Flying in a jetliner is extraordinarily safe: There has been only one fatal crash in the United States in the past five years, an astounding record considering that more than 30,000 flights take off every day.
How did flying get so reliable? In part, because of accidents that triggered crucial safety improvements. Here are one of eight crashes and two emergency landings whose influence is felt “for the good” each time you step on a plane.
Ep.10 – NOVA SCOTIA | Swissair Flight 111
About an hour after takeoff, the pilots of Swissair’s Flight 111 from New York to Geneva – a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 – smelled smoke in the cockpit. Four minutes later, they began an immediate descent toward Halifax, Nova Scotia, about 65 miles away. But with the fire spreading and cockpit lights and instruments failing, the plane crashed into the Atlantic about 5 miles off the Nova Scotia coast. All 229 people aboard were killed.
Investigators traced the fire to the plane’s in-flight entertainment network, whose installation led to arcing in vulnerable Kapton wires above the cockpit. The resulting fire spread rapidly along flammable Mylar fuselage insulation. The FAA ordered the Mylar insulation replaced with fire-resistant materials in about 700 McDonnell Douglas jets.