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Information and discussion of the crash, investigation, victims and survivors of  Swissair 111, what went wrong, why, who was responsible and how will such tragedies be prevented in the future.

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NEW
MD11 IFEN Wiring Photos

 

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MICHAIL ITKIS, CEO OF INTERACTIVE FLIGHT TECHNOLOGY
CHANGES NAME TO MIKE SNOW

 

A source that doesn't wish to be named has passed the following information to me. Michail Itkis, former CEO of the now defunct company that conceived and manufactured the entertainment system (IFEN) that has been named as almost certainly causing Swissair 111 to crashm has changed his name from Michail Itkis

 to Mike Snow. I don't even want to speculate on the reasons for this though I certainly have my own thoughts about this privately. Here is the information:

 

"Michail Itkis has re-surfaced as the president of an Arizona-based

company that manufactures cargo trailers.

 

The company is called Interstate Group LLC, which has recently relocated

its operations to the state of Arkansas, with much fanfare from Governor

Mike Huckabee.

 

Itkis has changed his name to Mike Snow, as did his wife Lauren

Snopkowski (who also worked at IFT) - now Lauren Snow."

 

http://www.conwayarkansas.org/archive/archive15.html

http://www.interstatecargo.com/

http://www.1800arkansas.com/index.cfm?page=news_article&article=55

http://www.todaysthv.com/news/news.asp?storyid=6357

http://www.arkansas.gov/governor/media/radio/text/r07122003.html

http://www.arkansas.gov/governor/current_events/events_2003_p2.html

(including possible photo of Michail Itkis sitting behind Arkansas Gov

Mike Huckabee)

 

USA TODAY - DH BLAIR ATTEMPTED TO BRIBE FAA REPRESNTATIVE TO APPROVE ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

The excerpt below from Gary Stoller's USA TODAY article of Feb 17, 2003 suggests that a representative of the now defunct brokerage firm, DH Blair, attempted to bribe the FAA Designated Engineering Representative charged with certification review of IFT's entertainment system.

DH Blair, a number of whose executives were subsequently convicted of Securities Fraud, was the underwriter of IFT's IPO, which was one of the transactions named in the indictments. Blair's "pump and dump" schemes involved underwriting start-up companies' IPOs in which Blair insiders received shares at very low prices. Blair would then agressively sell the companies stock to the public, achieving an artifically high price. The insiders would then sell their stock at a large profit before it became clear that the businesses involved were of questionable value.

IFT was a classic case. The founders had no experience in the aviation business and lacked the skills and knowledge to produce the product they were promoting. In order to achieve profits for the insiders, it was necessary for IFT to land at least one significant deal. When it became clear that this was unlikely, assistance was provided by individuals who were frequent beneficiaries of Blair's transactions, one of whom is said to have made the necessary introductions to secure the Swissair deal.

It has never been clear how IFT, poorly qualified at best, landed the Swissair deal. Given the practices that were standard operating procedure for DH Blair, it is tempting to speculate that decision makers were influenced by personal gains arranged by Blair. Unfortunately, there is no smoking gun readily available in this regard. Although we believe there is more than adequate cause for serious investigation. Again unfortunately, no such investigation has been conducted. And again it is tempting to speculate . . .

From USA TODAY

In August 1994, IFT approached Edward Mlynarczyk, a private engineering representative designated to act on the FAA's behalf, to certify components and help bring the overall system to the FAA for a required supplemental type certificate (STC). An STC represents FAA approval for modifying an airplane from its original design and is granted after a rigorous process of sign-offs on design data, components and test results. An STC can be obtained from the FAA or from one of about 30 certified aviation repair shops.

Mlynarczyk is one of thousands of designees used by the FAA to help certify aircraft modifications. Under a decades-old program almost unknown to the public, the agency allows designees to be paid by the companies contracting them for certification work.

Mlynarczyk says IFT's system was very rudimentary and unsuitable for aircraft use, but the company pressured him to accelerate the certification process. He says much work was needed before the equipment could pass FAA tests, including environmental and electromagnetic interference tests.

"They had no clue what it would take to get an STC," says Mlynarczyk. "They would send some information about the system, and when we'd say, 'That's not good enough,' they'd say, 'You're trying to gouge us for more money.' They were running out of funds and trying to shortcut so many things."

Mlynarczyk says he received a phone call from a representative of stockbroker D.H. Blair & Co., who asked him whether certification was near and whether he'd like to get in on the ground floor of IFT's initial public stock offering. IFT went public in March 1995.

Such an offer could violate a federal bribery law, which applies to anyone, like Mlynarczyk, acting on behalf of the government. The law, which imposes a fine and up to 15 years imprisonment, is violated by offers of "anything of value to any public official" with intent "to influence any official act."

Mlynarczyk says he turned the offer down. Several years later, D.H. Blair and 13 former employees were found guilty of defrauding investors in 15 IPOs including IFT's through stock-price manipulation. Four of those employees including the vice chairman received prison sentences. The company is now defunct.

