near Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.


October 2, 2007
By Steve Leslie
 
 
 
 
 

On September 2, 1998 Swissair Flight 111 departed JFK for Geneva.
Approximately 56 minutes after takeoff, the crew noted visible smoke
and declared the international urgency signal “Pan, Pan, Pan” to
Moncton Area Control Centre. Moncton ACC cleared Flight 111 direct to
Halifax airport. While the aircraft was manoeuvring for landing, the
flight crew advised Moncton that they had to “land immediately” and
were “declaring an emergency!” Approximately seven minutes after their
“emergency” declaration, the aircraft struck the water near Peggy’s
Cove, Nova Scotia.

The
subsequent investigation revealed the presence of heat damage
consistent with a fire in the ceiling area forward and aft of the
cockpit bulkhead. In addition, findings revealed that both the Flight
Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) stopped
recording six minutes before impact. This discovery is especially
troublesome, as other recent investigations have revealed similar
deficiencies in the electrical power supply to flight recorders and
loss of critical investigation data. The same problem occurred during
the last minutes of ValuJet 592, TWA 800 and Silk Air 185 – in the Silk
Air case, it is speculated that the pilot turned off the CVR prior to
committing suicide.