© 2007 All Rights Reserved. Do not distribute or repurpose this work without written permission from the copyright holder(s).
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Inside the cockpit of the cruising airliner, Captain Bob Pearson was understandably alarmed at the out-of-the-ordinary beeps that were chiming from his flight computer. On the control panel, an amber low fuel pressure warning lamp lit up to punctuate the audio alarm.
First Officer Maurice Quintal, copilot of Air Canada Flight 143, checked the indicator light to determine the cause of the computer’s complaints. “Something’s wrong with the fuel pump,” he reported.
The mustachioed Captain Pearson pulled out the trusty Boeing handbook, his fingers dashing through the pages to find the specifics of the warning. To his relief, the troubleshooting chart indicated that the situation was not as perilous as it might seem: the fuel pump in the left wing tank was signaling a problem, a minor issue considering that gravity would continue to feed the engines even if the pump failed.
“You know,” he commented to Copilot Quintal, “I would not take this air…” He trailed off as the computer blurted out another four beeps, and the indicator panel lit up like a Christmas tree decorated with bad news. “Oh fuck,” Pearson lamented, “we’ve got to go to Winnipeg.”
The date was 23 July 1983, and although the fuel pressure warnings were not the flight’s first mechanical frustrations, they were certainly the most distressing so far. When pilots Pearson and Quintal had arrived for their shift earlier that day, they had been notified that the plane’s fuel gauges were non-functional due to a fault in the Fuel Quantity Indicator System (FQIS). Even worse, the component required to repair it could not be delivered until later that evening.
Rather than canceling the flight, Captain Pearson instructed the engineers to check the fuel level manually. The four-month-old 767 was a state-of-the-art machine with state-of-the-art glitches, and FQIS issues were becoming a common complaint. Several independent dripstick checks later, the fuel hosers were satisfied that sufficient fuel was loaded, and they advised Air Canada Flight 143 to take off. The airliner departed from Montreal at 5:48pm eastern time with their sixty-one passengers. At 6:58pm they made a brief scheduled stopover in Ottawa, where engineers once again checked the fuel dripsticks— just to be safe.
It was just after 8:00pm central time that the cockpit computer began its string of inexplicable beeps and warning lights. As the jumbo jet crossed the Canadian countryside at 41,000 feet, Copilot Quintal thumbed through the 767 handbook to ascertain the nature of the airplane’s problem. “They don’t say anything if you’ve got more than one though, main tank, eh?” he said to Captain Pearson, as well as the flight engineer who had joined them. “Like there’s two pumps, they don’t say anything about only one, eh?” According to the computer’s calculations there should have been plenty of fuel remaining, but multiple fuel pumps were indicating pressure problems. The flummoxed flight crew decided to divert to the nearby Winnipeg airport as a precaution, and alerted Air Traffic Control (ATC) of their intent.
“Air Canada 143 cleared present position direct Winnipeg,” the tower responded. “We’re landing runway 31. You’re cleared to maintain six thousand descent your discretion.” Pearson and Quintal updated their flight computer with the new heading and destination. “Air Canada 143 did you want any assistance?” the traffic controller inquired, where “assistance” is an aeronautic euphemism for a reception from the fire brigade.
“For the moment we won’t require any assistance,” Pearson responded.
The flight engineer struggled to assess the situation. “You’ve got nothing in the center tanks, eh?” he inquired of the captain.
“No, we ran the pumps,” the captain replied, referring to an earlier attempt to transfer fuel from another tank. “Uh, let’s put them back on again.” Within moments, several more warning lights snapped on in quick succession. “Holy shit.”
“God damn,” Quintal remarked, “they’re all going out, eh? How about uh…”
“All the lights are on,” Pearson observed soberly, as the array of low fuel pressure indicators glowed with incandescent urgency. The captain summoned the in-charge flight attendant to the cockpit and apprised him of the situation, but his summary was outdated mere moments later. The flight computer bellowed out a flamboyant BONG! which none of the men present could recall having heard before.
“Okay,” the captain observed upon examining the instruments, “We’ve lost the left engine.”
“Okay, what…will we do?” Quintal replied. “Want the checklist now?”
The pilots began preparations for a delicate-but-very-doable single-engine landing, and Copilot Quintal contacted Winnipeg tower to request the previously offered “assistance”. It was becoming increasingly clear that the plane’s problems lay not in its machinery, but in its fuel. The men, however, were unsure of exactly what was amiss.
Following two minutes of uneventful descent, the ever-present vibrations in the deck were disrupted by an almost imperceptible shudder, and the white-noise hum of the remaining jet engine faded away with a long and melancholy mechanical sigh. The gauges and monitors of the control panel— which had been so animated with anxiety mere moments before— fell dark. Absent the usual murmur of the twin turbofans, an unsettling silence hung heavy in the air.
