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11 January 1999 - Swissair Flight 111
Canada's Transportation Safety Board is calling for inspections of the wiring of all MD-11 aircraft, after finding problems in the Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-11 (HB-IWF) which crashed off the Nova Scotia coast. TSP investigator Vic Gerden says he has passed on his findings to the US transportation safety authorities, who have issued a call for all MD-11 aircraft to be inspected. Swissair Flight 111 crashed near Peggy's Cove on 2 September, after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit. Gerden says there is evidence of heat damage to the wiring in the cockpit area above the pilot's seat before the plane went down. The damaged wiring was linked to the entertainment system in the first class section. Last year, the Canadian TSB recommended that the entertainment system be unplugged, and the recommendation has since been acted on. Now Gerden says he believes all 170 MD-11s in operation around the globe should be grounded until an inspection of the wiring is completed. The MD-11s have not so far been grounded, but Gerden says Swissair has "voluntarily developed and completed", in conjunction with Boeing, "an engineering order to define the comprehensive examination of the wiring in the forward areas of the Swissair MD-11 aircraft". He says he discovered discrepancies in two other MD-11s that his inspection team has looked at, and has passed on the information to aviation safety authorities in the USA. Gerden says he still cannot say whether there is a definitive link between the wiring and the crash, and more investigations are needed as a follow-up to the probe on the wreckage of Swissair Flight 111. Navy divers have so far recovered more than 80 per cent of the wreckage from the sea floor off Peggy's Cove.22 January 1999 - A Canadian investigator into the crash of McDonnell Douglas MD-11 HB-IWF, Swissair Flight 111, says a newspaper report on the conversation between the pilot and co-pilot before the crash is "inaccurate and unfair". Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigator Vic Gerden was commenting today on a report in the Wall Street Journal, saying there was a disagreement between the pilot and co-pilot of the aircraft minutes before the crash. The MD-11 went down off the Nova Scotia coast on 2 September 1998 after the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit. All 229 people on board were killed. The Wall Street Journal said a transcript of the conversation on the cockpit voice recorder indicated that 36-year-old co-pilot Stefan Loew wanted to take the aircraft quickly to Halifax and attempt to land but that 49-year-old pilot Urs Zimmermann insisted on dumping fuel over the ocean first. The report said Loew expressed concern when the aircraft appeared to be going too far out over the water but that Zimmermann, who was looking up the manual on procedures, rebuked him for interrupting too often. Gerdan said parts of the account were correct but other parts were not. He said "the interpretations" in the report, "on the interactions between the crew members are not only misleading but inaccurate and unfair". Under Canadian law, conversations on cockpit voice recorders are protected under a privacy law and cannot be made public but some derivations may be published. Gerden said the TSB's team of investigators are trying to "derive as much factual information as possible from various sources" on what happened in the cockpit in the minutes before the crash. He said the investigators did have air traffic control radar tapes and flight recorders. He said: "When analysing that information that we did have, some care was taken to avoid any premature conclusions in the preparation of some of the documents." He said he did not know if any of the information contained in the Wall Street Journal report was obtained from the official documents prepared by the investigators. Parts of the aircraft, recovered from the ocean floor, are being reconstructed in a hangar made available to the TSB by the Canadian forces at a base in Shearwater, NS.28 January 1999 - The Federal Aviation Administration today ordered the inspection of all US-registered McDonnell Douglas MD-11 jets in response to concerns about cockpit wiring after the September 1998, crash of a Swissair MD-11 (HB-IWF) off the east coast of Canada. FAA administrator Jane Garvey said operators of the aircraft should check the wiring and insulation in the cockpit and cabin within 60 days. An estimated 65 US-registered aircraft are affected by the order. The FAA's action follows concern expressed by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board and the US National Transportation Safety Board about the state of wiring in the accident aircraft and other MD-11s examined after the accident. Swissair Flight 111 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near the fishing village of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, on 2 September, killing all 229 people on board. About 16 minutes before the crash the flight crew reported smoke in the cockpit but were unable to make an emergency landing requested for Halifax International Airport. In a statement, Garvey said the cause of the Swissair accident was unknown. "This is an interim action until we can determine the full extent of any potential wiring problems on the MD-11", she said.2 March 1999 - A press report, dated 1 March, states: Swissair will pay $135,000 in compensation for each European victim of the Flight 111 crash, the same amount it offered to the relatives of American victims, a senior executive said today. Philippe Bruggisser, the chief executive of SAirGroup, the parent company of Swissair, said the airline decided that it should provide the same payment for each European victim - as it is required to do in the USA - rather than pay the same amount per family no matter how many members were lost. "From a humanistic point of view, it makes no sense to treat the next-of-kin in Europe differently from those in the USA", said Bruggisser, asserting that the problem stemmed from different legal requirements in different countries. Bruggisser told reporters that 22 lawsuits have been filed in the crash against Swissair and its subsidiaries as well as against Boeing, which bought the manufacturer of the MD-11 that crashed. Bruggisser also said that six months of investigation have failed to shorten the list of possible causes for the crash. Canadian officials say it may take another 18 months to determine the cause of the crash.