A month after the stock offering, Mlynarczyk says he canceled his contract with IFT because the company kept changing its entertainment system specifications and pressuring him to speed up the certification process. Two days later, while he was away, two men arrived at his Florida office in a limousine with New York state license plates and demanded that his wife hand over the prototype and related data, Mlynarczyk says.

His wife refused their demands because IFT still owed $30,000. The two men handed over $30,000 in cash and then cut the prototype system into parts when it didn't fit into the limo, Mlynarczyk says.

Itkis says he can't recall Mlynarczyk, but he laughed when he was told about Mlynarczyk's account. "He has a very vivid imagination," Itkis says. "It sounds like a movie scenario. Can I get rights to it?"

 

Officials to probe use of aviation
contractors

The General Accounting Office is launching an investigation into the federal government's use of thousands of private companies to inspect and certify airlines' planes and aircraft alterations.

GAO officials say the new probe was triggered by a Feb. 17 USA TODAY article and a letter Friday from Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. He said that the Federal Aviation Administration's use of private companies has been criticized and that the newspaper story suggested "the aviation industry was supervising itself without adequate controls and oversight by FAA." (Related story: )

The article documented how a faulty interactive entertainment system on a Swissair jet that crashed in September 1998 was incorrectly installed and improperly certified by private companies. All 229 people aboard Flight 111, which left New York and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia, were killed.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board will announce the findings of its investigation on March 27. The board, which has been assisted by the FAA, found early on that wires in the system and other wires short-circuited and could have led to a fire.

The system was made by a small Las Vegas company, Interactive Flight Technologies.

An FAA-approved contractor, Santa Barbara Aerospace, was hired to certify that the system met FAA safety standards and oversee its installation on Swissair jets. SBA's certification violated FAA procedures, according to the FAA's post-crash review.

The FAA did not oversee SBA's work on the project aggressively, even though it had criticized the company's work in the past, USA TODAY reported, based on a review of FAA documents.

After the Swissair crash, the FAA found problems with the design, installation and certification of IFT's systems and banned them. SBA lost operating authority and went bankrupt.

Unknown to much of the traveling public, thousands of individuals and companies like SBA have been increasingly used in the past few decades to do the FAA's inspection and certification work. The FAA relies on designees because it doesn't have enough staff or expertise to monitor the large number of planes flying today. Critics charge that designees may not be impartial certifiers, because they are hired and paid by the companies that want their products certified.

The GAO has not yet set a timetable for completing its investigation of the designee program, says Gerald Dillingham, the agency's director of civil aviation issues.

The program and other issues raised by USA TODAY's article also concern the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General. Deputy IG Todd Zinser says the office is "evaluating the information to determine whether further investigation is warranted."

FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto says the agency is "ready to assist in any review" of its programs. He wouldn't comment further.

USA TODAY Link

 

Final Report Released

The Transportation Safety Board Today of Canada released the final report on the Swissair 111 accident investigation. Investigators believe that an electrical arcing event on an entertainment system wire was associated with the initial arcing event. Story:BBC

Links to news coverage of final report

 

Employees warned of heat 

By Gary Stoller, USA TODAY, Feb 17, 2003

A company that supplied entertainment systems for Swissair jets brushed off employees' concerns about the systems' safety, well before the product drew investigators' attention as a possible cause of a 1998 Swissair crash, two former employees say.

The employees say Interactive Flight Technologies' entertainment system produced excessive heat, which worried them. They contacted USA TODAY after it published an investigative report on the system on Feb. 17.

Link to story

 

 

USA TODAY Editorial, 3/26

FAA failings in Swissair crash follow a too-familiar pattern

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board faulted the Federal Aviation Administration for contributing to the January 2000 crash of an Alaska Airlines jet that killed 88. The indictment of the FAA was not the first. In 1997, the safety board held the agency partly responsible for a 1996 crash in which 110 died when a ValuJet plane plummeted into the Florida Everglades.

Now a two-year USA TODAY investigation concludes that the FAA might have played a role in yet another airline disaster a 1998 crash that claimed 229 lives when a Swissair jumbo jet plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.

In all three tragedies, the FAA botched its paramount mission: to make sure that those inspecting, maintaining and modifying commercial airliners do their jobs properly.

Link to full text

 

Crash Reveals 
Oversight Flaws

Doomed plane's gaming system exposes holes in FAA oversight

A small Las Vegas company with large ambitions and marquee investors sold U.S. regulators and Swissair on a video gaming system for airplanes. Until Flight 111 crashed, no one realized how many chances had been taken with passengers' safety.

