Empty Tank at 41,000 Feet, So Pilots Did This
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Empty Tank at 41,000 Feet, So Pilots Did This

August 25, 2019

Imagine, you’re driving on a long stretch
of highway when (uh-oh!) you run out of gas. Well, you’d probably just call a friend
or AAA, no big deal really. Now imagine the same scenario, only you’re
a pilot flying a commercial jet full of people! That’s exactly what happened to a Canadian
plane at a height of 41,000 feet on July 23, 1983… Air Canada 143 was supposed to be a routine
flight. First, the plane was gonna make a short trip
from Montreal to Ottawa, but that’s when the first issue popped up. The plane seemed to be having problems with
the computer that manages fuel loading. Since it wasn’t working properly, the ground
maintenance crew just calculated the necessary amount of fuel on their own. After that, the flight crew checked these
calculations 3 times, and everything seemed correct. The plane reached Ottawa without any other
complications and had to depart for the second trip of the day. This time, the distance was much longer since
they were heading for Edmonton, about 1,740 miles away. Captain Robert Pearson was already sensing
that something was off. He asked the maintenance crew to check the
fuel calculations once again. They did, and everything was cool: the plane
had about 3,020 gallons of fuel. Captain Pearson and his co-pilot Maurice Quintal
concluded that the plane had roughly 45,000 pounds of fuel, which was more than enough
to reach their destination… if they actually had that much. In truth, they only had about half of that,
just 20,160 pounds. I know what you’re thinking, “How could
such a huge mistake go unnoticed?!” Well, both the ground crew in Montreal and
the flight crew had forgotten the fact that at the time, Canada was switching from the
imperial system of measurement to metric. That’s why all of Air Canada’s new planes
(including the one Captain Pearson was flying) were calibrated in metric units. As for the older planes, they were still using
imperial. Unfortunately, this led to a major blunder
when the fuel was calculated in pounds instead of kilos. Remember, a kilogram is only about half a
pound. That’s why they really had half the amount
of fuel they needed to make the trip. The plane was at a height of 41,000 feet when
the first warning light flared up. The crew figured that the fuel pump in the
left wing had failed, so they switched it off. And it really isn’t that big a deal if one
fuel pump goes out – a plane can still fly. However, a few minutes later, the second light
came on. The crew knew it had to be something more
serious than a coincidence. At that moment, the plane was only halfway
to Edmonton. That’s when Captain Pearson decided to change
course and, instead, head to Winnipeg for an emergency landing. Not long after that, the left engine stopped
working entirely. Then the alarm went off, indicating a complete
loss of both engines. The plane had run out of fuel. Despite their years and years of flight experience,
neither Robert Pearson nor Maurice Quintal had ever heard this scary sound before. The pilots desperately searched through the
manuals to figure out how to deal with such an emergency. Unfortunately, there were no instructions
on what to do if both engines are out. Plus, an aircraft needs its engine power to
control all the systems. So, the crew was literally piloting a huge
jet with no electricity, hydraulics, or power. What’s worse, the pilots couldn’t use the
instruments they needed. On top of that, air traffic control couldn’t
guide the plane because its radar responder, which is typically powered by the engines,
wasn’t working either. That meant that Winnipeg ATC had to use a
good ol’ fashioned ruler. They placed it on the radar to figure out
the distance the plane had traveled. They then used this number to calculate the
rate of the plane’s descent. This would tell them about how much further
the plane could travel. The only way out was to glide the aircraft
down and hope it’d manage to land safely. Luckily for the passengers and crew, Captain
Pearson was a highly experienced glider pilot. But still, he’d never tried to glide a Boeing
767 with all systems down before! But the most serious problem was the loss
of hydraulic pressure. The thing is that a Boeing 767 has what’s
called a “ram air turbine.” That means the faster the plane goes, the
faster the turbine spins and the better the hydraulic pump works. When a plane slows down for landing, the turbine
stops spinning so fast, and there’s a drop in hydraulic pressure. In short, a pilot’s ability to control the
aircraft decreases along with a drop in hydraulic pressure. Anyway, after most of the plane’s systems
had shut down, it started to lose altitude at a speed of 2,000 feet a minute. After making some calculations, both the pilots
and the air traffic controllers came to the conclusion that the plane didn’t have any
chances of making it to Winnipeg. That’s when they finally had some good luck. Maurice Quintal thought of the nearby Royal
Canadian Air Force Base just 12 miles away in the town of Gimli. Even better, it was no longer in use! Quintal knew the airspace and landing strips
in the area from his time in the service. So, everyone agreed that landing at the abandoned
military base was the only possible solution. However, when the plane was nearing the runway,
the pilots realized they were still too high. So, they decided to try what’s called a
forward slip. The risky part is that while this maneuvering
technique can be done in small personal airplanes, commercial aircraft aren’t designed to perform
it. Plus, the plane was descending too fast for
the maneuver to have any chance at success. But they had no other option. Besides, the captain had tons of experience
performing a forward slip, so the plane was in good hands. Oh, but our story doesn’t end there. You see, the pilots still weren’t aware of
the most terrifying thing about this situation. That abandoned military base wasn’t just
sitting there empty and derelict – it’d been converted into a motorsports park and
racetrack! So, that same day, July 23, 1983, it was full
of happy park-goers, campers, and vehicles! Maurice Quintal didn’t notice the people on
the runway until it was too late to divert the plane. As for Captain Pearson, he was oblivious to
the danger because all of his focus was on the speedometer. The aircraft had gotten incredibly difficult
to control thanks to those fancy hydraulic turbines I told you about earlier. Remember, they drop the hydraulic pressure
when the plane slows down to land. The people on the runaway didn’t expect to
see a gigantic plane approaching them at high speed. And how could they? All the engines were down – this thing was
gliding in silence! But don’t worry! They saw it coming and got out of the way
in time. Once it had touched the ground, Captain Pearson
immediately hit the brakes. That means the weight of the plane shifted
forward, and this, in turn, sent the front landing wheels back up into the aircraft’s
body. But it’s ok, losing the front wheels was
actually a good thing because it allowed more friction to build up between the plane and
the runway, meaning it’d come to a halt much earlier. Thus, in the end, the Boeing 767 managed to
stop just 100 feet away from the spectators. And believe it or not, not a single passenger,
crewmember, or park-goer was seriously hurt! Phew! The whole incident was dubbed The Gimli Glider. And after receiving some heat from the airline
for that initial fuel miscalculation, both pilots ended up receiving the Diploma for
Outstanding Airmanship in 1985. Interestingly enough, other pilots have tried
to land a plane under the same circumstances in a simulator. Yet all their attempts led to crashes! Maurice Quintal got a promotion and became
a captain in 1989. And Robert Pearson flew with Air Canada for
10 more years before transferring to another airline. The most interesting thing, though, is that
after it was repaired, the famous Boeing 767 kept flying long after the accident, 25 more
years to be exact. It made its last flight on January 1, 2008
and then headed to the Mojave Desert for its retirement just a few weeks later. Oh, and captains Robert Pearson and Maurice
Quintal were on board the plane during its final journey, and three of the six flight
attendants who’d been on Flight 143 also bid farewell to the plane. Aww, now that’s really touching, don’t
ya think? So, do you have any fears connected with airplanes? I just don’t like the ones with snakes on
them, but let me know your thoughts down in the comments! Remember to give this video a “like,”
share it with your friends, and click “subscribe” to stay on the Bright Side of life!