11 January 1999 - Thai Airways TG261
The black box voice recorder pulled from the charred wreckage of a Thai Airways plane which crashed last month killing 101 people is barely audible, reports quoting accident investigators said yesterday. Investigators now probing the crash on 11 December 1998 now hope the black box data recorder is in better shape and can provide vital clues to the last moments of the doomed flight. The two black boxes were taken to the USA for decoding after the crash of the A310-200 which plunged into a swamp in southern Surat Thani province as it tried to land during a severe storm. Investigators are trying to find out if the disaster was caused by pilot error, inaccurate landing information supplied by the control tower, a sudden change in weather conditions or mechanical failure. Some of the 45 people who survived the crash have criticised the pilot, who died in the crash, for trying to land after aborting two previous approaches because of poor visibility. Since the crash it has been revealed that the instrument landing system (ILS) at Surat Thani was not functioning owing to work on a runway. However, airport officials said other navigational aids were sufficient and it was up to the pilot to decide whether conditions were safe enough to land.11 January 1999 - The pilot of the Thai Airways jetliner was unable to see the runway during two attempts to land sources close to the crash investigators said today. The sources said a cockpit voice recording was weak but audible and provided valuable clues to the cause of the accident, but investigators still had not come to any firm conclusions as to the cause of the crash. The Nation daily newspaper printed extracts from the recording today. These quoted the chief pilot - Pinij Vejjasin - as telling the air traffic control tower during his second descent that the airport was still not in sight. Asked by the control tower whether he would make a final attempt to land, the pilot replied "Yes, I want to make another try". Both pilot and his co-pilot died in the crash.14 January 1999 - Thai Airways International and the Aviation Department were responsible for the Airbus crash in Surat Thani, the House Committee on Transport and Communications Affairs said yesterday. In its investigation into the crash the panel looked at the removal of the instrument landing system from Surat Thani airport. A panel member said the system was essential to aviation safety. Surat Thani was without it when TG261 crashed on a third landing attempt in bad weather. Mr Sunai said: "Executives of both agencies must take responsibility for the crash. It is not necessary to wait for data from the flight recorder". The department had removed the system for two years for the expansion of the airport and Thai had failed to invoke its right to insist that the navigational aid remain in operation. "The system could have been restored when the expansion work started but would have to be re-installed when the project is completed", he said. Mr Sunai implied that the department had cut costs at the expense of public safety. So far Thai has compensated the relatives of 35 people killed and 40 injured in the crash. Thai has paid $100,000 (300,000 baht) for each fatality and 200,000 baht for each injured victim. Following the crash the carrier has decided to examine safety standards through an independent party comprising foreign experts and representatives from Thai's aviation allies.18 February 1999 - A press report, dated today, states: Passengers telephoning friends from a Thai Airways jet as it circled a storm-swept runway in southern Thailand last year may have caused the aircraft to crash, a report said today. Investigators of the crash of flight TG261 have begun tracing mobile phone calls to see if they could have upset electronic systems as the aircraft prepared to land in bad weather, The Nation daily reported. The aircraft crashed near Surat Thani airport in December, killing 101 people, as it made a third attempt at landing. Black-box recordings have shown the flight crew had trouble seeing the runway in heavy rain and contravened flight regulations by making a third landing run rather than diverting to another airport. The airport's instrument landing system was also out of action. The Nation said investigators were now looking into the possibility that passengers used mobile phones to tell relatives that they could be landing at another airport. Mobile phone use is strictly banned on aircraft as the transmissions can interfere with sensitive navigation and other electronic systems. "We want to know how many calls were made and how much transmission power the used phones had", the daily quoted one "informed source" as saying. "Investigators are now checking mobile phone operators about calls made from Surat Thani before the crash."24 February 1999 - The team investigating the cause