“How come I have no instruments?” Captain Pearson wondered aloud, though the answer lingered mockingly in the cockpit’s uncharacteristic quiet. The airliner’s generators and hydraulic systems required at least a single functioning engine in order to operate, without which there was no electricity for the computer, and no power to manipulate the ailerons, rudder, and elevator. In effect, the highly advanced flying machine had roughly the maneuverability of a flying brick, with barely enough instrumentation to monitor its slow dive towards the Earth. After a few ponderous moments, however, the automatic emergency systems twitched into action. Onboard batteries revived a few of the most critical instruments, and a door popped open on the plane’s underbelly to expose a ram-air turbine (RAT) designed to provide limited emergency hydraulic support.
“143,” the radio crackled, “We have lost your transponder return right now.”
Captain Pearson was beginning to grasp the true gravity of the situation. “Center, one-four-three, this is a mayday and we require a vector onto the closest available runway. We are out of 22,000 feet on… both engines have failed due to looks like fuel starvation and we are on emergency instruments and can only give you limited headings. Information— we are heading two five zero now, please give us a vector to the nearest runway.”
“143 we copy all that okay. We have lost your transponder return and attempting to pick up your target now… we have it now, just stand by on the two fifty heading.”
After repeated unsuccessful attempts to restart the stalled engines, Pearson and Quintal once again consulted the 767 emergency manual, this time for advice on an unpowered landing. Much to their dismay, no such section existed, presumably because a simultaneous engine failure had been too ridiculous for Boeing engineers to contemplate. The pilots sat anxiously in their darkened cockpit and monitored the plane’s slow and silent descent using a handful of analog instruments based on pre-WW2 technology: a magnetic compass, an artificial horizon, an airspeed indicator, and an altimeter.
The traffic controller in the tower at Winnipeg advised the flight officers of their options. “143 we show you at sixty-five miles from Winnipeg and approximately forty-five miles from Gimli.”
“Okay,” Pearson responded, “is there emergency equipment at Gimli?
“Negative emergency equipment at all. Just one runway available I believe and no control and no information on it.”
“We’d prefer Winnipeg then.”
In a stroke of profound luck, Captain Pearson was an accomplished glider pilot, a skill which afforded him with some sense of the vehicle’s glide capabilities. He applied his expertise to estimate the plane’s best glide ratio speed, but having neither a vertical speed indicator nor a view of the landscape through the clouds, he was unaware that Winnipeg was well beyond the reach of their gravity-gripped flight equipment.
Back in the passenger compartment, the in-charge flight attendant radiated counterfeit calm as he informed the plane’s sixty-one passengers of the situation, and instructed them in the subtle art of not freaking out during an in-flight emergency. In the meantime, crew members directed able-bodied men to move into the rows alongside the exit doors, then solemnly buckled into their own seats. Many of the crew members were keenly aware that jumbo jets such as theirs were not designed for dead-stick flight— let alone dead-stick landings. In all probability, their inevitable confrontation with the Earth would not be an improvement on their current situation.
As the impromptu glider emerged from the ceiling of clouds and obtained a view of the landscape, the pilots quickly realized that the plane was shedding altitude far too quickly to have any chance of reaching Winnipeg. Copilot Quintal confirmed this conclusion using radar data from Air Traffic Control.
“How far are we from Gimli?” Pearson inquired of the Winnipeg tower.
“You are approximately twelve miles from Gimli right now.”
Air Traffic Control had no specific data on the remote airstrip, but in another stroke of luck, First Officer Quintal had been stationed there during his time in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Lacking any feasible alternative, the copilot recommended they drop in on his old friends from the service. He was not aware, however, that the facility had since been converted into a public airport; nor did any of the men know that one of its two runways had been decommissioned and carved up for use as a racetrack.
As Flight 143 fell below the Air Traffic Control radar range, the tower grimly requested a count of the souls on board. As Pearson began his long final approach, he scraped up a bit of optimism as he updated Winnipeg tower on their status. “We have the field in sight,” he reported, “and we feel we’re in good shape.”
On the ground at Gimli, it was Family Day at the local racetrack. Sports Racers buzzed along the decommissioned runway as spectators cheered from the sidelines. A collection of campers at the end of the airstrip soaked up the summer Saturday evening as their dinners sizzled on assorted barbecues. Without the jet engines to announce the airliner’s approach, the people were oblivious of the 132-ton Boeing behemoth which was bearing down on them.