Only registered users can comment.

  1. i hate planes but i go on them four times a year and every time i flew i was safe and i had no emergency landings.

  2. I will never ride in cheap airplane I will ride on bigger expensive one since fuel are good and dont break for long but cheap ones are terrible never ride in cheap planes the events of plane crash are probably people living on cheap plane

  3. my supply teacher told me about this and his neighbor is one of the flight attendants. Were canadians.

  4. I heard that 15 qualified pilots tried to land that same flight in a simulator but they all failed. Great flying!!

  5. That kilogram thing was a very rough example…they should've given the exact value but you guys need to chill… y'all ain't no University math professors…bet you guys talking bout the kilogram don't even know bout indices and matrices SMH!

  6. My worst vision of an airplane crash is an airbus a380 colliding with a cargo plane carrying explosives at 10,000 ft

  7. They could of used the APU system auxiliary power unity it helps the plane gain more control without any engines + they could of pointed the nose down that way gravity can give more speed for the plane the way it doesn’t stall it might lose an altitude but it may of been enough speed which I think would be 590 knots after all they were 41000 feet up and that could of been enough to reach their destination

  8. A! The put the right amount of fuel on this plane they had one meter when it landed in Gemelli B! The person that loaded it is my dad's friend C! The gimli glider on maday

  9. You forgot that Robert Pearson got the airport in Toronto CA (Toronto Pearson international airport) was named after Robert Pearson’s last name.

  10. Read the book "Panzer Leader" of General Guderian, he says never believe when subordinates tell you "No Fuel". Check yourself the fuel reserves. There should not be much worries in this area.

  11. Maybe the presenter got mixed-up with the old (British) Pound – (US) Dollar calculation, 1 GBP used to be around 1,5 us dollar 🙂
    Did nobody thought about how the plane could brake? De presenter said that the plane had no hydraulic and electricity or what so ever…..but planes have hydraulic brakes???
    Strange, but still….what an amazing story

  12. Ahem… no. Not is a kilogramm about half a pound. It's much more vice versa. A pound is about half a kilogram.

  13. It should be noted that Captain Pearson was an experienced GLIDER pilot.
    As was Captain Sullenberger.
    That prior training no doubt helped both of them make safe landings.

  14. What about the fact the landing gear was up (because at 41 thousand feet) and with no power they couldn’t put it down SO THE DID A FORWARD SLIP WITH NO GEAR

  15. How could this video continue to run without correction in spite of the obvious error already pointed out by many? You are mal-informing people.

  16. Wow!!! Just the chills that went through my body on everything that went great at the hands of the outstanding pilots & maneuvers that lead to everyone,(on the ground & N the plane)ended up safe @ the end of the day!🤗

  17. My cousins plane was like the same like they had really low fuel………..and then they did a Emergency landing and survived and they filled the fuel and then they took off again and got back to there country and not even a injury

  18. I hate planes!
    1# I’m air sick
    2# it’s bumpy at landings and take offs
    3# u might(will) die
    4# anything would happen!

  19. I hate planes!
    1# I’m air sick
    2# it’s bumpy at landings and take offs
    3# u might(will) die
    4# anything would happen!

  20. WRONG! A ram air turbine is actually a small fan that can be deployed to power a generator and produce electricity.

  21. I scrolled down on the comments hoping to find a comment referring to a phrase my dad taught me when I began to drive. “The top half of the tank works just as good as the bottom half” just fill it up. Yeah I know fuel is heavy and it takes more fuel to haul a heavy load but, my dad was never on the side of the road out of fuel!!!!

  22. BRIGHT SIDE! –

    You really always turn my day around, and make me wonder about everything! I always learn so much about all these cool things, BASED OF TRUE STORIES!! Thanks SO SO much!

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