Electrical fault saw plane smash into ocean at 345mph killing all 229 passengers

An electrical fault caused a plane to terrifyingly plummet before crashing into the ocean at 345mph, killing all on board.

On the night of September 2 in 1998, crew were unaware that their was something horribly wrong with Swissair Flight 111 and would end up costing the lives of all 229 passengers people.

The flight was travelling from John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City towards Cointrin Airport in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Onboard the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 craft was 215 passengers and 14 crew members.

It departed at 8.18pm, but by 10.10pm, things quickly went wrong.

Cabin crew began detecting unusual odours in the cockipit, but there was no smoke.

It had been thought, just two minutes later, that it could have been coming from the air conditioning system.

A decision was made, as the plane flew over Nova Scotia, to divert to either Bangor, Maine, or Boston, Massachusetts.

But just two minutes later, smoke was now billowing into the cockpit of Flight 111, and it was requested that it diverted to Boston.

For some reason, the pilots gave the signal “Pan Pan Pan”, which meant that there was an issue but it wasn't an emergency.

Oxygen masks were put on to passengers and crew, and a new destination of Halifax – not Boston – was chosen as it was closer.

Flight control at the airport told the pilots that they had to dump fuel before landing, but just four minutes later a state of emergency was declared and the plane lost contact with the airport.

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Shockingly, at 10.31pm, the plane nose dived into a nearby ocean at 345mph, instantly killing all the people on board.

Only 78 victims were identified, taking more than a month to do so.

It later turned out that two valuable Pablo Picasso paintings were on board, but were both destroyed in the crash.

It was ruled by an investigation nearly two years later that the fire was caused by faulty wiring, and that aisle lights were a possible ignition source.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board made three recommendations.

They were:

  • Toughen the flammability standards for all materials used in air planes.
  • Create more stringent certification standards for electrical wires, as the board said standards should include “more realistic testing covering all the ways wires can fail”.
  • Evaluate all systems in terms of their impact on an in-flight fire as “current systems can aggravate fires, turning a minor scare into a full-blown tragedy”.

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It wasn't until March 27, 2003 that the final report was released – and it took around £50 million in costs to complete the investigation.

In total, 23 recommendation were made, and in 2008, it was revealed that 18 of those hadn't yet been introduced.

A memorial can be found in Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, where the remains of those who could not be identified were buried in an unmarked grave.

The craft model involved in the accident was retired in 2004, replaced by the Airbus A330-300 craft.

Swissair went bankrupt in 2002, with Crossair taking over.

It launched Swiss International Air Lines shortly after – no criminal prosecutions were made.

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