Pilot's final words

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THE aircraft which crashed off the Nova Scotia coast last week, killing 229 people, seems to have suffered a catastrophic electrical failure after a fire, writes Andrew Marshall.

The last minutes of conversation between the Swissair flight from New York to Geneva and air traffic control were released by the investigators in Halifax yesterday. Signals from one of the "black boxes" have also been detected.

The pilot reported smoke in the cabin and was re-routed to Halifax airport, Nova Scotia. Investigators said that he seemed to have been wearing a smoke mask, muffling his words.

The plane looped back to sea to dump fuel as it was too heavy to land safely. The pilot said: "We are declaring an emergency at time zero-one- two- four ... we are starting vent [of fuel] now. We have to land immediately." There were six minutes of silence before the crash. Had the pilot not turned out to sea, it is possible that the aircraft could have landed safely. The landing could have damaged the aircraft, but might have saved the passengers.

The aftermath, page 17