In the cockpit, Copilot Quintal activated the manual landing gear controls, and the two main gears lowered and locked. The nose gear, however, dangled limply from its housing. For Captain Pearson, the flight controls were becoming increasingly difficult to operate. The effectiveness of the emergency RAT was governed by the speed of the wind slipping around the fuselage, so as the plane gradually slowed, the hydraulic assistance was diminishing. Nevertheless, Pearson needed to sharply reduce the speed and altitude of his approach, otherwise the 767 would overshoot the tarmac; and without engines there would be no opportunity for a second try. Ordinarily an airline pilot would apply some combination of
reverse thrust, flaps and aerobrakes, but none of these systems were functioning on Pearson’s crippled craft.
Lacking a more orthodox option, Captain Pearson cranked the control wheel to the right and gave the left rudder pedal a firm stomp. The criss-crossed controls tilted the deck to the right as one wing dipped toward the ground, providing the passengers with a lovely view of the golf course on one side, and nothing but blue sky on the other. The fuselage also rotated its heading to the left, becoming diagonal relative to its direction of travel. Such forward-slip maneuvers were sometimes used on small planes and gliders, but the curve-ballish air acrobatics were unheard of with a jumbo jet. The airplane indeed decelerated, but the reduced airspeed robbed the controls of even more precious hydraulic pressure, requiring Pearson to apply monumental force to try to straighten the slip.
At the opposite end of the runway, the Family Day campers and spectators had finally spotted the silent and oddly-angled incoming aircraft, and they were scrambling from its path with appropriate levels of panic. First Officer Quintal caught sight of the fleeing families, but it was far too late to revise their landing plans, so he opted not to distract the captain with the unsettling discovery.
Forty feet above the ground— mere seconds before contact— Captain Pearson managed to wrestle Flight 143 back to a straight and level approach. At 8:38pm central time, the rear landing gears grabbed the tarmac at Gimli airport, and Bob Pearson stood on the brake pedals as the airplane skidded towards the scattering bystanders. A few of the loudly protesting tires finally succumbed to the abuse and blew out with adequate force to shimmy the fuselage. As some of the weight shifted forward, the unsecured front landing gear buckled, dumping the nose section onto the pavement and spraying a three-hundred foot shower of sparks.
After sledding across the asphalt for 2,900 feet, Air Canada Flight 143 ground to a halt just a few hundred yards from the shocked onlookers. There was a moment of stupefied contemplation within the passenger cabin, followed by an eruption of cheering and applause. Meanwhile several astute racetrack workers dashed to the nose of Flight 143 and doused a small friction-induced fire using hand-held extinguishers. Within a few minutes the inflatable rubber escape chutes plopped from the sides of the plane, and the sixty-nine frazzled occupants disembarked.
A crew of engineers from Winnipeg airport clambered into a van and headed for Gimli to assess the damage. During transit, however, their vehicle unexpectedly ran out of fuel, nearly ripping a hole in the delicate space-irony continuum. When airline mechanics finally arrived at the landing site, they found all three of the 767’s fuel tanks completely dry, with no evidence of a fuel leak. A review of the day’s events traced the problem back to the manual dripstick checks in Montreal and Ottawa. In order to maintain awareness of the overall weight of the aircraft, flight crews kept track of fuel quantity based on kilograms rather than the fuel company’s liter-based measurements. Pearson and Quintal had determined the fuel weight by multiplying the the number of dripsticked liters by 1.77, as indicated by the documentation. However, unbeknownst to the pilots and the fuel crew, this multiplier provided the weight in imperial pounds; the new, all-metric 767 was based on kilograms, and required a multiplier of 0.8. As a consequence of this documentation disconnect, Flight 143 had left Montreal with roughly half the necessary fuel.
Because the rear escape slides were excessively steep due to the buckled front gear, a few bumps and bruises were sustained on egress; but no one was seriously injured in the Gimli incident. Had it not been for Pearson’s capable captaining and glider experience, as well as Quintal’s cucumber-cool support, the outcome of the metric mixup might have been considerably less pleasant. In addition, had it not been for the drag created by the collapsed front gear, the powerless plane would have plunged into the crowd of spectators, sowing destruction and death in its wake. All told, the soon-to-be-dubbed “Gimli Glider” was a nearly perfect demonstration of dead-stick flying, accompanied by an extra-large portion of good fortune.
With just two days of mechanical jiggering, Captain Pearson’s wounded 767 was patched up sufficiently to fly it out for repairs elsewhere. The Gimli Glider officially rejoined the Air Canada fleet after a bit of body work, a new front gear, a new wiring harness, a repaired Fuel Quantity Indicator System, and a full load of jet fuel. The internal investigation into the incident laid the blame partially upon Captain Bob Pearson and First Officer Maurice Quintal, who should have observed the Minimum Equipment List (MEL) and grounded the aircraft since it lacked functioning fuel gauges. Some of the responsibility was also assigned to the maintenance workers, and to “corporate deficiencies.” As a consequence Pearson was briefly demoted, and Quintal was suspended for two weeks. Nonetheless both pilots continued to work for Air Canada, and in 1985 they received the well-deserved Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Diploma for Outstanding Airmanship for their handling of the unusual landing.
