Swissair has voluntarily fitted fire safety improvements, but rules may yet be upgraded

Voluntary modifications carried out by Swissair to reduce the risk of cockpit fire in its Boeing MD-11 fleet have been approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration, but the FAA is not considering mandating them for the MD-11 fleet as a whole.

Boeing believes, however, that new recommendations will soon be issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSBC) as more lessons emerge from the long-running investigation into the 1998 Swissair MD-11 accident off Nova Scotia, Canada.

Boeing, which has said it is not offering the modification programme to other carriers, nevertheless says: "Boeing has closely supported Swissair's modification efforts and has worked with the FAA to obtain certification for these changes. Significant and complex issues have been identified in the aftermath of the tragic Flight 111 accident, including the recommendations that have been or are expected to be released by the TSBC. Boeing is an active participant in those industry efforts to enhance existing fire safety requirements."

Vic Gerden, head of the Swissair Flight 111 investigation, confirms: "We would not rule out making more recommendations before the report is published."

Publication of the final accident report is not expected before next year, Gerden says.

Meanwhile, the TSBC has persuaded the FAA and the European Joint Aviation Authorities that there should be a global conference on the issue of improving fuselage fire safety in all aircraft types, because upgrades to fire detection and suppression requirements would have to be agreed internationally to have any chance of being implemented.

Source: Flight International