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The "Gimli Glider" Retires

by John M. White |

This Boeing 767, Fleet Number 604, is the most famous 767 in Air Canada's fleet of aircraft.  Some 25 years ago this aircraft was scheduled for a flight from Montreal to Edmonton.  The aircraft's digital computerized fuel gauges failed because of a faulty solder joint. Gimliglider

In order to make the flight the crew decided they would dip-stick the fuel tanks in order to make sure that they had enough fuel for the flight.  What the crew did not know was that the dip sticks were calibrated in centimeters instead of inches.  When you consider that a centimeter is less than half an inch, there was not nearly enough fuel on board the aircraft for the intended flight.

About halfway to Edmonton both engines quit due to fuel starvation.  The aircraft was positioned near the border between Ontario and Manitoba.  As luck would have it the aircraft captain, one Robert Pearson, was an accomplished glider pilot and what happened next made aviation history.

The first officer had served at a now abandoned air force base near the small town of Gimli, Manitoba.  Quickly calculating the maximum glide potential of the aircraft they realized they could not make it to Winnipeg, the nearest major airport.  First Office Quintal remembered the airport and they proceeded to the airport at Gimli.  Other than some go carts there was no one using the abandoned concrete runway.  Slightly hot and high Captain Pearson put the aircraft down with a rough but safe landing which collapsed the nose gear but did little damage.

After two days of repairs the aircraft was flown out and remained in faithful uneventful service until retired to storage in the Mojave desert. Captain Pearson, Quintal and several of the flight attendants from that day accompanied the aircraft on its final journey.

The moral of the story is you can never be too qualified when aviating.

Keep your wings straight and level until next time Hersch!


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