I was highly affected by the accident and I still am.
All discussions I've seen yet are discussing causes only, but it happens that something goes wrong and if one have time to react, he/she should do so.
1. From the radio communication between sr111 and others is obvious (I'd say) that pilots has lost more then 30 minutes.
2. Pilots were reading a checklist, rather then to make immediate decision
3. Descending. The pilots respected maximum allowed descend and thus had to make one additional route. I believe that all planes have the recommended maximum limits, but all these limits can be exceeded to some extent.
4. I know - all moves of pilots are driven by air companies which want to save money ï¿½
Jarda, welcome to the site. The TSB in their final report issued in March of this year gave an explanation for why the pilots did not understand the seriousness of the escalating smoke/fire that was occurring on swissair 111. They basically stated that the plane's ventilation/airflow chanelled the smoke away from the crew during the initial stages of the fire which apparently caused the (IMHO) poor decisions they made. I happen to agree with you because it is my belief that all pilots should take even the hint of smoke/odor/fire very seriously and attempt to land immediately. I still believe that had they reacted from the moment they became aware something was wrong, that they could have landed the aircraft in Halifax.
The TSB's report didn't address an article that came out in the WSJ that said that the pilots fought over the decision to land. We never received a clear answer as to whether or not that was true. I think the TSB came up with a plausible explanation of why the pilots delayed their decision, but I don't believe that the pilots of sr111 did the right thing. A retired airline captain who occasionally posts on this site told us that his company's policy was to always land an aircraft ASAP at any hint of smoke/odor/fire.
Here is a thread about that article. You need to read from the bottom up to follow the threads.
quote:I think that statement is very unfair. You know, pilots have families and loved ones like everybody else, and they don't want to die any more than anybody else. Pilots take the welfare of their passengers with the utmost seriousness. I remember well the first time I carried a non-pilot passenger with me. I was very nervous the night before. This was a human life I had in my hands. His life literally rested on my ability to fly the airplane. I almost cancelled the flight because the though of what I was about to do, quite frankly, scared the crap out of me. I cannot imagine that any pilot would ever let the motivation of saving money take precedence over passenger safety. Maybe I have a biased opinion, but that's the way I see it.
"They shall mount up with wings, as eagles." Isaiah 40:31
quote:David, Maybe I'm interpreting Jarda incorrectly but I'm reading that statement to mean that he is a little skeptical of the airline's motives, not the pilots. I do want to mention that after the crash swissair shortened their checklist to make it about half as long. Delta Airlines who also has several MD-11s smoke/fire checklist was half as long before the crash. I think there was plenty of reason to be skeptical of swissair's motives. Like trying extra hard to save their aircraft. Remember this is the airline that bought an entertainment system from an unknown, inexperienced company in Arizona and allowed it to be installed improperly on their airplanes. Furthermore when they found it was running hot and worse, they merely turned up the air conditioning to compensate for the heat. You would think that the following incident which I understand was pretty covered up (to the public) by the airline, would have been huge wake-up call to them and the pilots.
This nearly tragic incident was later incorporated into their training video for pilots. But look what happened following the tragedy. It was removed. A quote from the old site:
"Swissair have been using a training video made of
the 1993 SR551 near-accident as a flight and cabin
crew LOFT training aid for many years. It's now been
withdrawn and isn't "available". The last person to see it
reports that the interview with the SR551 crew that had
been at the end of that tape ... wasn't there any more
when he last saw it.
It's a pity that it isn't any
longer "available" because it could either pose or
answer some difficult questions."
Just wanted to add that we know that the airline knowingly put the pilots/crew/passengers at risk when they signed up to have the IFEN installed. One that the pilots couldnï¿½t even turn off. It was rushed, caution was thrown to the wind, and most important it was totally incompatible with the design of the aircraft. Hiding behind the FAA approving it doesn't let them off the hook. The FAA wasn't there when they got approval in Switzerland because they couldn't get the STC fast enough and exerted pressure to have it approved despite the misgivings of their own version of the FAA in Switzerland.They clearly put their potential profits ahead of safety. So would I be surprised that saving the aircraft was drilled into the pilots' heads? Heck no.
