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Swissair Pilots May Have Disagreed

January 21, 1999 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ The co-pilot of Swissair Flight 111 suggested ignoring the rules and landing swiftly in the minutes before the plane crashed, but the pilot wanted to follow standard procedure for dumping fuel, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Canadian investigators and Swissair officials refused comment on the report that crew members disagreed over emergency tactics before their jumbo jet crashed.

The Journal, citing what it described as a preliminary summary of the cockpit voice recording, said the reported disagreement occurred as smoke filled the cockpit of Flight 111 as flew from New York toward Geneva on Sept. 2. The plane crashed off Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people on board.

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Canadian law prohibits the public disclosure of cockpit voice recordings.

David Austin, a spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said his agency was not sure exactly what document the Journal might have obtained, because several different preliminary summaries had been drafted.

``It’s a reporter’s interpretation of a summary document of what might have been on the″ cockpit voice recorder, said Austin, who declined to comment on the accuracy of the newspaper report.

Any substantive comment about the report might hinder the ongoing investigation into the crash, he said.

In Switzerland, Swissair also declined comment on the report, saying it had received no official summary from the investigators.

The Journal said the summary did not reveal a heated argument between the captain and co-pilot. But it said the summary showed the co-pilot, Stefan Lowe, repeatedly suggesting steps aimed at a quick landing, while the captain, Urs Zimmermann, rejected or ignored those proposals.

Some experts have contended that a prompt landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia, could have saved the jet. But Swissair has insisted such a landing wasn’t feasible while the plane was almost fully loaded with fuel.

According the newspaper report, Lowe suggested dumping fuel early so the jet wouldn’t be too heavy to land and talked of heading directly to Halifax rather than turning out to sea to dump fuel.

But Zimmermann told Lowe, who was flying the plane, not to descend too fast and became preoccupied with following a checklist of emergency procedures, the newspaper said.

Investigators still have not identified the cause of the fire that sent smoke into the cockpit, although attention has focused on possible electrical-wiring problems.