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SR 111 Investigation Report

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2.1  General Information

SR 111 departed New York on a regularly scheduled flight, and was being flown by a qualified crew in accordance with applicable regulations and procedures. Documentation indicates that the aircraft was equipped, maintained, and operated in accordance with applicable Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) regulations.

Records did not reveal any pre-existing medical condition that could have affected the performance of the SR 111 flight crew. Prior to departure, the pilots were reportedly well rested and in good spirits. The crew had received the required duty rest prescribed by regulations; fatigue was considered to not have been a factor in this occurrence.

At some point along the flight route, a failure event occurred that provided an ignition source to nearby flammable materials leading to an in-flight fire. The fire spread and increased in intensity until it led to the loss of the aircraft and human life. The primary factors involved in this occurrence include

  • the condition that resulted in the ignition source;

  • the flammable materials that were available to be ignited, sustain, and propagate the fire;

  • the subsequent fire-induced material failures that exacerbated the fire-in-progress;

  • the lack of detection equipment to enable the crew to accurately assess the source and significance of the initial smoke; and

  • the lack of appropriate in-flight firefighting measures required to deal successfully with the smoke and fire.

Although data confirms that in-flight fires that result in fatal accidents are rare, many of the same factors listed above were not unique to this aircraft model, airline, or crew.

All ground-based navigation equipment was reported to be serviceable and functioning normally. The Aircraft Firefighting Services at Halifax International Airport were alerted and responded in a timely manner to the vehicle standby positions on the airfield.

The high-energy collision with the water, and the destruction of the aircraft, precluded a complete and detailed inventory of the aircraft's structure and components. However, measuring by structural weight, 98 per cent of the aircraft was recovered. All extremities of the aircraft surfaces were accounted for in the main wreckage field on the ocean floor, indicating that the aircraft was intact when it struck the water.

The search and rescue response was rapid and comprehensive. The disaster response, which involved multiple government departments and agencies, and local citizens was implemented in a timely and effective manner.

The Swissair security policies, procedures, and practices that were in place at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport for the SR 111 flight were examined by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigators. No shortfalls were found. Aircraft and passenger security was not an issue in this occurrence.

All recovered aircraft-related material was examined by fire and explosion experts from the RCMP; they discovered no evidence to support the involvement of an explosive or incendiary device, or other criminal activity.

The coordination between the pilots and the cabin crew was consistent with company procedures and training. The crew communications reflected that the situation was not being categorized as an emergency until about six minutes prior to the crash; however, soon after the descent to Halifax had started, rapid cabin preparations for an imminent landing were underway.

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Updated: 2003-03-27

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