of a fatal Thai Airways crash late last year has ruled out engine trouble, the weather and runway lighting as possible causes, the deputy head of the team said on Wednesday. Air Vice-Marshal Thawan Mahathai said the team based its conclusions on decoding of the black box flight recorder and manual investigation of the wreckage of the Airbus A310-200 which crashed on 11 December, near the southern town of Surat Thani, killing 101 people. "The committee has ruled out engine problems because the black box showed the engines had been working perfectly", he said. "We also found the strength of the rainstorm was not sufficient to have presented an obstacle to the plane, especially since it was equipped with weather radar." Thawan said the investigators had also ruled out inadequate runway lighting as a possible cause since the pilot told the control tower he could see the runway on his first attempt to land, which he had to abort because the plane was too high. Investigations found half the runway lights had been switched off at the time of the crash and also that an instrument landing system designed to aid landing in poor visibility had been removed from the airport. Thawan said the committee would now focus its investigations on the performance of pilot, the plane's control system and the possibility that mobile phone signals might have interfered with its electronic systems. "It may be possible that telephone signals jammed the control system of the plane", he said. Some of the crash investigation team have said the pilot's announcement that he would divert to another airport if he was unable to land on his third attempt could have prompted calls by passengers to people waiting to meet them. The committee has asked phone companies to check their records to see if any calls were made from the plane at the time of the crash. A source working for the plane's manufacturer, Airbus Industrie, said the firm had rejected the theory. "We have been asked this by the investigators and have told them there is no way this could have interfered with the plane's systems", said the source, who did not want to be identified. Airbus has declined to make any public comment on possible causes of the crash, saying the Thai investigation team was the only body authorised to do so.8 April 1999 - A press report from Bangkok, dated 8 April, states: Interference caused by mobile telephones has been ruled out as the possible cause of the Thai Airways Airbus crash which killed 101 people at Surat Thani airport in December. Investigators are now looking into human error and technical defects as the cause of the disaster. Air Force Chief-of-Staff AC'M Mahintra Thiamthas, the head of the committee investigating the crash of Flight TG261, said yesterday only a few mobile calls had been made during the flight. "No phones were used during the last three or four minutes before the aircraft crashed", he said. Although the crash occurred in rain, bad weather had also been ruled out as a cause. AC'M Mahintra Thiamthas said investigators concurred that weather conditions were safe enough for a landing. Other possibilities being considered were pilot error and aircraft defects. Flight TG261 crashed on landing at Surat Thani airport on 11 December.
18 January 1999 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Public hearings into the crash of El Al Israel Airlines Ltd Boeing 747-258F (4X-AXG) into a densely-populated Amsterdam suburb in 1992 are to start on 27 January, a parliamentary committee set up to look into the accident said today. The hearings form part of a four-month inquiry started late last October to unravel the riddle of the aircraft's load. Dutch newspapers have said the aircraft, which ploughed through a tower block in Bijlmer, was carrying ingredients used in making sarin nerve gas. The Israeli Government later confirmed the aircraft was carrying a chemical known as DMMP, used to make sarin, but insisted the material was non-toxic and was to have been used to test filters that protect against chemical weapons. The five-member parliamentary committee comprises representatives from each of the main Dutch political parties and has powers of subpoena. It will hear about 75 people give evidence on the cause of the crash, the salvage of the wreckage and the co-ordinating role of the government following the crash. Hundreds of Bijlmer residents and workers at the crash site have complained of suffering persistent health problems since. An Amsterdam university hospital which set up a telephone help-line to register complaints said today the problems were too diverse to warrant examination of the people concerned. Amsterdam's Academisch Medisch Centrum said in an interim report that 846 people had reported a range of 3,463 complaints which might have been caused by post-traumatic stress. These included tiredness, headaches and breathing difficulties.
