Thanks Pinky, I appreciate that. Yes I have been in touch with one person who lost a loved one in the crash almost daily since the tragedy, and a couple of other family members off and on. We have a few people on this site that have been very helpful providing information and there are some that send in stuff but don't post. Together they have made this site possible. I could never thank them all enough. I hope that you will stop by when you can.
Barbara and Mark provide an invaluable service via their site. I am proud to claim the "spot" of the family member that corresponds with Barbara on just about a daily basis.
I don't often have the ability, unfortunately, to post as often as I would like, but I check in each and every day..as I've done since they first established it.
I admire and respect the Fetherolf's for the contribution they've made, and continue to make, to aviation safety. Tara is as proud of her parents as I am, of that I have no doubt.
Just felt the need to pat them both on the back for providing such an excellent site/source of information in memory of their beloved daughter.
Lyn S. Romano
IASA/US (International Aviation Safety Assoc.)
Wife of Raymond M. Romano
Passenger on swissair Flight 111
Thanks Lyn, your comments are really appreciated. Lyn Romano and her highly respected group IASA have done an incredible job of advancing air safety. This is a good time to thank them for all the valuable information they've generously provided over the years. From the very beginning it has been our mutual goal to find out what happened to sr111. Lyn has also given me a lot of emotional support and for that I will always be grateful.
If we don't keep at it Babs? Who will?
Many thanks for the IASA "plug" and you already know each and every aspect of my personal feelings - so no need to expand on those here.
<<Pilots were reading a checklist, rather then to make immediate decision>>
Checklists are just an aide-memoire for action and they are normally arranged in a logical order - and certainly don't preclude immediate action (if that's warranted). Challenge and Reply checklists are the standard type of routine and they are in that guise, mostly confirmatory (i.e. things can have been done earlier, such as incremental flaps or fuel cross-tranfer ceased and the actions are just being cross-checked as "accomplished"). It would not be unusual if the aircraft had to level off above transition level for the PF (Pilot Flying) to say: "Hold the checks at Altimeters". PNF would read-back: "Holding Descent checklist at altimeters" All that means is that it would be inappropriate to set QNH (sea-level pressure) until they are below transition level (TL). Upon being re-cleared to an altitude below TL, the PF would say: "Continue (or complete) the Descent Checklist". At an appropriate point (once in receipt of landing runway and weather, expected approach time etc) the pilot would prebrief the instrument approach procedure from the approach plate and review aloud the Missed Approach Procedure and fuel required to proceed to the flight-planned alternate. Both pilots would review the FOB (Fuel on Board) against that alternate diversionary fuel requirement. If tight for fuel they might ask ATC for fuel priority. If not they may conceded a slot to someone who is. The point is that for normal operations a checklist just ensures that nothing is forgotten. It is a disciplined procedure carried out in a sterile cockpit. By sterile I mean that there is no chatting allowed - strictly business and silence prevails (wherever possible) so that the pilots can build a mental picture of where all the other traffic is....and how it might affect them.
By contrast, an abnormal checklist is a drill. If the problem is an engine fire, then obviously the requirement is to shut the engine down and utilize at least one fire-bottle so that any non-visible fire inside a wheel-well or cowling
cannot start taking out fuel, oil or hydraulic lines. There are also high pressure hot air lines that can cause damage if pierced by fire. But if it's a Fire of Unknown Origin, then that drill becomes a very abstract business.
Crews normally become aware of onboard fires via their sense of smell (or via an alert from the cabin staff). Unfortunately the conundrum has always been that airconditioning systems can channel in fumes due to poor oil seals or broken compressed-air ducts. That type of smell can be pungent, but in my experience never the typically acrid smell of an electrical fire. To confuse things even further, aircon smoke may be either harmless mist (condensation) or oil-smoke. The former condition is normally encountered at lower levels and not long after take-off. The latter smoky oily air can occur anytime (but is more frequently encountered after maintenance work).
In my experience the misty vapour emanating from a gasper port or aircon louvre is quite obvious as to what it is....and it won't be those distinctively smelly, noxious fumes. But discriminating between the burnt oil smell and the acrid fumes of overheated wiring insulation is the next challenge. If you had the simultaneous choice of the two, picking which is
what would not be very difficult. However unfortunately pilots are only hit with the one smell and must decide if it's the highly dangerous acrid smell (or the irritating and annoying oily-residue vapour). The human olfactory organ is not as reliable a sensor as the ears, eyes or taste-buds. Sniffing at elusive wisps of diluted smoke can often send pilots off on a tangent. When there are only two pilots present, you will often find that agreement is more readily forthcoming than if there was a flight-engineer present. The FE is more likely to be "his own man" and embark on an exploratory phase before making up his mind. The pilots however are (by law) trapped in their seats on their oxygen umbilicals as soon as they start to sense or smell smoke. An FE would be tearin down lining "to have a look-see".
