Overtime bill hit
$7.4 million as resources found wanting
By Dean Beeby
/ The Canadian Press
Ottawa - The massive
investigation into the 1998 crash of Swissair flight 111 suffered
from a chronic shortage of people and technology, says a newly
resources available and assigned to the (Swissair) team were
inadequate to sustain a prolonged complex investigation, which
resulted in an insufficient number of qualified personnel
available for certain tasks," says a July 4 report from the
Transportation Safety Board.
There was an "excessive workload for
those assigned to the team, and an inordinate amount of overtime
over a very long period."
The scathing report, obtained under
the Access to Information Act, raises basic questions about
training, noting that "some
investigation team members were not sufficiently knowledgeable
about international investigation standards, protocols and
The final report into the
Sept. 2, 1998, crash, which killed all 229 people aboard,
took more than 4½ years to produce - and the
suggests a lack of resources was a significant factor in
Administrative support to the
$56.8-million probe was inadequate, the level of technical help
required for the investigation was underestimated, and consulting
contracts for outside assistance were beset by delays and
The overtime bills alone speak to
how the investigation team, led by veteran Vic Gerden, was badly
overworked. The total paid to date is $7.4 million, much of it
occurring in the first year.
Even the writing of the final
report, which was delivered March 27, suffered delays because the
editorial staff hired to produce it were unfamiliar with the
technical aspects of a crash investigation.
technical accuracy of the report . . . was at times inadvertently
changed during the editing, thereby requiring that TSB
investigators invariably reverify,
re-edit and redraft text."
Twice in the last three years, the
board has come under criticism in transportation industry surveys
for the excessively long time it takes to report on major
accidents. As of August, 74 of 154 active
investigations were more than a year old, even though the
agency aims to complete the majority of its probes within a year.
The lessons-learned report, which
was produced by the board's air branch, is only the first of many
arising out of the Swissair investigation, the most expensive and
complex since the TSB was founded in 1990.
executive director, David Kinsman, has ordered an agency-wide
post-mortem on the Swissair experience, to be completed by next
"Swissair, because of the size of
it, has a lot of impacts that go across all the boundaries within
the organization," Kinsman said in an interview.
that the investigation stretched the agency to its limits, forcing
it to "come up with a couple of hybrid solutions for Swissair . .
. it wasn't an easy process."
Kinsman declined to comment on
whether the lack of resources delayed production of the final
"I personally haven't reached any
conclusions in that regard," he said.
The agency was forced to go to
Treasury Board for $60 million in extra funding to cover the cost
of the Swissair investigation, which involved months of retrieving
shattered debris from the ocean floor off Peggy's Cove and the
reconstruction of parts of the airframe in a Halifax
Kinsman said Treasury Board provided
all the money that was requested.
One change already arising out of
the Swissair experience is the development of a new computer
system that will better manage technical information in an
accident probe, he added.