23 January 1999 - Singapore
Singapore's SilkAir has nearly doubled its compensation offer for relatives of the 104 victims killed in the country's worst-ever air disaster after the original amount was criticised by bereaved family members. The regional subsidiary of flag carrier Singapore Airlines Ltd is now offering Singapore $332,000 (US$140,000) per victim to families. In a letter to victims' relatives obtained by Reuters today, SilkAir said it recognised the frustration families felt over the lack of progress in determining the cause of the crash of a SilkAir jet (Boeing 737-300 9V-TRF) in Indonesia in 1997. "We have listened to the concerns raised by families and, as a result, we have made renewed representations to our insurers and lawyers on the issue of compensation", it said. The letter said the offer was on a "without prejudice" basis, meaning the airline was not admitting fault. The offer also could not be used against the airline in court. The letter said the offer is above SilkAir's legal liability as a signatory to the International Air Transport Association's InterCarrier Agreement. The airline had originally offered US$75,000 per victim, determining that amount to be its maximum legal liability under an earlier international agreement on crash compensation. But it later said it was reviewing the compensation package in the wake of criticism from relatives, few of whom accepted the initial offer. Singapore Airlines officials were not immediately available for comment. SilkAir said the increased settlement figure was inclusive of any advance payments relatives had already received and was intended to be a "full and final settlement of claims of those next-of-kin who wish to accept our offer". Lawyers of one of the crash victims, Suzan Picariello, filed a US$25 million lawsuit in the USA against aircraft maker Boeing last year. The first anniversary of the SilkAir crash passed last month with accident investigators no closer to any answers as to why the ten-month old jet plunged from a stable cruising altitude of 35,000ft.
2 February 1999 - Casenga, Luanda, Angola
A press report, dated today, states: A cargo plane crashed shortly after take-off from Luanda International Airport today, smashing into a shanty town in the suburbs of the Angolan capital. At least 19 people were killed, an official said. Eye-witnesses said the Russian-built Antonov-12 was on fire in the air before it crashed. The wreckage was still burning on the ground an hour after the crash. The aircraft, owned by the Angolan company SavanAir, went down in Casenga, about six miles north-west of the airport. SavanAir said it was carrying seven passengers and between three and five crew members. Their nationalities were not available. Branco Ferreira, national director for civil aviation, said the plane was flying to Lukapa in north-east Angola, about 370 miles from Luanda. "It crashed on some houses and the first reports we have are that 19 people were killed", Ferreira told reporters. He did not know whether the dead were passengers or people on the ground. A rescue team was at the crash site, he said.2 February 1999 - Twenty-eight people were killed when a privately-owned Antonov 12 crashed into a poor neighbourhood of the Angolan capital Luanda today, Angolan state radio said. The aircraft ploughed into the suburb of Casenga shortly after take-off, having turned back to Luanda because of technical problems, Diogenes Da Silva, of the Transport and Civil Aviation Ministry, said. The aircraft was headed for the north-eastern diamond town of Lukapa. State radio reported that eight people on board the aircraft were killed and the other 20 were killed on the ground. Government officials had earlier said that the aircraft was carrying ten people, who all died. The Soviet-built aircraft was owned by Angolan-based charter company Aviacao Civile. State radio said it was not known who had chartered the aircraft, but that it was not the Government or the United Nations. A resident of Casenga said the aircraft had crashed about 04.00 hrs, ploughing into houses and exploding in flames. "Everybody in the aircraft must be dead", a resident said. "The only survivors are from the houses. Two houses have been completely destroyed. The radio said two people on board had escaped from the wreckage but the resident said this was unlikely as the aircraft had been completely destroyed.
The "black box" has been recovered and the results are awaited, but it is believed that no military action was involved.
3 February 1999 - Quito, Ecuador
Human error caused the crash of a Cuban aircraft in Ecuador which killed 81 people last August, an Ecuadorean government commission investigating the accident said today. The accident happened as the Russian-made Topolev Tu-154M careered off the runway and exploded during an attempted take-off from Quito airport. "The probable cause of the accident was the late decision of the crew to abort the take-off", Civil Aviation chief General Oswaldo Dominguez said. "This is considered as a human factor." The aircraft was run by Cuba's state run airline Cubana de Aviaµion. Dominguez said Cubana officials had been informed of the findings. "The crew was in good physical and psychological condition to operate this kind of aircraft", Dominguez said. "The aircraft's weight and balance was as stipulated and the engines were running normally." Ecuadorean civil aviation authorities are working to improve conditions at Quito's airport.
