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Thursday, September 3, 1998 Published at 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK


World: Europe

Worst Swissair disaster in 20 years

McDonnell-Douglas MD-11: Good safety record

Swissair is coming to terms with its worst air disaster for almost 20 years after one of its airliners crashed off the coast of Canada.

The MD-11 aircraft crashed off the Canadian coast as the pilot and crew prepared for an emergency landing after reporting smoke in the cockpit.


[ image: Swiss Air: Worst disaster in 20 years]
Swiss Air: Worst disaster in 20 years
The last time the airline suffered a major accident happened in October 1979 when 14 people lost their lives after a DC-8 overshot the runway at Athens during landing and burst into flames.


Aviation expert Capt Eric Moody: "The MD-11 has an excellent safety record"
The company's worst accident before the Canada disaster came when 80 people lost their lives when a Caravelle jet crashed at Durrenasch, Switzerland, in 1963.

Seven years later, a bomb killed all 47 passengers and crew on board the same model of jet at Wurelingen, Switzerland.

MD-11

Accident investigators from Boeing/McDonnell Douglas are on their way to Canada to try and work out what happened.

The MD-11 entered the airline market in 1986 as the successor to the DC-10 and has until now has been known for its good safety record. It is currently used by airlines around the world.


Real video: More details on the MD-11 from BBC World
The seven-year-old plane involved in the crash is a three-engined wide-body jet that takes up to 285 passengers in standard seating plans.

Powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, the 60-metre long craft can also carry 410 in economy accommodation.

It can also act as a cargo plane and carry up to 100 tonnes.


[ image: The arrivals board at Geneva]
The arrivals board at Geneva
Before Wednesday's disaster, the worst incident involving a MD-11 came in 1997 when a US Federal Express cargo plane crashed into a runway at Newark, New Jersey.

Concerns had been raised over the plane's tail fin during landings, but these have not been considered anything worse than problems that were dealt with in 1992.

But even though the aircraft has a good safety record, Swissair is reported to have begun moves to sell its entire fleet of MD-11s in favour of new aircraft.

McDonnell Douglas's parent company Boeing announced earlier this year that it was to stop making the airliner in 2000.



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