Recommendation A00-19

Reassessment of the Responses from Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration to Aviation Safety Recommendation A00-19

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Deficiencies in In-Flight Odour/Smoke Checklists

Background

On 02 September 1998, Swissair Flight 111, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft, departed John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, New York, en route to Geneva, Switzerland. Approximately one hour after take-off, the crew diverted the flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, because of smoke in the cockpit. While the aircraft was manoeuvring in preparation for landing in Halifax, it struck the water near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, fatally injuring all 229 occupants on board. The investigation revealed that the flight crew had lost control of the aircraft as a result of a fire in the aircraft's ceiling area, forward and aft of the cockpit bulkhead.

On 04 December 2000, the Board released interim safety recommendations as part of its investigation (A98H0003) into this occurrence.

Board Recommendation A00-19 (04 December 2000)

Aircraft accident data indicate that a self-propagating fire can develop in a short period of time. Therefore, odour/smoke checklists must be designed such that the appropriate troubleshooting procedures are completed quickly and effectively. The Board is concerned that this is not the case and recommended that:

Appropriate regulatory authorities ensure that emergency checklist procedures for the condition of odour/smoke of unknown origin be designed so as to be completed in a timeframe that will minimize the possibility of an in-flight fire being ignited or sustained.
A00-19

Responses to A00-19 (Transport Canada - 06 March 2001 and Federal Aviation Admnistration - 18 January 2001)

On 19 December 2000, Transport Canada (TC) sent a letter to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). The letter supported the intent of the recommendations, acknowledged that none of the issues can be addressed in isolation, and invited the major civil aviation regulatory authorities to harmonize a strategy for their resolution.

In this letter, TC also proposed to hold a meeting in March 2001 to discuss the recommendations, to identify existing initiatives and groups that may already address some aspects covered by the recommendations, and to establish a team to develop an appropriate action strategy. The FAA responded positively on 19 January 2001 and a positive response is anticipated from the JAA.

TC will keep the TSB apprised of the outcome of the meeting and of its progress towards achieving the goals of these recommendations.

The FAA responded that it has added TSB's recommendations to the FAA's Safety Recommendation Program to ensure that they are assigned to the appropriate program offices for evaluation and action as necessary. The FAA also indicates that it has agreed to meet with TC over this matter and that the Office of Aircraft Certification, specifically the Manager of the Transport Airplane Directorate, has been assigned to lead the FAA team in this regard.

Board Assessment of the Responses to A00-19 (19 March 2001)

It is apparent that both TC and the FAA agree with the thrust of the deficiencies and are committed, at least in the short term, to examine these issues and map out a course of action. Collectively, these responses are adequate and constitute a logical "first step." Until such time as the details of the proposed action plan are known, it will remain unclear the extent to which the identified deficiencies will be reduced or eliminated. Although the declared initiatives will not yield any immediate substantive change, the planned action, when fully implemented, will substantially reduce or eliminate the safety deficiency.

Therefore, the responses are considered to be Satisfactory Intent.

Next TSB action

TSB staff will closely monitor the progress of the TC/FAA deliberations to determine if their action plan addresses the identified deficiencies.

Response to A00-19 (14 December 2005)

In its letter to the TSB dated 14 December 2005, TC stated that, in 2005, TC and Bombardier Aerospace participated in an International Air Transport Association workshop, which had as an objective to produce generic industry-wide guidance material on smoke and fire cockpit checklist procedures.

Consequently, Bombardier committed to draft proposed improvements to the aircraft flight manual smoke and fire procedures and will submit updates to the procedures when complete.

Board Reassessment of the Response to A00-19 (12 July 2006)

As of 14 December 2005, TC indicated that it is working with Bombardier Aerospace to improve aircraft flight manual (AFM) procedures with respect to fire and smoke. Bombardier is to submit proposed improvements to TC. Consequently, the actions, if fully implemented, will substantially reduce or eliminate the safety deficiency.

Therefore, the assessment remains at Satisfactory Intent.

