Waiting to Happen
With overseas mechanics and overstretched inspectors, FAA oversight of the airlines is an accident...
Jim Morris and Frank Koughan
July/August 2006 Issue
Mark Fetherolf knows, in excruciating detail, how his 16-year-old daughter, Tara, died. Tara was one of the 229 people on board Swissair Flight 111, which crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia on September 2, 1998. He knows that the Boeing MD-11 caught fire about an hour into the New York-to-Geneva flight and tried to make an emergency landing in Halifax. He knows that the plane struck the water at an approximate speed of 350 mph, causing it, and the people inside, to be shredded into small pieces. And he knows that the faulty installation of an electronic gambling system that is believed to have caused the fire was overseen by a now-defunct California firm called Santa Barbara Aerospace, which was standing in for the Federal Aviation Administration as a so-called designee. This meant the company could certify the work was done to FAA standards.