16 February 1999 - Cavalese, Italy
An altimeter that should have warned a US Marine pilot that his jet was flying too low seconds before it sheared a pair of lift cables killing 20 people malfunctioned twice in tests conducted after the accident last year, an electronics expert said today. Testifying in the court-martial of a US Marine pilot charged in the accident, civilian electronics expert Robert Fitzgerald said the radar altimeter's needle stuck twice at low altitudes during tests a month after the 3 February 1998, collision. "The low-altitude circuitry was working but the needle was stuck", said Fitzgerald, who tested the altimeter on the damaged EA-6B Prowler at the US air base in Aviano, Italy, last March. Marine Capt. Richard Ashby was charged with 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter, along with destruction of property and dereliction of duty in the accident, which prompted calls to close US military bases in Italy. Prosecutors allege Ashby, who was preparing to transfer to fighter pilot school, was intentionally flying his electronic surveillance jet too low and too fast when he clipped the cables, killing everyone in a gondola that plunged about 400ft to the ground. Fitzgerald, the last in a series of technical experts testifying today about the jet's electronic components, said a broken wire connected to the radar altimeter may have kept it from signalling a low-altitude warning, particularly when the jet banked or rolled. "If it's not working properly, it might fail to warn him when he got too low", Fitzgerald said.18 February 1999 - A crewman on a US Marine jet that sheared lift cables over an Italian ski resort in February 1998, killing 20 people, disputed today prosecutors' claims that the pilot flew the aircraft recklessly. Capt. Chandler Seagraves, the first flight crewman to testify in the court-martial of Capt. Richard Ashby, said Ashby performed no aerobatic manoeuvres while piloting the jet and did not intentionally buzz ski villages on a training mission through the Italian Alps. Charged with 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter, destruction of property and dereliction of duty in the 3 February 1998, accident, Ashby faces up to 200 years in prison if convicted in the trial at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Prosecutors allege Ashby, on his first low-altitude training mission in six months, was intentionally flying too low and too quickly when his jet clipped lift cables near Cavalese, Italy, killing everyone in a gondola that plunged nearly 400ft. Seagraves said Ashby considered aborting the training mission minutes before his EA-6B Prowler sheared through ski lift cables after an altimeter malfunctioned briefly and afternoon haze reduced visibility in the mountains. Seagraves said Ashby, after gradually beginning the low-altitude segment of the training mission, banked his jet over a mountain ridge and dived into a valley. Seconds later, it clipped ski-lift cables strung across the Cermis Valley. "There was a thud, a vibration in the air-plane. I put my head back and got myself in ejection mode", Seagraves said. "I heard (navigator) Capt. (Joseph) Schweitzer say, 'Climb climb, climb'. Capt. Ashby did the proper thing, slowly starting a smooth climb out."2 March 1999 - A military jury yesterday acquitted a Marine pilot of all charges that he recklessly flew his jet into an Italian gondola cable, killing 20 people more than a year ago. Capt. Richard Ashby was charged with 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count each of destroying government property, destroying private property, dereliction of duty and failure to plan the flight properly. The pilot faced a possible sentence of 206 years if he had been convicted of all charges. Prosecutors argued that Ashby had recklessly disregarded altitude and speed restrictions. The defence said the military's map did not show the ski lift, and that key jet equipment wasn't working properly. The accident happened on the final leg of a 42-minute training route through the Italian Alps. Jurors - all Marines, though none were combat pilots - deliberated for seven-and-a-half hours, over two days, after more than three weeks of testimony. John Arthur Eaves, who represents relatives of the German victims, said the US government still had not compensated the families, yet it appropriated $20 million to pay for damages to the Italian ski-lift.16 March 1999 - A press report from Camp Lejeune, NC, dated 15 March, states: The Marine Corps said today it would drop manslaughter and homicide charges against the navigator of the jet that sliced an Italian ski gondola cable last year and killed 20 people. Capt. Joseph Schweitzer will be tried only on charges of obstructing justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice when his court-martial begins Thursday, March 18.