As for the Gimli Glider herself, the twenty-four year old 767 remains an active part of the Air Canada fleet to this very day. Some grizzled old pilots swear that sometimes, when the wind is just right on a quiet night, you can just about make out the double-engine-failure BONG! as the old girl is flying by; and if you’re very lucky, you might catch the faint odor of damp pilots in the air.
Update: The Gimli Glider–Air Canada Flight 143–was retired from service on 24 January 2008 in a ceremony involving Captain Robert Pearson, First Officer Maurice Quintal, and three of the six flight attendants who had been aboard Flight 143 during its unscheduled glide and rough landing.
© 2007 All Rights Reserved. Do not distribute or repurpose this work without written permission from the copyright holder(s).
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Holy jesus first!
I remember my 1st time. Ahh! I was so young then……
Realy nice article!
Small correction: Boing 767 is not called jumbo jet, used only for Boeing 747
Thanks for the much needed boost of adrenalin this afternoon.
Well written, great story. This is such a good example of how something so terrible could turn into something so wonderful… for so many people!
I’m low on fuel myself… but I run on Jack Daniels… and my reserve stock is always close by.
@Luk: i don’t think that’s necessarily true (unless you’re an aerophile, maybe). according to dictionary.com, a jumbo jet is simply “a widebody jet airliner,” which is descriptive of planes other than the 747, including the 747.
oops… i meant “including the 767”
Bob Pearson has balls of steel.
During transit, however, their vehicle unexpectedly ran out of fuel, nearly ripping a hole in the delicate space-irony continuum.
“Oh f-bomb” Pearson lamented, “we’ve got to go to Winnipeg.”
Derek, from Winnipeg.
wow, i had heard about this when i was younger, apparently it holds the record for the largest glider
Thanks DI article
Liked the use of egress!
That was DI.
I think I’ve read about this before on here have I? Or maybe it was in that book The Pilots Handbook.
Holy crap that was scary…I’m not afraid of flying per say, however I do have some trust issues and have recently, about a month ago, been in a situation in the air which I doubted I’d make it out of the plane until they dredged it up from the ocean floor. We were on our way to FL, Singer Island area, and in a smaller, older plane. We got to the island and on our decent I see us passing the island, going for the ocean.
Me: “Hey, you guys, there’s our hotel” (thinking to myself, that’s odd, isn’t the airport on the other side of West Palm Beach, not near the ocean?…)
Friends: “Oh cool look!”
M: “Uuhhh, why are we flying past the hotel?”
F: “Are you sure thats really our hotel?”
M: “Okay did you totally miss that island with the huge resort on it? Yeah that was our hotel. The one we just blew righ…hey, whoa what’s going on here, the left wing is tipping down, what the hell, we totally overshot the airport, what is this guy doing??!! We’re headed for the water!”
Okay so it turns out he was just turning around, but I didn’t think it was very nice to freak us out like that, and the airport was like 25 miles the other way, well on the other side of town, and away from the ocean as previously suspected. Sure, he had to wait his turn to land, but damn. Can’t he just circle like everybody else?
Now if he were Cappy Pearson, I would have been totally cool with that. If, of course, I KNEW it were Captain Pearson. What a cool guy…I want him as my next pilot.
That was a completely gripping story. Hollywood couldn’t make up a better tale.
My personal favorite, “…instructed them in the subtle art of not freaking out during an in-flight emergency.”
DI Allen! Definately the guys I want piloting the plane on my next flight.
…now imagine your 1000’s of miles away from home, flying along in darkness, in as hermetically sealed chamber as possible (space capsule)…”Houston…we have a problem!”
Yes, it’s amazing what can happen when you don’t use the proper “units of measure”.
Allen…you’re having way too much fun with these…DI! Keep up the good work.
Really DI! Thank you for this one Alan.
Great storytelling and a gripping tale. This is one of those examples of why pilots and people in similar careers are paid so much — sure, an autopilot can run 99% of modern air traffic automatically, including takeoff and landing. The pilot isn’t being paid big money to do routine things, he’s being paid big money on the chance that once in his 30 year career he’ll have a single five-minute window where his skill will mean the difference between life and death for a whole plane full of people.
