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Electrical Spark Linked to Swissair Crash

March 27, 2003

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) _ A fire likely caused by an electrical spark crept undetected along the insulation of Swissair Flight 111 four years ago, giving the pilots no chance to save the 229 people on board, investigators concluded Thursday.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board ended its largest investigation ever _ lasting more than four years and costing more than $30 million _ without being able to declare unequivocally what caused the fire that brought down the MD-11 airliner off the coast of Nova Scotia on Sept. 2, 1998.

The 338-page report focused on the in-flight entertainment system aboard the McDonnell-Douglas aircraft, saying a problem with the wiring to power the system went undetected and the spark ``most likely″ started there.

It said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s certifying system failed to ensure that the entertainment system was designed and installed properly for the MD-11.

The report included nine safety recommendations involving testing for insulation materials and electrical systems, and improving the flight cockpit and data recording systems.

Safety board investigators previously made 14 recommendations that led to the removal of flammable insulation material from aircraft and improved fire reaction measures for pilots.

``This has been the largest, most complex aviation investigation the TSB has ever undertaken,″ safety board chairman Camille Theriault said. ``The efforts of thousands of hardworking people from various countries, industries and regulatory authorities have culminated in a comprehensive report that has changed the face of aviation safety.″

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