MD-11 plane got 4 FAA-mandated “Airworthiness Directives” in 5 years

PHILADELPHIA – (09/04/1998) Preliminary information surrounding the crash of Swissair Flight 111 in Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia on Wednesday, September 2, 1998, raises serious concerns, says aviation attorney and crash investigator, Arthur Alan Wolk, Esq. Specifically, Wolk is worried about the quality of FAA oversight with regard to the plane involved — an MD-11. “Since 1993,” says the nationally-known aviation attorney, “the MD-11 has had four FAA-mandated airworthiness directives (demands for a critical examination). Inspections of the wire bundles were ordered to avoid sparks, fire and, in fact, smoke in the cockpit.”

“If there are four separate areas of the airplane needing examination to avoid electrical fires, the FAA should realize that many other areas would also require inspection. I believe the MD-11 may have given warnings prior to the outbreak of fire. It is likely that the way its wiring bundles were assembled had created chaffing which resulted in sparks leading to fire,” adds Wolk.

According to Wolk, who examined the four airworthiness directives, the same FAA engineer was responsible for each one. “Why didn’t it occur to him,” asks Wolk, “that if the airplane has four problematic areas of wiring, that it may well have four hundred areas requiring a careful examination?”

Wolk also says investigators need to evaluate the emergency procedures that are being recommended to flight crews in the event of smoke and fire in an airplane. “Flight crews should be clearly told that smoke should always be taken seriously. Any smoke, however slight it might appear, should be considered as a potentially serious fire and warrant an emergency decent to landing regardless of the aircraft’s weight. It appears that it took 16 minutes from the time the Swissair crew said ‘PAN” (which is considered an urgent call – not an emergency or distress call) until the aircraft was lost on radar at approximately 8000’. This indicates that the aircraft was descending at less than 2000’/minute, which is a normal and leisurely descent, rather than an emergency one. Unfortunately, while it is hindsight, an emergency descent at more than 6000’/minute might have saved precious time and could have gotten the airplane to the airport.”

Wolk summarizes, “In my view the crash scene isn’t the only thing that warrants an in-depth investigation. The quality of the FAA’s oversight should be investigated and, if found faulty, fixed – before yet another air tragedy that could easily have been avoided occurs.”