In the Swissair case their company abnormal ops "checklist" started the pilots off by having them check whether or not it could be the less alarming aircon smoke. The "Drill" is very convoluted and tortuous and is eliminatory in nature. It seeks to "trouble-shoot" i.e.narrow down the cause by going to various electrical configurations and trying to determine whether the smell becomes worse (or just stays the same). In my experience that sort of drill is flawed because once pungent or acrid fumes are present, your nostrils will not be able to discriminate presence or absence let alone an improvement. However, perversely, if smoke becomes visible then you will then have a good indication that you are now in distress, perhaps even in extremis.
The long-winded and inconclusive smoke and fumes checklist is a recipe for disaster because it cannot determine the electrical source or physical location of fire. The only safe way to proceed is to kill the electrics - to take the
power off the wire. As the Swissair pilots found, you only have to reverse the airflows in those hidden attic areas to start a whole new set of problems. They inadvertently did that by switching the aircon flows around. Once a fire grabs hold there are high pressure oxygen lines that can also become involved. But by this time the cascading systems failures are the convincing argument for landing ASAP. However as has been said above, by that time, even if an airfield is conveniently to hand, you are past your point of no return and it is a slippery slope once a fire takes hold. Airplanes have triply redundant flight controls and hydraulic systems but their critical sub-systems have no reliable redundancy. In fact each system's arterial "life-blood" of elec power has a critical interdependence because of the reliance upon the miles of tight-skeined, interwoven wiring looms and bundles - and, in most cases even momentary interruption of the purity and continuity of the power supplied will be also a damning discrepancy. The flash-over of one wire-bundle can interdict numerous systems and present pilots with a crisis that they will be guaranteed never to have seen before.
The solution to inflight fuselage fire is the Virgin Bus, a standalone system that pilots can revert to once electrical smoke and fumes alerts them to an impending crisis. Wiring faults (such as kapton's arc-tracking) will not necessarily trip Circuit Protective devices (such as CB's and fuses) and a flash-over can result. However any type of wiring fault is of concern and might lead to a fire.
Here's another, even simpler, two-part solution. Instead of wiring insulation being celebrated for its "low smoke output", why not give it a spray-on overcoat of resin that will not only further protect the conductor physically, but ensure that any seriously overheated wire will disclose its position immediately with a thick billowing cloud of non-noxious harmless white smoke.
Furthermore, why not ensure that all aircraft power wiring insulation has a resin that emits a very distinctive odour when overheated. In that way you will have resolved that continuing pilots' conundrum of "Is it an electrical fire or..?" and "Well, if it is, where the dickens is it?" Add a few $5 domestic smoke alarms and hey presto you have a three-way pointer to the nature and location of any potential fire.
What is it that prevents the industry from adopting simple, commonsense measures like smoke detectors and others like those suggested by Dagger Dirk (resin wire coating)? One would think that regulators and the industry could easily agree when cost and complexity are minimal. When the benefit is obvious and in the absence of significant cost, one can only conclude that the answer must be complacency on the part of all parties. It appears that both the industry and regulators hold the belief that air travel is safe enough, or at least that whatever they're doing already is more than adequate.
The "virgin bus" idea has clear merit, but isn't a practical retrofit for existing aircraft. However, although the MD11's design did not have the degree of bus independence suggested in Dagger Dirk's proposal, it did have separate electrical busses for essential flight-deck equipment and cabin appliances. And the inflight entertainment system onboard Swissair 111 was powered, not by the cabin bus, but by the "essentials" bus. The U.S. FAA and Canadian investigators agree that this scheme was "incompatible with the design philosophy of the MD11's electrical system." Furthermore, at least one of the wires associated with the lead event resulting in the SR111 fire was associated with the entertainment sytsem.
Yet in the face of highly questionable certification, improper design and installation and a clear link to the origin of the fire, there is no outrage. The STC for the IFEN and DAS designation are quietly "surrenedered" by Santa Barbara aerospace. IFT exits the aviation business. Nobody is fined. Nobody is prosecuted. The engineers who botched the elecrical system design are still working, some as FAA designees. Procedures are reviewed by committees and we move on.
As for the pilots of SR111, accepting the TSB's (questionable) conclusion, that acting sooner would not have averted the crash, is not equivalent to asserting that they acted properly. Unfortunately, the TSB's conclusion is often interpreted to suggest the opposite, suggesting that no corrective action is needed.
And to add insult to injury, 1998 is designated one of the best years ever for U.S. air safety - only one fatality on a U.S. commercial air carrier! Never mind that Swissair 111 was built in the U.S., that the IFEN was certified by the FAA, that it departed from New York or that U.S. citizens were killed.
It seems like almost any excuse for inaction will do. This is truly malignant complacency.
Just wanted to add this comment from a seasoned United Airline Captain, regarding dumping fuel for an emergency landing. Call me skeptical, 7 years later, that sr111 pilots did the right thing by flying out over the ocean on September 2nd, 1998, to dump fuel. This is an excerpt from a column that appears in USA Today, and the author is answering a reader's question about fuel dumping. The captain who writes this column, has devoted this piece to the recent successful JetBlue emergency landing. Dumping (or burning off) fuel is an option, not a requirement, for an emergency landing.