Excellent! First I’ve heard of it…
Not too sure about this, Bibliophile. It depends on which is bigger, the 767 or an Airbus 330. The Air Transat Airbus 330 Flight 236 had to glide from the Mid Atlantic to the Azores. I saw it in a National Geographic special. That near disaster was also a case of running out of fuel and the captain of that flight now supposedly holds the record for the longest free flight glide… or something to that effect.
The story of Aircraft 604 is an awesome one, and your writeup did it justice.
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider) has a pretty good treatment of it too.
Awesome story. I love watching the Air Crash Investigation shows. Some scary stuff happens up there.
Finialy a technical/mechanical/science piece that I understood and enjoyed!
Cute, Alan, Very Cute.
And DI! to boot!
My dad, before passing away this August, was one of those “grizzled old pilots” like those guys metioned at the end of the article. If this had been one his stories, it would have played out exactly like you wrote it, Alan! Big suspenseful buildup and a final scene like it was shot by Michael Bay. You simply don’t interrupt the buildup in one of his stories during a party, the story is everything!
Thanks for bringing back some good memories!
Susan in Reno, NV
Heh… I’ve read about this before, so I almost skipped ahead to my favorite part:
Captain: “OK, now all of the lights are flashing and…”
(pause as Captain and Co-pilot look at each other quizzically)
(both suddenly yank out emergency manuals and feverishly begin flipping through them to find out what the hell “BONG!” means)
Man, I’d love to see this done as a comedy/thriller movie someday. It would be damn interesting.
Shouldn’t they have known jet fuel is less dense than water (at ~1kg/liter) ?
Damn Interesting article!!
To clarify the glider records:
*”Largest glider” is British Airways Flight 9, a 747-236B on 24 June 1982.
*”Longest glide path” at 85 nautical miles is Air Transat Flight 236 on August 24, 2001.
So it’s possible that the Gimli Glider had the longest glide path until Air Transit Flight 236 took the record away.
The story of these two flights are also amazing, but the articles on the web are not as “Damn Interesting”. :-)
Haven’t you ever heard of the TV show Airplane?
How lame is this guy?
haQpod #1 November 12th, 2007 2:59 pm
Holy jesus first!
Very Damned Interesting! Thanks to God for all those “unused” or little known about landing spots. And sort of funny how easily the fuel error was made… just a small transition from liters to gallons… Damned Interesting
I was spellbound by your story. I had read the account of the event at the time, but you have re-told this cliff-hanger masterfully.
The content of your site is refreshing, to say the least. I’d like to share your work with my granddaughters and some of my friends but can’t because of your use of the four-letter words used to describe the crew’s conversations during the event. I know you didn’t aim your tale at ten years olds, but it’s a shame you didn’t redact the epithets. They seemed to elicit in-kind language from some of your commentators. That’s too bad. Many young people seem to feel coarse language is acceptable in everyday parlance. It adds no gravitas to their comments and lessens the enjoyment for those of us who would like to share your storytelling prowess with others. You do tell a great story. Thanks.
I’ve enjoyed DI, by my reckoning, for a little over a year now. I registered just to say thanks for all the time you’ve invested into this site and to remark how absolutely fantastic this article in particular is.
I’m registering for the first time as well – long term reader and all that. What C. Proton said. Damn fine article.
I was going to suggest that perhaps the Space Shuttle might have had a longer glide path, since it is considered to be gliding from about 76 miles (122km) up. But I then read it has a glide ratio of about 1:1 … which must make the astronauts feel like simply strapping on a parachute at 3,000 meters and going it solo. Especially since a freefall wingsuit can give a glide ratio of about 2.5:1, and you’d be going slower than the shuttle!!!
(yes .. I do realise the shuttle slows its rate of descent just prior to landing)
Besides, I guess you could also argue that a space shuttle, like a proper glider, is a ‘purpose built craft’, made for gliding as they did design it to do that …. therefore disqualifying it from this category.
Slight grammatical error
‘lied not in its machinery’
should actually read ‘lay not in its machinery.’
Apart from that – wonderfully thrilling story! I was the edge of my seat at the end waiting to see if they got down okay and avoided the families!
Wow, a very good read. It thoroughly entertained me. Well done.
One of the Mars landers was lost when there was an error calculating it’s descent path – one team was using metric units and the other used English. No lives lost but many millions of dollars.
Great article! I’ve always enjoyed reading the articles here, but only recently signed up as a member. Keep up the great writing! One thing, though. You mentioned that forward slip was unheard of for a “jumbo jet”, but if you look at the B-52 which was used extensively in the Vietnam War, you would discover that it had been designed to fly in a forward slip direction of flight. Its landing gear would actually remain lined up with the runway and the plane could be yawed left or right a certain number of degrees to account for landing in a crosswind. This was necessary, considering the size of the aircraft and its particular payload of ordnance. The B-52 was in use for nearly 20 years before this particular flight, but perhaps airline pilots were not necessarily trained to put a large aircraft into a forward slip attitude to counter cross winds. Regardless, this article reads like a movie script and I look forward to the next article! Thanks, Alan, for keeping us intrigued by each article that you and the other writers put up here!