Next TSB action

TSB staff will monitor the progress of the draft improvements to determine if this course of action addresses the deficiency associated with Recommendation A00-19.

Response to A00-19 (07 February 2007)

TC's response states that its co-sponsorship with other regulatory authorities of the Flight Safety Foundation's (FSF) International Air Transport Association's workshop dealing with smoke and fire cockpit checklist procedures has had some positive results. The workshop whose objective was to produce generic industry-wide guidance material on smoke and fire cockpit checklist procedures has resulted in various aircraft manufacturers proposing improvements to their respective AFMs.

Consequently, Bombardier Aerospace initiated the amendment process to its AFM and emergency checklist procedures for its products. The amendments were published in January 2007.

TC is not planning any further action following the completion of this activity.

Board Reassessment of the Response to A00-19 (24 July 2007)

The guideline generated by the FSF workshop emphasizes the need for checklist designers to ensure that the emergency checklists for smoke of unknown origin be able to be accomplished in a timely manner. The template produced by this workshop has already produced positive changes in the form of AFM amendments such as those produced by Bombardier Aerospace.

However, internationally, there is no indication as to whether manufacturers have adopted the use of the FSF emergency checklist template or that regulatory authorities have mandated its use. Therefore, as the use of the template is voluntary, emergency checklists can continue to be designed without regard for the timeliness of their completion.

In summary, the actions taken by the various industry leaders and regulators in this regard could substantially reduce the risks associated with the deficiency identified in Recommendation A00-19, but only if voluntarily implemented by checklist designers.

Therefore, the reassessment is Satisfactory in Part.

Next TSB action

TSB staff will follow up to determine how TC and the FAA intend to ensure that emergency checklist procedures for the condition of odour/smoke of unknown origin are designed so as to minimize the deficiency identified in Recommendation A00-19.

Response to A00-19 (06 March 2008)

TC's response indicates that both Bombardier Aerospace and Bell Helicopter Textron Canada (BHTC) are reviewing their products' AFM emergency smoke, fire and fumes checklist procedures with a view to improving their effectiveness. These AFM improvements are being designed using a generic industry-developed checklist template.

Additionally, TC states that it is not planning any further action once the Bombardier Aerospace and BHTC AFM improvements are complete.

Board Reassessment of the Response to A00-19 (13 August 2008)

TC's support of Bombardier Aerospace and BHTC in their efforts to improve their respective emergency checklists is commendable. The checklist template, being used by both Bombardier Aerospace and BHTC to review and amend their products' AFMs, emphasizes the time-critical nature of a checklist designed to respond to a smoke, fire and fumes event; therefore, the AFM amendments should mitigate the risks identified in Recommendation A00-19 for both Bombardier Aerospace and BHTC manufactured aircraft.

Because TC's response states that it is not planning any further action with respect to Recommendation A00-19, risks will remain for those AFMs of foreign-certified aircraft being operated by Canadian operators that do not voluntarily implement checklist design changes in accordance with the FSF guideline.

The planned action will reduce, but not substantially reduce, the deficiency. Therefore, the reassessment is Satisfactory in Part.

Next TSB action

TSB staff will follow up with TC to determine its risk assessment of AFM emergency smoke, fire and fumes checklist procedures for aircraft other than those manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace or BHTC.

Review of A00-19 Deficiency File Status (23 September 2009)

In its latest position statement regarding the deficiency identified in Recommendation A00-19 TC states that "safety improvements have adequately optimized risk to an acceptable level." Additionally, TC considers this recommendation closed and plans no further action.

Therefore, the assessment remains at Satisfactory in Part.

The Board also concludes that, as no further action is planned by TC, continued reassessment will not likely yield further results.

Next TSB action

TSB staff will not actively monitor TC's regulatory activities to ensure that emergency checklist procedures for the condition of odour/smoke of unknown origin be designed so as to be completed in a timeframe that will minimize the possibility of an in-flight fire being ignited or sustained.