24 February - Zhejiang Province, China
More than 60 people on-board a China Southwestern Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 were killed today when the aircraft crashed in eastern China, hospital officials said. "All the rescue workers have found is more than 60 dead bodies", said one official by telephone from the city of Runian. Airline officials said 51 passengers were on-board, along with more than ten crew members. The aircraft crashed in a hilly rural area about 30km from its destination, the port city of Wenzhou, and injured at least two people on the ground, the hospital officials said. Initial reports said there was a mid-air explosion on the aircraft before it crashed. However, one aviation official said later the aircraft flew into a mountain. The aircraft took off from Chengdu, capital of the south-western province of Sichuan.24 February 1999 - All 64 people on board a Chinese Tupolev Tu-154 were killed today when the aircraft crashed into fields in eastern China, Xinhua news agency reported. Initial reports said the aircraft exploded in mid-air on its final approach to the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. Other officials said the China Southwest Airlines aircraft may have exploded on impact 30km short of the airport. Xinhua said the aircraft was carrying 51 passengers and 13 crew. A hospital doctor sent to the crash site said there were no survivors. Body parts, strips of clothing and debris from the aircraft were strewn around farmland in a flat area. A police officer in Ruian, a city close to the crash site, said an explosion brought down the aircraft. The aircraft took off from Chengdu, capital of the south-west province of Sichuan, and crashed at 16.20 hrs (08.20, UTC), Xinhua reported. The doctor said hundreds of police and rescue workers were combing the crash area. Cordons were thrown up along narrow roads leading to the site to hold back curious onlookers.25 February 1999 - A Chinese Tupolev Tu-154 which crashed, killing all 61 people on board, narrowly missed a cluster of homes and factories before slamming into the earth and exploding into fragments, witnesses said today. Pieces of metal were scattered around a field planted with rice, corn and wheat at the eastern village of Tangtou, but few were recognisable as parts of the 27-year-old aircraft. Only the nose cone stood out, jutting from the edge of a huge, charred crater, in television pictures taken shortly after the crash yesterday afternoon as firemen hosed down scattered wreckage billowing flames and thick smoke. Troops and police combed the field today, but by late afternoon the official Xinhua news agency said they had still not found the data recorder. Initial reports said the China Southwest Airlines aircraft, carrying 50 passengers - seven of them schoolchildren and 11 crew - exploded in mid-air on its approach to the airport of the port city of Wenzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang. However, witnesses described an aircraft in distress, its engines banging loudly and trailing smoke in clear weather as the aircraft skimmed low over a group of 20 or so four-storey factories and homes before hitting the ground. A hospital doctor at the site soon after the crash said the scene was devastating, with bits of bodies strewn everywhere. "Not one body was intact", he said. Airline officials said all the victims were Chinese. They said the carrier had grounded its remaining Tu-154s indefinitely and that the families of uninsured passengers would receive yuan 70,000 ($8,500) in compensation.27 February 1999 - A press report, dated today, states: The "black box" flight recorders from a Chinese airliner that crashed killing 61 people have been taken for analysis and results could come in a week, state media said today. The voice and data recorders that register aircraft speed and conversations between the pilots and the control tower could provide clues to why the China Southwest Airlines jet crashed and exploded in a vegetable field near the south-eastern city of Wenzhou. The official newspaper China Daily said no visibility or radio problems were reported before the crash, although witnesses said the aircraft was spewing black smoke and flying erratically before it came down. The flight recorders were taken yesterday for analysis, the Xinhua News Agency said without providing details.4 March 1999 - Chinese aviation officials have urged immediate steps to improve air safety after a China Southwest Airlines plane crash killed 61 people last week, the China Daily said today. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) held an emergency meeting on Tuesday 2 March in response to the crash to rectify the "grave situation in flight safety", the newspaper said. "The pressure we are facing now can be turned into a powerful drive to improve security work", the newspaper quoted CAAC director Liu Jianfeng as saying. Liu called for a prompt investigation of the cause of the crash of the Tupolev Tu-154. Aviation staff should be better trained, especially in emergency situations and more attention should be paid to operation manuals, Liu said. Air traffic control and the quality of aircraft maintenance should also be improved, the daily said. Investigators have found the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, but it is not clear what condition the recorders were in after the 27-year-old plane plunged to earth and exploded into fragments. China Southwest Airlines said it had grounded its remaining Tu-154s indefinitely following the crash.
