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Swissair Tragedy


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Disaster worst ever for aircraft, company



Lisa Brown
Lighthouse staff

 PEGGY'S COVE - The crash of Flight 111 off Peggy's Cove was the worst ever involving that type of aircraft and the airline that flew it.

 The plane en route from New York to Geneva was a McDonnell Douglas MD-11, 61 metres long with a 51-metre wingspan. It had seating capacity for 285 people - 24 in first class, 57 in business class and 204 in economy.

 The MD-11 went into commercial operation in 1990 as a successor plane to Douglas Aircraft's DC-10. Boeing, the world's largest plane manufacturer, took over its production last year after buying McDonnell Douglas. The company announced earlier this year that it plans to stop making the three-engine aircraft in 2000.

 This was the only accident involving an MD-11 to involve fatalities.

 The plane that went down off Peggy's Cove last week, one of about 180 MD-11s in service, was delivered to Swissair in August 1991. A Boeing spokesman said last week the plane has flown a typical amount for its age - 6,000 flights involving about 35,000 hours of flight time. Swissair said it underwent a major overhaul in 1996 and received its latest one-day check August 10.

 Swissair is the fifth-largest European airline and carried 10.8 million passengers in 1997. Airline officials from around the world expressed surprise following last week's crash, saying Swissair's safety standards are high compared to others in the industry and its safety record exemplary.

 This was the worst accident in the company's 67-year history. It last lost passengers or crew in a crash in October 1979, when a DC-8 carrying 142 people overshot a runway in Athens and crashed into a wire fence, bursting into flames and killing 14 people.

 The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it will examine the plane's service record, structure and operating systems, as well as the performance of its flight and ground crew and that of air traffic controllers, aircraft maintenance workers, Swissair's safety managers and regulators.


photo

Canadian military personnel and local volunteers began combing Lunenburg County's long waterfront late last week for debris from Swissair Flight 111. Shown is Red Bank Beach in New Harbour near Blandford. The search is continuing this week.


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