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
Wow, great story and great writing Mr. Bellows. Another case of RTFM. The punishments and awards both seemed appropriate. So many things went wrong but so many things went right (due in large part to the skills of the pilots). It’s funny that the racing continued with all the drama behind them.
I sorta “gleaned” the ending from the light and humorous tone the article took, but that fact did not detract from the DI’ness of it. This has got to be the funniest article I’ve read in some time, and the subject matter depicted is quite compelling to boot. I’d quote my favorite line, but it has been done quite enough for the time being.
Thanks for the site, Alan, and I can’t wait for the book release!
Good read though the language could have been blotted. Having spent a good portion of my life in the air, I have had the pleasure of both excellent pilots behind the stick (wheel) and those who should be in some other line of work.
I have experience with various aircraft that suffered minor glitches. Here are a few:
* Two hours from any viable landing area over the Pacific one engine on a twin prop exploded during flight (right outside my window). The pilots seemed unconcerned and we landed without incident.
* On a MAC the pilot clipped a coconut tree during takeoff and ripped off approximately 8’ of wingtip. Her words on the ‘com – “Did you feel something?” The jet returned to the base and after minor repair departed for the normally 6-hour, now 8-hour flight to Hawaii some three hours delayed.
* During take-off from a coral runway so small, the wings of the DC-10 overhung it on each side with ocean water beneath them, the pilot pulled back on the stick too soon and dragged the tail 175’. Thus stripping the skin off the tail exposing the superstructure. The jet shuddered and hiccupped through the air like a roller coaster on steroids as she gained altitude, so the pilot could bring the jet about to hopefully return to the runway. Facilities at this strip, zip, zero, nada, not even a tower. Two hours of spit, band-aids, and duct tape, then flying just above the jets cursing speed (and low enough that you could almost hang your toes out the window and get them wet, or so it seemed) allowed her to limp the damage vehicle into a moderately equipped airfield six hours later. Over half the passengers opted to stay at the prior field. Some of us had no choice and had to take a chance with the jet. I must add the captain was exceptional the remainder of the flight ;)
* Returning from a mission around two in the morning on a moonless night, the Caribou’s consul lit-up with amber and red warning lights. Just one hour from a viable landing strip in the pacific our options were slim when the bird started to shimmy. The starboard engine burped as sparks erupted from beneath the cowling. As the pilot controlled the crippled plane, the co-pilot open the various access panels running from one end of the craft to the other. As we approached the island for landing, the pilot started to lower the landing gear. Port – red…yellow…green. Starboard – red…yellow…red. Nose gear – red…red…red.
This meant that we had full extension on port, partial on starboard, and jammed nose gear. The pilot retracted the gear and tried again. This time we had full extension on port and starboard, but no nose gear. The third reset had port full, starboard part, and nose gear part. The co-pilot pulled the access to the nose gear and hand-cranked it down. From all accounts we had nose gear, but not locked into position indication. Starboard gave a partial. We did multiple flybys on the tower, but air control could not tell if we had fully-extended 3-point gear. Long story short, we were finally on vapors and had lost one (it gave a banshee type screech before quitting, wing fire-extinguishes doused the flames, was a cool sight in retrospect) motor. The second engine was coughing, and the tanks were dry. So we assumed crash positions, shook the dice, and as the final engine sputtered through the last of the fuel vapors, we glided onto the tarmac no louder than a glider.
The pilots gripped the sticks and kept her on the left wing wheel as long as possible. As our air speed decreased, they gently set her on the starboard, bump, screech, and amazingly enough the wheel was fully extended and locked. Then finally they set her gently on the nose gear, it held. Later it was discovered that there was a faulty sensor switch in the nose gear, and rodent gnawed wiring in the starboard wing. Which also accounted partly for the engine failure.
* On a helicopter flight from a remote island, this fool on the port side decided that the Huey was too hot. So at the bird’s max flight speed he opened the side door without asking the pilots permission first. This created an airbrake in the craft’s slipstream causing it to tumble. We survived thanks to the skill of the pilots, but the helicopter did not. Major metal fatigue, cracks throughout the superstructure, the main rotor shaft was twisted, gear damaged in the transfer case, rear rotor bearing gone, rear blade missing around 4” on each tip of blade, main blade tilt/adjust armatures damaged beyond repair, both main blades warped out of shape with minor cracks along the skin, etc. and so-forth.