Full Text                        Discussion

 

 

FAA Special Certification Review Team Report on Santa Barbara Aerospace and Swissaiir MD-11 IFE System 
    
Link to PDF (2MB)

 

Benoit Bouchard, Chairman
Transportation Safety Board of Canada

"In the SwissAir 111 accident near Peggy's Cove there has been, in Switzerland, an allegation of "manslaughter through negligence". An investigating judge has been assigned in Switzerland and the Canadian Department of Justice has been asked to obtain our files. While we like to cooperate, we will resist the use of our information for the purposes of prosecutions with extreme vigour."

Link to full transcript

 

Inflight Entertainment Systems, From Institutional Investor, 1995

 

Some airlines ... continue to circle interactivity warily. KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France are putting the necessary hardware on their long-haul planes, but they're holding off on installing the software until the technology is proven. "We don't want to experiment with our passengers," contends a KLM official. more...

 


Letter to Swissair 111 Families on Draft Report

From the discussion board ..

Imagine your child being abducted, assaulted and murdered. The perpetrator is caught by police and put on trial. But the trial takes place in secret and last four years. You inquire as to what has been learned or determined. You are told that no conclusions have been reached. You have to wait for the final verdict. On the matter of the appropriate penalty should the perpetrator be found guilty, all the killer's friends and relatives get to testify as character witnesses, but you are not allowed to speak. In the end, he is found guilty but given a suspended sentence and set free. You inquire as to the facts of what actually happened to your child. The judge responds that he will issue a report, but that it's contents will be confined to information that is in the public interest to prevent future child abduction. You learn that killer was set free because he bargained with the judge - he would tell all in return for a light sentence. The judge agreed citing the best interests of the public in the prevention of future crimes.

Now imagine 229 people killed ...

Link to discussion thread

 

Swiss News Reports TSB Draft Report Says IFEN Substantially Contributed to Swissair 111 Crash

In an article that appears in the Swiss paper SonntagsZeitung Von Andrea Bleicher and Adrian Schulthess report (excerpts translated from German, emphasis added):

"An energy consuming monster," says Barbara Fetherolf - revealing the anger of the American who lost her 16 year old daughter Tara in the crash. Her anger is justified!

The investigation authority has concluded that the onboard TV (entertainment system) is responsible, at least in part, for the catastrophe near Halifax.

This information is from the official draft accident report, which devotes several dozen pages to the IFEN.

Sonntagzeitung has learned from Several independent sources that the IFEN is substantially involved in the actual crash.


The manufacturer of the supposed high tech miracle was Interactive Flight Technologies, of Phoenix, Arizona. The fact that the firm had no experience in the manufacture of on-board aircraft support systems - Swissair was its first and only large customer - didn't bother the Swissair management. Weaknesses in the IFEN appeared almost immediately after the installation; it drew too much current, the cabin heated up and it was not immune to total blackouts. Moreover, the IFEN was connected to the aircraft's main power supply - a fact that played an important role in the crash.

The report also suggests that the pilots waited too long to land, but how heavily this weighs is not determined.

An anonymous informant who directed an email to survivors last week and who is close to the investigation reported that the origin of the accident was traced to the cables of the IFEN. For people (loved ones) of the victims, this communication, the contents of which they believe is correct, has let loose a new wave of anger at the time of the anniversary of the crash.

     discussion

 

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL D. FANFALONE, PRESIDENT PROFESSIONAL AIRWAYS SYSTEMS SPECIALISTS (PASS) AFL-CIO BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE SUBCOMMITTEE ON AVIATION ON FAA REAUTHORIZATION MARCH 27, 2003 - PDF

Entertainment system behind Swissair fire - whistleblower

Source claims probe found wiring to blame, cites confidential report

 

By RICHARD DOOLEY

 

The Daily News

 


Monday, September 02, 2002

 

The families of victims of Swissair Flight 111 have to wait until next year to learn what started the fire that caused it to slam into the Atlantic Ocean near Peggys Cove four years ago today, killing all 229 people on board.

But information purporting to be leaked from the Transportation Safety Boards investigation into the crash has found its way to the Internet, and is being widely circulated by relatives of the crash victims.

                  Full text and discussion...

 

"The Investigation of Swissair 111" follows the inside story of a four and a half year inquiry into what went wrong. The airplane's black boxes stopped functioning about six minutes prior to impact, leaving Canada's air crash detectives with a gaping evidence hole. Coupled with the fact that the aircraft lay in small pieces 55 metres below the surface of the ocean, this would be one of the most complex crash investigations ever.

"The Investigation of Swissair 111" follows, in intimate detail, the work, lives and struggles of this team of crash sleuths, as they try to learn, through the tragedy, how air travel can be made even safer than it already is.

The film is directed and written by Halifax-native, Howard Green, and is a co-production between CBC-TV's "The Nature of Things" and Swiss National Television. It will air at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 3, 2003. The Executive Producer of "The Nature of Things" is Michael Allder.

Flash Feature Presentation from CBC Web

 

Recommended Reading

The Tombstone Imperative
The Truth About Air Safety 
by Andrew Weir

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