The TSB was convened for the first time under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, which was enacted on March 29th, 1990. It was formed at least partly in response to widespread criticism of the Canadian government's handling (through the responsible agency at the time, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board) of the investigation into the crash of an Arrow Air DC-8 charter plane at Gander, Newfoundland, on December 12th, 1985.
The provisions of Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act were written to establish a more arm's length relationship between the board and the government. This new mechanism's first major test came with crash of Swissair 111, on September 2, 1998, the largest single aviation accident ever on Canadian territory. The TSB delivered its report on the accident on March 27, 2003, some 4 1/2 years after the accident and at a cost of 57 million CAD, making it the most complex and costly accident investigation in Canadian history.