Since the Jet Blue incident, many people have written to me expressing dismay that Airbus doesn't have fuel dumping capability. This isn't something exclusive to Airbus. There is no fuel dump capability on many smaller airplanes produced by other manufacturers. Larger planes, such as the A-340, DC-10 and the B-777, which can carry hundreds of thousands of pounds of fuel, have fuel jettison (dump) capabilities.
Whether or not an airplane dumps fuel is actually a function of FAA regulations. It relates to a requirement that an aircraft have specific climb capabilities even with an engine out (here's a link to the FAA website concerning fuel jettisoning). Even though the JetBlue situation was dramatic and tense for the crew and passengers, relatively speaking it didn't take that long to burn off the fuel until the captain was comfortable enough with the weight to land.
As a pilot, I don't consider it a hazard to not be able to dump fuel. The downside of not being able to dump fuel is the potential inconvenience, as was the case in the JetBlue incident, to have to take some time to burn off the fuel instead of being able to simply dump it. It is important to note than in a situation where an immediate landing is necessary, airplanes are quite capable of landing overweight. It simply wasn't the best choice in this case.
Apparently, the motive for burning off the extra fuel wasn't all that obvious to non-pilots. The primary reason to burn off the extra fuel was that a heavier plane has a faster landing speed. Since a slower airspeed on landing was the objective in this case, the course of action was to lighten the load by burning off some fuel and when landing, lower the nose gear at as slow an airspeed as possible. The pilot accomplished all of this.
http://www.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/getline/2005-09-26-column_x.htmThis message has been edited. Last edited by: BF,
I just wanted to add that the sr111 pilots did have the option of dumping fuel as they came in for a landing rather than going back out over the ocean.
What appears to be from a book written in french, called, Le Secret des boÃ®tes noires : Enregistrements avant le crash
de Jean-Pierre Otelli
A very poor translation yields this for those that don't speak french:
-- The crash of Swissair flight 111 liaising New York-Geneva off Canada in Halifax on September 2, 1998 during which a fire was declared on board, in the cockpit of the McDonnell Douglas11 trirÃ©acteur. The pilot and copilot took this incident a little too lightly. Do not even declaring an emergency to air traffic controllers, and does not even attempt to land as soon as possible, too busy to read the emergency procedures far too complex and complicated for such cases... The fire devoured the cockpit and burns all wiring, the aircraft becomes inpilotable and precipitates at sea, 229 dead, no survivors.
Here it is in french:
If anyone is able to do a better translation or knows anything about this book, please post it. Thanks.
NTSB reviews jet's skid landing at O'Hare
A Boeing 757 skidded off a runway at O'Hare International Airport on Sept. 22. The pilots for long beyond the 30 minutes that their emergency handbook said the batteries would last.
By Alan Levin, USA TODAY
The pilots of an American Airlines flight carrying 185 passengers were forced to make an unusual emergency landing last month in Chicago with limited ability to control the jet after they lost electrical power, according to newly released information from a federal investigation.
The Boeing 757 skidded off a runway at O'Hare International Airport on Sept. 22, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. Although none of the 192 people aboard was injured, the pilots flew on backup battery power for long beyond the 30 minutes that their emergency handbook said the batteries would last, the NTSB said.
The pilots of the Seattle-to-New York flight drained the jet's battery backup system, leaving inoperable vital systems that help stop a jet, according to a preliminary report released this week.
The pilots told investigators they had difficulty raising and lowering the jet's nose and felt they had only one chance to land, the NTSB said.
"They should have landed as soon as practical," said Michael Barr, an instructor at the University of Southern California's Aviation Safety and Security Program. "That would have been the conservative approach. I don't see why they thought they could fly all the way across country on their backup electrical system."
The pilots had switched to battery power shortly after leaving Seattle when electrical problems developed. The batteries last for about 30 minutes, but the pilots continued toward their destination until the jet's electrical systems began failing about an hour and 40 minutes later.
The need to land as soon as possible when aircraft systems begin to fail has been reinforced by several accidents, such as Swiss Air Flight 111 in 1998, Barr said. The Swiss Air pilots attempted to diagnose where smoke was coming from before deciding to divert, Canadian investigators concluded. The jet became engulfed in fire and crashed off Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people aboard.
Last month, the American Airlines pilots had to stop the jet without thrust reversers and other devices that help a jet stop, the NTSB said. The electrical system failure was so complete that the pilots were unable to shut off the engines after they came to a stop, the report said.
Barr said investigators will want to know what the airline's manuals and emergency documentation instructed pilots to do, what the airline's maintenance department advised the pilots to do and how pilots were trained to handle electrical malfunctions.
American and its pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association, declined to comment while the case is under investigation.
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