Swissair 111 : The Untold Story – the fifth estate
At 10:31 p.m. on Sept. 2, 1998, Nova Scotians felt their homes shake as Swissair flight 111 slammed into the waters off Peggy’s Cove, killing all on board. There were 229 passengers and crew, including a Saudi Prince and a relative of the late Shah of Iran. In the cargo hold, a half a billion dollars worth of gold, diamonds and cash.
Early into the crash investigation, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada made a preliminary finding that the tragedy was the result of an accident. The TSB would ultimately point to a fire in the cockpit, likely sparked by an electrical fault. But there remained many unanswered questions and mysteries.
Years later, the crash remains one of Canada’s greatest tragedies. Now new disturbing information from one of the crash investigators raises chilling questions about the official cause of the disaster.
Linden MacIntyre hosts.
Original airdate : December 16th, 2011
Swissair Flight 111 – ATC Recordings [IN-FLIGHT FIRE LEADING TO ELECTRICAL FAILURE]
Flight 111 Disaster : Documentary on Why the Swissair Flight 111 Crashed
Published on Jul 29, 2014
Air Crash Investigation Disaster Fire in the Cockpit Swissair Flight 111
Swissair Flight 111 (SR111, SWR111) was a Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 on a scheduled airline flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, United States to Cointrin International Airport in Geneva, Switzerland. This flight was also a codeshare flight with Delta Air Lines.
On Wednesday, 2 September 1998, the aircraft used for the flight, registered HB-IWF, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Halifax International Airport at the entrance to St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia. The crash site was 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from shore, roughly equidistant from the tiny fishing and tourist communities of Peggys Cove and Bayswater. All 229 people on board died—the highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 and the second-highest of any air disaster to occur in Canada, after Arrow Air Flight 1285. This is one of only three hull losses of the passenger configured MD-11, along with China Airlines Flight 642 and China Eastern Airlines Flight 583 .
The initial search and rescue response, crash recovery operation, and resulting investigation by the Government of Canada took over four years and cost CAD 57 million (at that time approximately US$38 million). The Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) official report of their investigation stated that flammable material used in the aircraft’s structure allowed a fire to spread beyond the control of the crew, resulting in a loss of control and the crash of the aircraft.
Swissair Flight 111 was known as the “UN shuttle” due to its popularity with United Nations officials; the flight often carried business executives, scientists, and researchers.
PBS NOVA: MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 111 – documentary
On the evening of September 2, 1998, a Swissair MD-11 jet bound from New York to Geneva diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, after the crew smelled smoke in the cockpit. Just minutes from the airport, Flight 111 plunged into the ocean, killing all 229 people aboard. “Crash of Flight 111” tells the behind-the-scenes story of the quest for the cause of this tragic accident.
NOVA was given unprecedented access to one of the most intricate aviation investigations ever mounted, which cost $39 million, took more than four years, and involved a seemingly hopeless search for evidence among two million pieces of debris scattered across the seafloor. Through painstaking detective work, investigators eventually pinned the cause of the accident to a chain of events set off by conditions that still exist on many planes today.
After what appeared to be a minor smoke problem developed aboard Flight 111, the pilots headed for the nearest airport, Halifax International, for a nonemergency landing. On approach, they decided it would be safer if they first dumped fuel over the ocean in order to lighten the aircraft.
Matters grew rapidly worse. As the plane turned away from the airport, the autopilot mysteriously disconnected. Then something apparently catastrophic happened that caused both pilots simultaneously to declare an emergency. Seconds later controllers lost contact with the plane. Six minutes after that, residents along St. Margaret’s Bay near Peggy’s Cove heard Flight 111 hit the water and disintegrate.
Though divers soon recovered both black boxes—the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder—neither device preserved information from the final six minutes, thus deepening the mystery of what occurred to bring the aircraft down. Despite these obstacles, crash detectives from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board methodically collected, sifted, sorted, and reassembled a large fraction of the plane in a giant hangar, where they slowly built a detailed picture of Flight 111’s final moments.
The recovery was aided by the Queen of the Netherlands, a salvage ship known as the world’s largest floating vacuum cleaner, which sucked fragments of the plane off the bottom of St. Margaret’s Bay, including components that were later implicated in the crash. Investigators also performed flame tests on cabin insulation, which proved unexpectedly combustible, and they ran exhaustive failure scenarios in an MD-11 flight simulator.
As the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, the crash detectives arranged a flight to re-create the jet’s final path in similar lighting and weather, hoping for clues to the terrifying last seconds aboard Flight 111—with main instruments dead, smoke filling the cockpit, featureless gloom out the window, and no way to know that the plane was veering out of control.