*During an extraction from a remote site on a mountain, as I was being hauled into the bird, a gust of wind moved us into the cliff face. The main rotor clipped the unforgiving stone as the pilot flipped us sideways. The cargo master lost his grip on me, and I fell backwards out the side door, only to bounce helplessly from my safety line as the pilots fought for control. I did have a lovely view of the cliff side rushing past and the ground quickly encroaching upon our mortal existence upon this world.
Luck was with us as the pilots’ skillfully regained control and the ground breezed by just thirty feet below us. My ten or fifteen foot or so tether did give me a grand thrill of the ground, sharp rocks, and occasional tree speeding by, and people call me coward because I soundly refuse to bungee jump. It was not until we were back at base that I found out the pilots were more worried about me fouling the main blade with my body than some silly, immovable mountain or unforgiving earth. Foolish me, eh?
The above are just some of my adventures in flight. I still love to fly and would not hesitate to jump aboard. Heck, I’m more concerned with other drivers on the road and I still drive.
Not only does DI have world-class articles, but it also has world-class writers. The material is always first rate, and I do not give such compliments easily.
I have a favor to ask of the DI faithful. I imagine that most of you are now finished with “Guppy Love,” but I posted an item earlier today (#89), and I would like to have your feedback. I posted it seriously and sincerely; I will greatly appreciate your comments. I am especially curious to discover if anyone else shares my opinion or if I am even more out of the mainstream than I already suspect. Thanks.
Couple of comments.
Gear is already plural when referring to landing gear.
Straight and Level is a flight path, not an aircraft orientation. And level is definitely inaccurate when the plane is decending.
Oh, and 0.8 is the conversion factor for US Gallons to Imperial Gallons. Not US Gallons to Liters which is 3.78 (liters to US gallons is .26) or Imperial Gallons to Liters which is 4.5 ( inverse .22)
It sounds to me like they got the number of gallons right, but thought they were the larger imperial gallons, rather than the smaller US gallons.
This was damn gripping Alan! Thank you
I’m going to rent this right now.
This is one of the best written articles I’ve stumbled across, both on DI and on the internet as a whole, in quite some time. Fantastic job, Alan!
“During transit, however, their vehicle unexpectedly ran out of fuel, nearly ripping a hole in the delicate space-irony continuum.” I nearly feel out of my seat laughing at this.
Also, nobody seems to be backing you up on this, so let me be the first to say thankyou for not censoring the language!
That’s not the same as the sideslip of the Gimli Glider. A crosswind landing means
that while the plane is moving straight through the air, the mass of air is moving
sideways, dragging the plane. But your wheels are straight, so you have to be
pointed straight down the runway when you touch-down.
Every pilot is taught to land in a crosswind. You do a glide path straight into the
runway, which LOOKS as if it’s canted, but your nose is pointed directly into the
oncoming wind, relative to the plane. At the last moment, you kick the rudder to
align the nose with the runway, which does put the plane momentarily into a slip.
There’s a video of a 747 doing this that circulates around the web. The B-52 has
an angle-able landing gear, so that they *don’t* have to do this, for certain small
crosswind speeds–the airplane can keep pointing directly into the oncoming wind,
and land with the nose not quite pointed straight down the runway.
What the Gimli Glider did was to kick the airplane sideways with the rudder when
descending, and holding it there, using opposite aileron to keep the wings level. This
is known as “crossing the controls”, and it presents the side of the airplane a bit into
the airstream. That’s really draggy, and slows the plane down and steepens the
descent. Go to a glider port and watch the tow pilot do this to get back on the ground
quickly, if you want to see a common application of this.
Quoted for truth.
Also, Radiatidon, you need a new line of work. Perhaps something safer, like driving a dynamite truck.
Fantastic story, I very much enjoyed the Canadian “eh” that the pilots use in their communications. Well done!
Do jets curse faster than the flight crew? ;-)
Oh, I quit doing that stuff years ago. Now I own a ranch and raise and sale various animals. Personally I think that my earlier life was safer and simpler. For instance just this summer we had an older mare chase a filly, getting her entangled in some field wire. As I was extracting the filly, she shied, reared back and took us both to ground, right onto an electrified fence. As I tried to move her off me and get us both off that nasty shocker, she tried to flip herself up and dislocated my jaw. Realizing what she had done, I grabbed my jaw and reset it before there was any swelling.
Or the time we were helping a friend herd some goats they sold to a university for shipment. One doe flipped her head and tore my jeans from knee to hip, impaling my right butt-cheek with her horn in the process. I grabbed some paper towels and stuck them to my violated flesh with some duck tape (best stuff ever invented!), then took a hay-string and wrapped my britches back together so we could finish. The fellows at the university kept looking at my bloody pants held together by orange-nylon hay-string. I know they were dying of curiosity, but were too unsure how to ask.