3 March 1999 - Taipei, Taiwan
A press report, dated 2 March, states: An official investigation says pilot error caused a China Airlines crash that killed 196 people aboard and six on the ground last year, a Taiwanese newspaper reported today. The Airbus A300-600R was en route from the Indonesian island of Bali when it went down on 16 February 1998. A soon-to-be-released report says the pilot approached the runway at too high an altitude, and failed to descend despite being reminded to do so by the control tower, the United Evening News reported. In attempting to come around for a second approach, the pilot pulled the plane up too hard, stalling the plane's engines and causing it to crash into houses next to the runway at Taipei's International Airport, the paper quoted the report as saying. Data recovered from the flight recorders pointed to a similar sequence of events, but officials have not yet announced any conclusions. China Airlines spokesman Steve Yang said the airline and aircraft manufacturer will be briefed when the report is ready - possibly in April. Yang said the airline has upgraded pilot skills by increasing training in flight simulators and hiring more foreign pilots, which the newspaper said will be key recommendations in the report.28 April 1999 - Chinese investigators have ruled out sabotage and dangerous cargo as possible causes of a Korean Air McDonnell Douglas MD-11F (HL7373) crash this month. "The cargo on the aircraft did not contain any dangerous goods", the Civil Aviation General Administration of China said yesterday in a joint statement with the US National Transportation Safety Board and the Korea Civil Aviation Bureau. "There is no evidence of criminal intent." Officials of South Korea's flag carrier said soon after the 15 April crash that there was a "high possibility" the aircraft had exploded in mid-air. South Korean newspapers had speculated about possible terrorism by North Korea. But the Chinese authorities said an initial investigation had uncovered no evidence of an explosion before the crash, and no components of the aircraft were found along the flight path before impact. The cockpit voice recorder, which was recovered, indicated the flight crew were having trouble steering the aircraft, but the nature of the problem was unclear, the statement said. "The flight crew's conversations provided by the CVR indicate that shortly after take-off the crew experienced a problem in manoeuvring the plane", it said. But the statement did not say conclusively what caused the crash. Joint investigations would continue.
7 March 1999 - Delhi Airport, India
At least 22 people were killed when an Indian Air Force transport crashed at Delhi Airport early today, a senior airport official said. "An Antonov An-32 transport aircraft of Indian Air Force crashed while approaching Delhi Airport. There are no signs of any survivors. We have located 22 bodies so far", Delhi Airport Director N.V. Sridhar, said. An unspecified number of others were injured. Sridhar said the aircraft had crashed near a labourers' camp in a residential neighbourhood bordering the airport. "We are yet to ascertain whether there are any more bodies", he said, adding that the airport had been temporarily closed. Approximately 20 people were believed to be on board the aircraft but a precise figure was not immediately available. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit said that 23 people had been killed - 17 on the aircraft and six on the ground. It was not clear if there were survivors from the aircraft. A senior police official said the injured included a five-year-old girl who was burned on 35 per cent of her body. An Indian Air Force official said the aircraft was heading from Gwalior to Pokhran for an Air Force exercise. It was stopping in New Delhi to pick up a senior official. He said the aircraft disappeared off radar screens two nautical miles from the runway. A witness at the crash site said the aircraft had crashed into a construction site. "Only the tail section is lying outside the site. The wreckage is strewn across the site in an area of 300-400 metres," he said. One of the labourers at the site said that the aircraft came in low and hit a low boundary wall. "There was a fire and the aircraft exploded. Some burning parts fell on the huts of labourers. I saw some people running out of their huts on fire", he said.10 March 1999 - A report from New Delhi states: The flight data and cockpit voice recorders of an Indian Air Force transport aircraft that crashed near New Delhi killing 22 people have been retrieved, Defence Minister George Fernandes said. He said the instruments were undamaged and could provide vital clues to the crash on Sunday 7 March of the Antonov An-32 transport aircraft. The aircraft exploded at 08.22 hrs after crashing on to a huge water storage tank in the Pappankalan district near Indira Gandhi Airport. All 19 people on board the aircraft including one civilian, were killed, while another three people died on the ground.