Just wanted to make one last remark. swissair was run by bankers and they don't belong in the airline business.
The TSB Report states, in Section 2.20.4, Theoretical Emergency Descent Calculations:
quote:The problem with this is hidden in the phrase "...after the aircraft began to decend." Smoke was visible at elapsed flight time 110:38. The Pan Pan transmission did not occur until 114:15, almost 4 minutes. The decent did not begin until 116:34, nearly 6 minutes.
The TSB report further states:
quote:If this is correct, and the sequence would have started four minutes sooner, a safe landing might have been possible. Major system failures occurred between four and five minutes before the crash. By this time the aircraft could have been near the runway.
A minute and a half was lost turning toward Boston and then, on the advice of the ATC, choosing Halifax.
If, at the first sighting of smoke, the first order of business had been locating the nearest available landing location and setting a course to it, it would have been possible to land within the 20 minutes and 41 seconds available.
This analysis is hardly proof that they would have landed safely. But it's clear their chances would have been better.
Who was to blame? There's plenty of blame to go around. Since the crash of SR111, there has been a lot of discussion of the best procedure when smoke is detected, all of which asserts the position that immediate landing is the proper response. The data needed to reach this conclusion were readily available before September of 1998, but were not acted upon. In the case of Swissair and it's long smoke checklist, it is clear that this was not a priority.
However, as much training and procedures are emphasized today, they do not eliminate the need for good judgement on the part of the flight crew. Precious minutes were lost during which the SR111 crew assumed the smoke was related to the A/C. Wouldn't prudence be better served by a presumption of the worst case rather than the best.
The TSB's analysis is built on assumptions that give the benefit of the doubt to the flight crew. And, after all, their situation was the result of a serious in-flight fire that should never have occurred. But that's not quite the same as saying they did precisely the right thing!
David, yes BF is right. I was pointing my finger to the "company environment". The most expansive part of a flight is take-off and landing.
quote:there's a checklist for everything. There's a preflight checklist. There's a climb checklist. There's a cruise checklist. There are descent and landing checklists. There's an engine out checklist. There's an electrical fire checklist. There's an engine fire checklist.
quote:I think this is unfair. You can't compare i.e. preflight checklist with the engine fire checklist, I mean - you can't put them on the same emergency level. And, don't take it bad, how you can read a checklist if the cabin is full of smoke ?
Back to the "immediate decision". Years ago I took the SR111 flight track with timestamps and inserted the radio transcript there. Unfortunately I can't find it anymore, but I remember the impression I've got - too late.
Secondly - repeating myself - why to not override an aircraft limits ? I don't know these parameters, but there must be something like max descending meters per distance for normal flight and max before you'd lost control or caused a damage on the plane. Or, why to not dump fuel anywhere in such situation ?
I know it's not easy to make such decisions, but shouldn't be pilots regularly trained and tested for reactions under stress ?
quote:I understand what you're saying, Barbara. I just want to draw a distinction between airline management and the people sitting in the chairs up front. I'll fully agree that the pilots would've had saving the aircraft drilled into them. Save the aircraft, and you save the people in it.
When you say that Swissair was "run by bankers," I'm not sure exactly what you mean. Every airline has major investors that probably know little about the mechanics of running an airline.
