Friday, April 23, 1999

TSB wary of Boeing findings

Premature' to say electrical system caused Flight 111 crash, investigators say


Canadian investigators say they are not drawing conclusions about what caused the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Peggy's Cove on Sept. 2.

A published report quotes a Boeing official saying the plane's electrical system was the main cause of the crash near Peggy's Cove.

Every indication is that the electrical system is the origin of whatever occurred," Boeing safety director Ron Hinderberger told The Canadian Press.

Transportation Safety Board spokesman Jim Harris said investigators have not fingered one main contributor as the cause.

It's really premature to draw such conclusions," he said. We just don't have enough evidence yet."

Recovery to resume soon

Investigators have recovered about 88 per cent of the MD-11 jet, which broke into pieces and sank in 60 metres of water, 10 kilometres from shore. Recovery operations to collect the estimated 14,000 kilograms of wreckage still on the sea floor will resume by month's end.

Pilot Urs Zimmermann reported smoke in the cockpit 20 minutes before the plane crashed, killing all 229 people on board.

Investigators have known for months the plane was plagued with electrical problems during the last minutes of its flight. Sources close to the probe say investigators are unable to determine if electrical problems caused the fire or if a fire caused the electrical problems.

That's the reason why we are going back on the water," said Harris. We need more evidence."

Boeing says electrical problems might have started first.

There are some wires in the forward part of the airplane that have been identified as having been heated from the inside out," Hinderberger said.

Some cracked and chafed wires have been found in the wreckage.

Fire damage confined

Investigators are reconstructing the plane's forward section to track the source of the fire. Contrary to Hinderberger's comments about soot and fire damage found in the first-class section, Harris says fire damage was confined to the first nine metres of the plane.

There is some sooting in other parts of the plane, but that is to be expected," he said.

Investigators are still trying to determine if the plane's emergency oxygen was a factor in the fire. Harris said investigators know the co-pilot's seat was occupied when the plane crashed and the pilot's seat was pushed back from the controls. It's not yet known if it was occupied.

He said investigators are determined to find the cause of the crash.

Until we find out what happened, we are going to continue on," Harris said.

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