Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ATC tapes for Swissair 111 accident released

Swissair MD-11Air traffic control tapes related to the Swissair Flight 111 accident have been released to the public by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. The accident occurred on September 2, 1998. TheSwissair MD-11 aircraft was en route to Geneva from New York when a fire broke out on board. The crew were attempting to dump fuel in preparation for an emergency landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia. They didn't make it. The aircraft crashed at high speed into St. Margaret's Bay, off the coast of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia. All of the 14 crew members and 215 passengers on board were lost.

According to an article published today by Canada's CTV, the ATC tapes, released by the Canadian Press, have not been made public until now.
After the crash, the Transportation Safety Board refused to release the ATC audio, saying it contained personal information.

John Reid, then Canada's information commissioner, initially supported the refusal. "In my view, the voices, along with the tonal and emotive characteristics, constitute personal information of three air traffic controllers and the two pilots,'' he ruled in 1999.

Reid eventually reversed on his decision after he received complaints about the board's refusal to release audio from four other air disasters.

He fought the board and Nav Canada all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled the transmissions should be released to the public.

The ruling brings Canada in line with countries that have allowed ATC recordings to be available for years.
Here is a link to a a transcript of the ATC tapes that was posted on the CTV website. (8 page 'pdf' file).

CTV has published 'mp3' audio files of the radio transmissions as well. Click here for CTV's article about the release of the tapes, and links to the audio files.

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