"They shall mount up with wings, as eagles." Isaiah 40:31
quote:True, takeoff and landing are the times most likely that there will be a mishap.
quote:No, of course they're not on the same emergency level. The idea of an electrical fire checklist would be to get the fire out BEFORE the cabin is full of smoke. All major items of the emergency checklists should be commited to memory. If there is time, then it is a very good idea to look at the appropriate checklist. There could always be something that was missed. The first and foremost rule in any emergency, however, is FLY THE AIRPLANE. In other words, keep the airplane under control.
quote:In short, it's a judgement call. Which has the greatest chance of succeeding, violate the normal performance limits of the airplane, or slow down and do things within the limits? There's no one answer. It depends completely upon the particular situation at the time. As far as dumping fuel anywhere, there is always the chance you could send a great deal of fuel spilling down on a populated area. But again, it's a judgement call. There is no one answer that will always be right.
quote:No, it is not easy, and pilots do regularly train for emergencies. Simulators have gotten remarkably realistic. It is not uncommon to see pilots who have just finished a particularly stressful simulator session exhibiting the same physiological responses as if it had been the real thing, ie. sweating, accelerated heart rate and breathing, even shaking.
"They shall mount up with wings, as eagles." Isaiah 40:31
RE: "Run by Bankers"
Yes, all large compaines have investors. But ostensibly, they don't make operational decisions. The theory is that investors are represented by the board of directors. The board has the power to hire executives, set their compensation and incentives and, under certain circumstances, replace them. One expects the board to hire qualified professionals who know the business.
During the latter days of Swissair, the executive team spent their time and effort on financial wheeling and dealing. Their focus was clearly their acquisition binge. Some very questionable accounting showed paper profits that were later exposed to be a cleverly constructed facade. I suppose calling them bankers might be an insult to honest bankers (there must be a few somewhere).
But the real point is that they weren't focused on running the airline. BEfore the reorganization just prior to the installation of the infamous IFT entertainment system, SRTechnics always served as project manager for aircraft modifications. But as a result of their reduced role after the reorganization, Santa Barbara Aerospace was given project management responsiblity and SRTechnics was relegated to the role of contractor (to perform minimal QA). Talk about the fox guarding the hen-house! Marketing bullied engineering and decisions were poorly thought out. A classic case of management that lost its focus on the core business.
Do Canadian Airlines have a policy that states to "get your ass on the ground NOW?"
I saw a program last night about this crash and I have to say I don't know much more then what I saw. There were different experts and the air traffic control guy who was guiding the plane. What I got out of the show and what was said by the experts was that while the pilots should have put the plane down before anything else and that they did not realise how serious this matter was that whatever that had of done there would have been no way that plane would have landed at the airport.
As Lancer said pilots take people's safety very seriously and would not knowly have put these people in danger in hindsight I'm sure if they had their time again they would have done things differently.
I noticed BF said that Delta Airlines did have a shorter safety list and that Swissair had a longer list and yes that may have contributed but lets remember facts Delta Airlines in the past has cut back on spending on safety which has caused them to suffer airline crashes also and before this tradegy Swissair was known as the safetest airline in the world. Swissair made mistakes in the installation of their entertainment system and unfortunately innocent people suffered for this and for the families of the victims nothing will bring them back.
This show I watched also talked about the improvements in safety Swissair had made in putting cameras and smoke deators in the planes I wonder which other airlines have also done this.
Finally I am someone who is terrified of flying but a year after this tradgey I had to get from London to Geneva and back again. I choose the airline that had one of the best safety records and not for one minute did I feel unsafe.
I do think things could have been done differently same as things could have been done differently on Sept 11. But I do think to say pilots are driven by the money of a company who has built is reputation on safetly would not have risked their life for money and that is an insult to every pilot and those 2 pilots.
Jarda you obviously don't have much respect for pilots which I can only take to mean you haven't traveled by air and every reached destination. I have and as someone who is terrified of traveling I am always so grateful to the pilots for getting me there alive and I could not for one minute imagine how they handle a job which which every day means they have to do their best to protect human life. Unfortunately pilots like the rest of us are human and not superman mistakes are made and when they make mistakes it can result in the loss of human life.
