Sunday, October 21, 2018
 TSB - Swissair     


  • Transportation Safety Board
    Head Office
    200 Promenade du Portage
    Place du Centre
    4th Floor
    Hull, Quebec K1A 1K8

    Telephone: (819) 994-3741
    Fax: (819) 997-2239

Services Provided:

  • Custom Application Development
  • General IT Consulting/Support
  • Project Management
  • Web Design


The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency created to advance transportation safety through the investigation of occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation.

On 2 September 1998 at 2118 ADT, Swissair Flight 111 (SWR 111), a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft, HB-IWF, departed John F. Kennedy airport, New York, en route to Geneva, Switzerland. On board were 215 passengers and 14 crew members. Approximately 53 minutes after take-off, as the aircraft was cruising at Flight Level 330, the crew noticed an unusual smell in the cockpit. Within about three and a half minutes the flight crew noted visible smoke and declared the international urgency signal "Pan Pan Pan" to Moncton Area Control Centre, advising the Air Traffic Services (ATS) controller of smoke in the cockpit. SWR 111 was cleared to proceed direct to the Halifax International airport from its position 58 nautical miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia. While the aircraft was maneuvering in preparation for landing, the crew advised ATS that they had to land immediately and that they were declaring an emergency. At approximately 2231 ADT, the aircraft struck the water near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, fatally injuring all 229 occupants.

As part of the investigation, the Fire & Explosion Group of the had a mandate to make as much data available electronically to the investigation team as possible.  This would involve not only making pre existing electronic files accessible, but also the conversion of paper documents to an electronic format that was easily searchable from a desktop PC.  Never before had a large scale air crash investigation been done electronically.  Ease of access and searchability of all data was the key element that was required so as to improve and expedite the investigation process.  A wide variety of material and formats were involved from digital photos, CAD files, paper aircraft manuals, maintenance records, video/audio files.


To aid in the management and processing of the documents/files involved with the investigation, Schooner Solutions became involved in the investigation.
The primary tool to be used in the handling/conversion of the paper based documents was Supertext from SuperGravity.

The use of Supertext required the creation of a number of processes to handle the steps involved in conversion from paper to electronic records.  Schooner Solutions worked to manage the scanning team and develop and implement these processes.  Additional worked was also required to establish the file structure, data entry forms, indexes to be used in using the electronic files generated from the system.  As this was the first time such a tool had been used in this type of application, much of the development had to be done on the fly working closely with the investigators to ensure the end products would meet their needs.  A close working relationship was also developed with the RCMP who had used the product in the past in other investigations.

The conversion of the paper documents involved over 10,000 documents which were scanned, OCRed, and made available online.  During the conversion process a number of tools and utilities were created (typically in Visual Basic 6.0 and MS Access 97) to assist in the processing of files and data beyond what Supertext was able to allow for.

Further to the use of Supertext, a separate in house developed application called PRODOCS was also developed to provide access  to the scanned documents as well as the electronics files.  This was a full document search and retrieval system developed from the ground up.  The system allowed the user to perform keyword search on a variety of data including scanned paper documents, photos, wiring.  It also provided the main interface to the majority of the investigation's electronic data, with linkages to indexes of 3D CAD models, fire modeling images, videos, panoramic photos.

Beyond the document scanning/electronic conversion aspect of the project Schooner Solutions was also involved in a number of other areas of the investigation.  This included creation and conversion of reference material, file formats, data, graphics manipulation and general IT consulting on topics that arose during daily activities.  A variety of tools were used including Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, AutoCad, VRML as well as custom applications developed as required to meet the varied needs of the tasks at hand.

One of the many custom tools developed during the project was the WHIP! Web Definer.  This was an application developed with Visual Basic 6.0 that allowed the generation of web based files depicting specified views of AutoCAD DWF files of the aircraft.  The use of the tool greatly reduced the time required to generate and update the hundreds of files and views required.

The involvement with the TSB Swissair investigation was a very dynamic and long term project.  Schooner Solutions was involved in a variety of tasks over the 2 year span on the project, providing input where ever required and in an ever changing work environment.  Due to the nature and pressure to complete the investigation is a timely manner the working hours were very dynamic, typically 6-7 days a week and 12+ hours a day.  The work was performed at a variety of locations from onsite at the reconstruction hangar in at CFB Shearwater to onsite for months at a time at TSB Enginnering Lab in Ottawa.  During the later stages of the project (last 6-8 months) Schooner Solutions worked remotely from their office in supporting the TSB.  This evolved from a fulltime daily operations through to part time as required work.  Access to files and data was provided via VPN, FTP, email and regular interaction by phone and email.

The nature of the work and the data involved meant that all team members on the project were required to be issued security clearance from the RCMP.


  • Adobe Acrobat
  • ASP
  • CAD & Scientific tools/viewers (Voloview, WHIP!, VRML, MayaVi)
  • Crystal Reports 8.5
  • HTML
  • MS Access 97/2000
  • MS FrontPage
  • MS Visual Basic 6.0
  • MS Visual Studio .NET
  • Paintshop Pro 7.0
  • Photoshop
  • SuperGravity Supertext
  • XML
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