15 March 1999 - Port au Prince, Haiti
A United Nations helicopter, on a mercy mission in Haiti, has crashed in remote mountains and all 13 people on board are feared dead, US and UN officials said today. The helicopter is a write-off. There are numerous bodies and body parts all over the area, which would indicate that all 13 people perished in the crash, said US Coast Guard spokesman, Scott Carr, in Miami. A Coast Guard helicopter spotted the wreckage about 35 miles (60km) north-east of Port au Prince this afternoon. The UN helicopter was last heard from yesterday evening, when it set off to evacuate a Finnish woman who had been hurt by a power boat while swimming off Cap Haitian in northern Haiti. The United Nations in Port au Prince confirmed the wreckage had been found. A United Nations official said it was too soon to say what might have caused the Russian-made Ml-8 helicopter - carrying six Argentines, six Russians and an American - to crash. Five of the Argentines were UN civilian police and another was a doctor. The Russians were crew members and engineers, and the American represented the US company that contracted the helicopter for the United Nations, UN officials said. Yasuhiro Ueki, a UN spokesman in New York, said the crash represented the worst loss of life yet during the UN mission in Haiti. The helicopter had left Port au Prince to replace another chopper that developed a fuel leak in Cap Haitian while trying to evacuate the Finnish woman. It lost radio contact about 19.40, EST, yesterday, 20 minutes after taking off in bad weather.
24 March 1999 - Springfield, USA
Rudder malfunction, not pilot error, was the most likely cause of the 1994 crash of a USAirways Inc. Boeing 737-300 (NSl3AU) that killed 132 people, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said today. In a 4-0 vote, the board said a key hydraulic valve in the rudder mechanism had probably jammed, causing the rudder controls to reverse from the direction commanded by the pilot. The NTSB also said that the same failure was the most likely cause of a 1991 crash that killed 25 people and a serious incident in 1996, both involving Boeing 737s. The Boeing 737-300 on Flight 427 was preparing to land at Pittsburgh International Airport on 8 September 1994, when its rudder moved hard to port, sending it into a roll from which it never recovered. Within months of that crash, investigators reopened their probe into a 1991 wreck of a United Airlines 737-200 in Colorado in which 25 people died. Their concerns were only heightened by a serious 1996 in-flight upset of an Eastwinds Airline 737-200, which recovered safely. The NTSB said some of its concerns had been addressed through changes made by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing Co. since the Pittsburgh crash, but more needed to be done. One of those changes was a redesign of the hydraulic valve to eliminate the possibility that if one component jammed, hydraulic fluid could be misdirected and cause a reversal blamed for the three events. But the NTSB said there were other rudder failure scenarios that needed to be addressed and called on the FAA to require all existing and future 737s made by Boeing Co. to have a "reliably redundant" rudder system and order the fitting of even more sophisticated flight data recorders. Lacking physical evidence of a rudder-jam, NTSB staff spent thousands of hours making computer simulations of the flights and analysing pilot behaviour. NTSB member George Black, an engineer, said the lack of physical evidence had bothered him but he believed there was a circumstantial case for a rudder problem. Both Boeing and the FAA said after the hearing that they still believed they had addressed all the possible scenarios for these three incidents through changes to the rudder mechanism and by training pilots to handle unusual situations. "We think what we have done to date takes care of all the problems we know of today", said Charles Higgins, Boeing's vice president for aircraft safety. Higgins said Boeing would work with the FAA to see what additional problems needed to be addressed but cautioned that major rudder changes would require extensive study. FAA Associate Administrator Tom McSweeney said the agency would bring together a special board, as recommended by the NTSB, to conduct further tests and a design review of the 737. But he noted that the redesign of the hydraulic valve had eliminated the probable cause of the two crashes and the third incident. "I don't know what 'reliably redundant' means", said McSweeny, who said FAA officials would seek a meeting with the NTSB to gauge whether they were seeking additional hydraulic control for a single rudder panel or a split rudder panel as installed on some other Boeing planes. The NTSB was particularly critical of the FAA for not requiring faster retrofits of more sophisticated flight data recorders that would have allowed them to investigate the rudder incidents much more quickly. It also called on the FAA to make improved pilot training mandatory and said 737s' speeds when positioning for landing should be increased to give pilots a better chance of overcoming rudder failure. The FAA was due to issue a flight standards bulletin later today to recommend airlines increase those speeds.