I guess my point is that unless you aren't human or don't make mistakes it is hard to critise the decisions they made on that day, unless we too are in the same situation its hard to say would should have been done. To the families my heart goes out to you I can not for one minute understand what you went through and still do.
Pinkey, Are you referring to the special that was done I think by Discovery, where there was a re-enactment of the actual plane crash?
Pinkey, Here is a different POV regarding the pilots' behavior. This is from the WSJ:
By WILLIAM M. CARLEY
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Aviators around the world have been arguing for months about whether the pilots of Swissair Flight 111 should have flown by the book or by instinct.
Now a summary of the cockpit voice recording shows that the flight's two pilots were sharply at odds over that very issue. The co-pilot wanted to scrap the rules and land quickly. The captain insisted they stick with convention.
Swissair 111 Crash Spurs Debate on Following Cockpit Procedure (Dec. 16)
The issue is important. Critics argue that a prompt landing could have saved the jet, while Swissair officials have contended that such a touchdown wasn't possible.
As smoke seeped into the cockpit of the MD-11 the night of Sept. 2, the pilots could have headed straight for the Halifax, Nova Scotia, airport rather than follow a lengthy checklist and plan other time-consuming procedures, such as dumping fuel. While the cockpit-recording summary doesn't provide any evidence of an acrimonious argument, it does show the Swissair co-pilot repeatedly suggesting steps aimed at a quick landing, and the captain rejecting or ignoring those proposals.
The co-pilot wanted a rapid descent. He suggested dumping fuel early so the jet wouldn't be too heavy to land. And he talked of heading directly to the airport rather than turning out to sea to dump fuel.
But the Swissair captain told the co-pilot, who was flying the plane, not to descend too fast. The captain delayed a decision on dumping fuel. On the issue of heading for the airport or turning toward the sea, the captain, apparently preoccupied with the checklist, didn't give any definitive answer.
At another point, the captain brushed off a proposal by the co-pilot. "The captain said, in effect, 'Don't bother me, I'm going through the checklist,' " one person familiar with the cockpit-recording summary said.
Minutes later, the jet plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 229 on board. The Canadian government is investigating the crash.
Differences between the captain and his co-pilot during the final minutes of the flight haven't been revealed before because, under Canadian law, the cockpit voice recording can't be released publicly. But a preliminary summary of the recording, prepared by Canadian-government investigators, was obtained by The Wall Street Journal. The summary reveals the rare drama of two pilots battling to save the plane -- and their own lives -- while at odds over how to do it.
David Austin, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said he couldn't comment because he was prevented by Canadian law from discussing the contents of the cockpit voice recording. Swissair also declined to comment, saying the voice recording is confidential.
The captain of Flight 111 from New York to Geneva was 49-year-old Urs Zimmermann. He was a veteran Swissair pilot, although he had been flying the MD-11 for just over a year. The co-pilot was Stefan Lowe, 36, who had flown for Swissair since 1990 but had been co-piloting the aircraft for just four months. Conversations between the two, mostly in Swiss German, were described in English in the summary.
The flight began smoothly enough. After the jet took off and climbed to 33,000 feet, the cockpit recording picked up the sounds of cutlery and a conversation about food. The pilots were eating dinner.
But at 10:11 p.m. local time, there was a strange smell. At first the pilots seemed confused about its nature, but within two minutes Capt. Zimmermann said he could "definitely" smell smoke, according to the summary. Though investigators are checking cockpit wiring, the cause of the smoke is still unknown.
The pilots discussed turning back to Boston, New York or Bangor, Maine. But when Co-pilot Lowe radioed the "PAN, PAN, PAN" distress call to a Canadian air-traffic controller, the controller suggested Halifax, nearly dead ahead, only 70 miles away.
At 10:16 p.m., Co-pilot Lowe, who was flying the jet through its autopilot, turned toward Halifax. Just 14 minutes remained before the crash.
