I have been reading about the Swiss Air Flight 111. I remember when it happened and what an awful tragedy it was.
My question is - what improvements have been made since 1998, so that a similar tragedy would never occur again? Also, is there a difference between Airbus and Boeing in this regard?
Finally, do you feel that the pilots of Flight 111 could have made a safe landing if they had been more decisive and immediately diverted for an emergency landing?
If you have not already seen the full story of Swiss Air Flight 111 in 'Air Crash Investigations', you can see the whole reconstruction of the flight again in the 5 videos below.
To ensure that such a tragedy would never occur again, the Transport Safety Board (TSB) made many recommendations. The main ones were related to the changes in the aircraft materials (thermal acoustic insulation blankets removed), improvement in the electrical systems and the flight data capture system (both flight data recorders stopped when they lost power six minutes before impact.). General recommendations were also made regarding fire-detection, fire-fighting equipment and training.
In this accident, the Board indicated that the fire most likely originated from the electrical cable associated with the in-flight entertainment network (IFEN). As a result, the system was removed from other Swissair aircraft and de-certified for use in the cabin.
Both Airbus and Boeing have better in-flight entertainment system because they do not have the defects similar to those of the MD-11s.
It is easy to be armchair critics. I would say that it is difficult to tell whether the pilots could have made a safe landing if they have been more decisive. There are many difficulties, variables and unknown that we are unaware of and so I cannot make any credible judgment on it. For instance, during some portion of the last minutes of the flight, the most important flight instruments (primary flight displays) failed. The pilots were forced to rely on the standby instruments which were rather small in size. That would have made it difficult for the pilots to use them after the fire had broken out. The Board did identify this safety issue and the lack of a power supply for the standby instruments which was independent of the aircraft electrical system and battery.