On January 6, 1999, SAFP, a European Aviation Newsletter reported that there were no U.S. airline passenger fatalities in 1998.
FAA spokesman Les Dorr was quoted in the article, saying that 1998's zero-fatality count "was the result of the things that we and our industry partners have been doing every day to make sure that flying remains the safest form of transportation."
Naturally, the figures didn't include the Swissair 111 crash, which was a non-U.S. registered aircraft. However, the FAA had oversight of the installation of the In-Flight Entertainment Network (IFEN) on that airplane.
Almost immediately after the Swissair 111 crash, FAA officials started reviewing IFEN certification paperwork. Four weeks after the crash, the FAA launched an internal review into how the IFEN was certified and installed on Swissair aircraft, which they called the Special Certification Review Team (SCR) Report.
The report was quietly released about a year later, and found no significant problems with FAA's own oversight of the project. That's no surprise, considering that it was put together by some of the same FAA employees who were responsible for oversight of Santa Barbara Aerospace's DAS authority, as well as oversight of the certification of the Swissair entertainment system.
Equally concerning, is a recent news report stating that an electronic component of the IFEN caught fire during an early test flight. The incident was subsequently covered up by IFT management, and for some reason, it never made it into the FAA SCR Report.
(See March 26, 2003 USA Today - 'Employees warned of heat on jets' entertainment systems'):
And there are more examples:
- That unauthorized individuals at SBA had access to original STC records, and documents are missing.
- That SBA illegally diverted Blue Shield medical deductions of some employees in order to cover the payroll of others.
- That shortly after commencing IFEN certification project, SBA illegally shipped oxygen canisters on a Continental Airlines flight, even after the FAA prohibited such actions following the high profile ValuJet crash.
- That Hollingsead agreed in their contract with IFT to provide changes to the Aircraft Flight Manual, but it appears that was never done.
Someone will also have to ask why the FAA lied in their SCR report about Hollingseads' DAS authorization. In that report, the FAA Review Team stated that Hollingsead, "...is an authorized 14 CFR Part 21 DAS, certificate number DAS-16-NM, issued in March 1993. However, it did not
exercise either its repair station or DAS authorization in support of this STC."
The truth is, Hollingsead did not become a Designated Alteration Station (DAS), AT LEAST until December 1996, when they purchased a company called Elsinore Aerospace. The purchase happened halfway through the Swissair MD-11 certification project while installations were already underway in Zurich. Hollingsead expressly wanted to buy Elsinore for the DAS authority that they held with the FAA, and because of the experience Elsinore had on the previous Alitalia IFEN project.
I have no idea why the SCR Report said that, because it just throws everything else into question. Maybe the SCR report should be re-catagorized as a 'draft report'. In my opinion, it was a CYA report anyway -- probably not intended to see the light of day unless questions came up about the IFEN certification. That's why it was never proudly displayed on any FAA website. As it's scrutinized, it will be exposed for its glaring gaps, especially wherever FAA head office oversight was concerned.
Nevertheless, what is apparent about the IFEN project, is that its certification was put into the hands of a large group of unsupervised FAA contractors, in incestuous business relationships. It's nearly impossible to tell who was actually in control of the project, and who was working for whom. Furthermore, most of those involved had little or no prior experience on products of this type.
The certification was so completely focussed on approval of individual parts & sub-assemblies, and in such rapid succession, that it totally neglected how the entertainment system should integrate with the functions and operation of the aircraft. Aircraft and passenger safety
took a back seat to the appeal of potential gaming revenues. And despite the FAA processes that were in place at the time for project oversight, this one was somehow stick handled around all of them.
After last weeks release of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada Final Report, FAA spokesman Les Dorr said that the FAA had 'already' begun looking into the process since media reports surfaced about the installation being rushed and safety concerns overlooked. Has a
proactive ring to it, doesn't it?
(See February 17, 2003 USA Today - 'Doomed plane's gaming system exposes
holes in FAA oversight'): http://www.usatoday.com/money/biztravel/2003-02-16-swissair-investigation_x.htm
I think that more details will come out that are not found in the TSB or SCR reports, like the fact that Hollingsead was into the project for much more than just the IFEN installations, and overseeing certification.
For example, they manufactured the wiring harnesses for the Swissair MD-11 entertainment systems.
>I think that more details will come out that are not found in the TSB or SCR reports, like the fact that Hollingsead was into the project for much more than just the IFEN installations, and overseeing certification.
For example, they manufactured the wiring harnesses for the Swissair MD-11 entertainment systems.<
Well now that is certainly interesting... Thanks Anon, I certainly hope that we do hear more about this. This whole IFEN project has a bad odor to it.
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