"Swissair One Eleven, you're cleared to ten thousand feet ... ," the Canadian controller radioed. But when the co-pilot told Capt. Zimmermann the jet would descend to 10,000, the captain ordered him "not to go too fast," the summary says, apparently meaning "don't descend too fast."
The Swissair pilots, meanwhile, had donned their oxygen masks. Because microphones in the masks picked up their breathing, respiration rates could be measured. Capt. Zimmermann's had soared to nearly 25 breaths per minute, indicating high stress. Co-pilot Lowe's was a more moderate 11 breaths per minute.
There were reasons for stress, beyond the central one. The pilots didn't have landing charts for Halifax at hand, so they had to ask a flight attendant to bring them forward. The chief flight attendant had to be informed about the diversion to Halifax; he announced it to passengers in three languages. And the pilots had to make more radio calls to the controller.
At 10:20 p.m., the controller radioed, "You've got thirty miles to fly to the threshold" of the Halifax runway. By this time, Co-pilot Lowe, who may have been heeding Capt. Zimmermann's admonition, had slowed the jet's rate of descent to 3,100 feet per minute from 4,000 feet per minute.
The co-pilot was clearly worried about that. According to the summary, he told the captain he wanted to descend "as fast as possible" so they could land if the smoke got too dense. The jet was now at 19,800 feet.
Co-pilot Lowe also asked the captain about dumping fuel. The two talked about whether to dump immediately or to wait awhile. Capt. Zimmermann, the summary says, put off making the decision.
The air controller, meanwhile, had guided the jet due north, pointing it slightly to the left of the airport so the plane could cut enough altitude to make a direct approach to Halifax runway 06.
At 10:22 p.m., the crew had to make a crucial decision. Swissair officials contend the jet was too high and heavy with fuel to make a direct approach to runway 06. The jet was 25 miles from the airport and, at 11,900 feet, still too high for a normal approach. But a number of pilots have said it was low enough for a steeper, emergency approach. Should the jet turn right toward the airport or circle left, back out to sea?
As for dumping fuel, in the five minutes or so it would take to fly directly to the airport, the MD-11 could have cut its weight to its maximum overweight-landing limit of 218,000 metric tons from 230,000 tons. But jettisoned fuel might have spattered people and property below.
"Are you able to take a turn back to the south, or do you want to stay closer to the airport?" the controller asked. Co-pilot Lowe asked the captain whether to turn south for dumping or land the plane. But Capt. Zimmermann, the cockpit-recording summary says, didn't give any definite answer.
"OK, we are able for a left or a right turn toward the south to dump," Co-pilot Lowe radioed the controller. As he began circling left to head out to sea, however, he apparently was worried that the jet would get too far from the airport. He would reduce speed if the captain agreed, he told Capt. Zimmermann.
The captain, according to the summary, replied that he was in the midst of a checklist and "didn't want to be interrupted" so often. Do what was appropriate, he told the co-pilot.
A minute later, at 10:23 p.m., the jet's autopilot stopped functioning and Co-pilot Lowe radioed that he had to fly the plane manually. Then, in overlapping transmissions, both Capt. Zimmermann and Co-pilot Lowe radioed that the jet was declaring a full-blown emergency, with the co-pilot adding, "We have to land immediate."
At this point, the summary says, respiration rates of the captain and co-pilot were both at 25 breaths per minute, showing both under high stress. The summary adds that their words became rushed, their voices urgent.
At 10:25 p.m., perhaps because of the thickening smoke, Co-pilot Lowe told the captain it was all he could do just to fly the plane. Seconds later, his instruments -- bright video displays -- went dark, and he spoke of flying on a few standby instruments.
The cockpit voice recording stopped. Five minutes later, Swissair 111 went down.
Updated January 21, 1999 3:57 a.m. EST
Here is an article about the entertainment system that tells the real story.
As far as swissair being an upstanding company, I would ask you then why are they out of business? It's well known that it was very poorly run after 1993 when they decided to become a big empire rather than an airline and spread themselves thin. The result was bankruptcy.
