Here's a hypothetical scenario:
A guy who works for a video bingo machine company get the bright idea that it would be cool to build video-gambling equipment for aircraft - break open a new market segment. But the air carriers are already onto the idea of video on demand, so in order to compete, the system has to incorporate both VOD and gaming functions. So he starts a company, begins the engineering work and starts pitching the concept to air carriers.
Financing isn't too hard. The climate for IPOs is great and investment bankers will underwrite anything. After all, they get paid no matter whether the business is successful or not. Before long the company has millions in cash in the bank.
Product development isn't going to be too difficult, in theory. Off the shelf networked computer systems can do the job, but it takes a fairly complex network and a lot of components - all of which are readily available, but aren't really designed for aviation use. Weight, power consumption and a rats nest of electrical wiring and network cable are problematic.
Having no experience in building aviation gear, the company contracts out two key elements of the project: FAA certification and installation.
The company responsible for the FAA certification is financially shaky and badly needs the work. Their engineers look at the system and declare, "what a f'ing mess!" But there's the badly needed revenue. They work it through the regulatory process - what they're being paid to do.
Sales don't meet expectations either, but the company finds an airline with financial problems and a marketing team that is desparate to find a way to differentiate their service from everybody else's. The deal is too good to be true. They can beat their competition to the punch with a state-of-the-art high-tech entertainment system - and they don't have to pay for it! They will split the "gaming" revenue with the supplier of the system. What a coup!
Even though the financial assumptions are, at this point, recognizably shaky at best. If they stop now, investors will be outraged. And the execs are getting paid living well in the investors' money.
When it comes time to install the system, the airlines inhouse technical services team is browbeaten by the marketing department to get out of the way and let the contractor get the job done. People who work for the contractor that does the installation are less than thrilled with the job, but it's a big money maker for their company, so they just do it. They're forced to work quickly. The job is grotesquely complex and the engineering is shaky. They get it done, but not well.
When they turn the system on, they not only find that it doesn't work very well, but also that passengers have virtually no interest in the video gambling. Whoops, no gaming revenue. But it's already installed. The company that built it says they can't afford to support the system based on the non-existant gaming revenue, so they renegotiate with the airline.
Then it catches fire and a plane crashes. How does the cast of thousands respond?
First, denial. It couldn't have been the system. But the FAA reviews the certification process, revokes the certification, revokes the contractors privilege to do certification work, but ultimately reports that everything's under control and no regulations were violated. Subsequently they issue a slew of airworthiness directives pertaining to inflight entertainment systems.
So we have a supplier, a customer, two sub-contractors and a regulator, each of which should have known better at some point in the process. But each had a (self-serving) reason not to blow the whistle.
Today, each of these parties is motivated to deny that their system caused the crash. But if the cat gets out of the bag, they're still relatively safe - they can all blame each other! If the bag, cat inside, doesn't get tied to a rock and dumped in the ocean, one would expect some really monumental finger-pointing.
I'm holding my breath and wishing all the best for the cat.
You know the timing of Beanspiller's post in light of the fact that the final report is now completed and mailed out to the parties involved in this nightmare makes me believe all the more that he is telling the truth. I am still cynical that we will ever get the full story out of the TSB however. Nice that the family members who's lives have been ruined by this tragedy will pretty much be the last to see the TSB's report. Too bad WE don't get to comment as the parties who caused this will. JMHO
"His comment about conduit may reflect an incomplete understanding of A/C wiring practices, but he doesn't claim to be an expert."
figure, he just had a misunderstanding and used the wrong expression. I had been in a/c avionics for small iron (up to 7.5t) some 20+ years ago, and we refitted and installed the fancy electronics and instruments that entertain the pilots up front. The factory wiring was japton, and we used Teflon insulated wires. The standing rule was, that the new wire harnesses had to be sheathed in a soft 'braided' plastic hose, and NOT to be mingled into the existing wires. No exemptions. Even if it was only a pair of wires (bet even for a single one if that ever happened), they had to be protected by the hose. Guess that is what he means with a conduit.
And strict rules on how to place the harnesses into the plane. Those few photos of the installed IFEN wiring that were published, that was the work of amateurs that I wouldn't allow to come close to anything electrical, not even my humble door bell.
Beanspiller's original message that appeared on the Yahoo group's site:
From: "beanspiller_ca" <rburnell@a...>
Date: Wed Aug 14, 2002 1:21 am
Subject: RE Wiring
Ok here goes. The cause of the crash has been identified, but will
not be released for some time. How do I know this..?? I have a friend
who was involved in the aircraft reconstruction in Shearwater. He has
informed me, that the cause was wiring, but it was not the kapton
wiring. It was the wiring for the inflight entertainment system. It
seems that all the A/V equipment was stored in Galley 8 just ahead of
the leading edge of the port wing. The wiring exited the cabin
throught the ceiling, and ran along the top of the cabin bulkhead,
and down into the first class secxtion and to the LCD screens in the
back of the headrests in the first class section. The investigators
discovered that all of this wiring was laid bare in the space above
the cabin, instead of in conduit as required by law. This explains
why the flight data and cockpit voice recorders stopped working 6 and
a half minutes before impact. The aircraft hit the water inverted,
and on an approximate angle of 79 degrees. The temperature in the
cockpit was approximately 3000 degrees farenheight. It was so hot,
that kevlar was burnt. Everyone from the cockpit, back to the middle
of first class were unconcious upon impact. It is not known if or
when this will be released. It still has to be accepted by the CTSB.
I have also seen pictures of some of the debris. I was shown a pic of
a piece of metal that was very blued and heat distorted. It was very
obvious that this piece of metal had been exposed to a very high heat
to look like this. When I asked where it was from, I was told it was
part of the door frame from the front passenger door behind the
cockpit. I hope this helps some people. I'm putting my neck on the
line printing this, but you have a right to know.
Btw, Beanspiller was the real deal.
Barb has this been reported yet? I've never heard about it and I follow this tragedy as much as anyone who wasn't involved with it.
If this is true and hasn't been reported publicly yet I just lost a lot of respect for the TSB.
I wonder if this person is still available. If they are they should get in contact with the local news media here, on condition of anonymity of course, so that maybe the story could force the TSB to release other pieces of info they're hiding.
This is just outrageous. I'd expect this from the FAA because that's a laughing stock of an organization if ever there was one, but the TSB? Wow.
"Those Who Don't Learn From The Past Are Doomed To Repeat It."
Murray, it was reported to the news media. I'll try to email you later today regarding this. There are a couple of articles about it on the site.
Murray, Not all of Beanspiller's facts were right. The TSB didn't really do anything wrong, but there is quite a story to this. The guy obviously knew that the entertainment wiring would be implicated rather than the general aircraft wiring, but I can't say anymore on this site. I will write to you later.
Murray, did you get my email? I wrote to you at the address you gave me a while ago.
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