The Last Conversation

This is a transcript of the final conversation between the doomed Swissair Flight 111 and air traffic control Wednesday night. Commentary by CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr appears in italics.

With the jetliner at 33,000 feet and 58 miles from Halifax, the pilot uses an aviation code signaling trouble in the cockpit.

SWR111: "Swissair one eleven heavy is declaring Pan Pan Pan. We have smoke in the cockpit, request deviate immediate right turn to a convenient place, I guess Boston."

The controller responds:

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Controller: "Would you prefer to go into Halifax?"

SWR111: "Affirmative for Swiss Air One Eleven prefer Halifax from our position." (Aircraft starts descent from 33,000 feet to Halifax.)

Controller: OK, active runway at Halifax is zero six. Should I start you on a vector for six?

SWR111: Yes, vector for six would be fine. Swiss Air 111 heavy.

CBS News Animation: Timeline of SR111

The controller then asks the pilot if he wants to land immediately:

Controller: "Turn left heading zero three zero. You've got 30 miles to fly to the [runway] threshold."

The pilot, probably concerned about landing on a short runway with a heavy load of fuel, replies:

SWA111: "We need more than 30 miles."

Controller: "Turn left to lose some altitude."

SWA111: "Roger we are turning left"

SWA111: "We must drop some fuel. We may do that in this area during descent."
(closing to 10,000 feet)

SWA111: "Okay, we are able for a left or right turn toward the South to dump."

Controller: "Roger, turn left heading of 200 degrees and advise me when you are ready to dump."

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Flight 111 then starts a series of left turns to descend and dump fuel. But ten minutes after the first report of "smoke," the pilot radios a more urgent problem:

SWA111: "We are declaring an emergency at time 0124. we are starting vent [fuel] now. We have to land immediately."

The controller gives the kay to dump fuel. The pilot does not respond, and the controller radios again:

Controller: "You are cleared to commmence your fuel dump on that track and advise me when the dump is completed."

Controller: "Swiss Air 111 check you are cleared to start fuel dump."

But flight 111 is never heard from again, and six minutes later the MD-11 with 229 people aboard plunges into the North Atlantic.