The show over here was called Mayday I don't know if it was done by the discovery channel but it was the first time the airtraffic controller had spoken about the crash.
As for the company being an outstanding business I didn't quite say that I said Swissair had one of the safest records and was known as the safest airline in the world they had to have the record for some reason. We in Australia had a outstanding airline company that was run badly and went under but the airline itself was an outstanding company.
As for what happen in the cockpit it would not surprise me if they were arguing and yes in the end the wrong choose was made. All I know is what I saw on this show and the experts said either way the probably would not have been able to land. Should they have tried a bit sooner of course the should have and maybe if they had the people who lost their lives would still be here today. The pilot made a mistake and it cost innocent people but I don't think he meant to kill the other 227 people and I don't think he realised how serious the problem was. My point was we are all human and we all make mistakes in our lives and in our work unfortunately in their work mistakes can cost lives.
In relation to the entertainment system the wrong thing was done there and if they had of done it probably this tradgey probably would not have happened. Unfortunately tradgedies happen most of the time because of human error. Sept 11 for instance probably would not have happened the if the FAA knew the first thing about threats to the American airline industry. Later that day I heard a lady who had been head of the FAA saying that while they knew there could be terrorist attacks from international flights they never for one minute thought there could be terrorism from internal flights. I could not believe this as I remember hearing on the news years ago that Osma might attack internal flights (just after the bombings in Africa) yet the FAA did not know this. If they had over the last 20 years spent a bit more on security 3000 people would still be alive today. Human error again at play.
It just annoyed me that Jarda seemed to be treating pilots with disrespect. They too paid with their lives there families too have suffered. They should have landed and I wish they had off. Thank you for suppling those articles was very interesting and sad reading.
To the families again they have my symapthy and respect is hard to go through those kind of things without knowing what happened for so long and must make it hard to move on. I hope the report has been able to help families get on with their lives because I'm 100% positive victims would want this. Also to the people of the area this happened in they are sometimes the forgetton people it must have been sad for them to see this suffering.
Pinkey thanks for your reply. I think maybe the airline with the best safety record is Qantas, isn't it? Don't they have a record of no fatalities?
They probably are now but before the Swissair crash they had the best record. Qantas has add a close call thought in Thailand a few years ago 1999 or 2000 they overshot the runway and sort of crashed but nobody was killed but there were people injured. They have also in the last year had someone try to highjack the plane. Thanks to the great flight crew they were able to over power him and only a male crew member and female crew member where injured. But they are pretty good. At least they don't have drunk pilots like British Airways which is a bit of a worry.
Pinkey, I do remember the Thailand incident but I wasn't aware of the recent terrorist attempted takeover. If I recall, there was some question as to whether the aircraft (Thailand) was going to be considered a write-off or could be repaired. A bent frame or something to that effect? I think it ended up back in service?
swissair had a near tragedy in 1993 in Munich.
I'm not quite sure what they did with the plane I was living in London so really did not hear much about it.
As to the attempted highjacking it was a man with a mental problem and nothing to do with Al Qaeda but the scary part was he did it with wooden stakes and he stabbed the male airhost in the back of the heard a few times did not look pretty at all.
I'm guessing that you set up this page because you lost someone in this crash and I hope I have not insulted you in any way. I am sorry for you loss. I was living in Switzerland in Sept 1999 and it was not hard to see how much this had affected the people of Switzerland and how the victims of this crash will always have a special place in the swiss heart.
Pinkey, You haven't at all hurt or offended me and yes I lost my daughter Tara in the crash. I try to keep the site updated as to any new information on the tragedy so that it is never forgotten. It is interesting to hear other peoples' perspective on this.
I'm sorry about your daughter. Do you stay in contact with my of the other victims families?
I think the site is a nice idea and I'm sure people will not forget what happened.
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