Or the time some jack-a-nape lost control of his truck (driving too fast), and crashed into the canal boarding my property and the interstate, right by my grazing horses. This invoked the time tested “Stampede” sending the herd straight towards me. I had been coming out to capture a filly that we had just sold. One mare knocked me to the ground. I had time to see a whole lotta hoof heading my way attached to wild eyed, snorting, bone crushing, meat wagons. I curled up into a ball thinking that
(A) This was gonna hurt, an hurt bad. Hope my premiums were paid up. Or…
(B) I’m dead! Yup, just stick a tombstone on this bloody puddle in remembrance of me since there won’t be nothing left to bury.
A Tennessee Walker, who adored me by the way, chanced upon my cowering body first. She stopped over me, and used her butt and kicks to keep the others from pounding me into blood pudding. Sweet thing took real good care of me that day.
Yeah, my prior life was a whole lot easier. ;)
Wouldn’t you if you had fire erupting from your arse? :P
50 comments and two saw fit to complain about the salty language used during that event. Give me a break!!! If you can’t stand the heat get out of the engine room. The first complaint stated “feel coarse language is acceptable in everyday parlance.” which is quite true. What is also true is that event was truly NOT an every day occasion. I think these two need to take off the rose colored glasses and find out what the real world is like. It can be rather crude out there at times. No, I’m not saying profanity is okay in normal life. Personally I’d rather fly with a pilot that swore like a trooper and saved everyone when the chips were down than some goody two shoes that killed them all due to incompetence. The crew did a marvelous job and saved everyone! I think the two gripes were definitely uncalled for.
Standing by to answer all bells.
Um, I think you’ll find that one team was using Metric (the British teams) and the other was using Imperial (The American teams). I think that America is the last bastion of Imperial units (pounds, ounces, feet, inches, yards etc) in the developed world, everyone in Europe is on Metric (Metres, Kilograms etc) now. Except in England we still hold on to miles on road signs for old times sake.
Nice one Radiatidon – a little back story on you at last! :-)
One thing I’ve noticed about these air crash incidents is that it’s never just ONE thing that goes wrong, it’s always at least 2, usually more, and generally compounded by someone thinking that they know better than the machine/manual/ground control etc. Usually some small innocuous problem is ignored because it can’t cause a serious failure on it’s own, then a second problem crops up which compounds the first and suddenly you have an episode of Air Crash Investigators unfolding.
They don’t make news like this anymore,do they?Now in days you have to have an extra head or have no arms to be on the news.What a shame………….
Fantastic read. I hope to be “cucumber-cool” if I ever look death in the eye.
Just to share, my flight to Maui in June lost an engine enroute. Nothing more disconcerting than the squealing and shuddering of a pilot trying to re-start an engine over the Pacific 500 miles from nearest land. Actually, contemplating the trip home after reading of the same flight having the same “assisted” landing mid-way through the vacation was unsettling, too.
dude, totally cool. pearson must be a machine, coz id go off my nut. DI.
So many great lines, Alan, I don’t know which to mention first. You are a master storyteller. I was on the edge of my seat while laughing at the same time. A great big piece of pie to Pearson and Quintal with extra whipped cream for staying cool in a tough situation and to the spectators with fire extinguishers for lending a hand.
I’ve been a reader of this site for over a year and when I saw this article, I finally decided to register and post a comment.
I spent many a summer in Gimli as a kid at my grandparents who had a house there. I happened to be there with my family during that time when the jet crashed.
Gimli is a town that is on the western edge of Lake Winnipeg. http://tinyurl.com/39y47y
If I recall correctly, I believe the pilots were considering ditching the plane into the lake when Quintal remembered there was an old airport there.
My personal story starts with my brothers and I watching TV at my grandparents house that evening. The phone rang, my grandma answered, and she yelled at my grandpa to quickly pick it up because it was an emergency.
My grandpa was the Fire Chief of Gimli at the time. After being briefed, he quickly hung up. My grandma asked what was wrong and he said “A plan has crashed at the airport” Not knowing the full extent of the emergency, my grandpa raced out the door, turned around, grabbed his camera, then sped to the firehall to meet a crew to head out to the airport.
It was late at night by the time my grandpa returned. We were all still up playing games when he arrived. We asked how it went. Well, we were shocked when he said a jet plane had crashed, and not a small plane like we had all assumed. As the article mentioned, the airport was mostly converted to a racetrack with one runway remaining for small aircraft.
He continued to fill us in on the details on how he arrived and most of the passengers had evacuated the plane, some with minor injuries which he and the medics tended to. The area was secured by a contingent of RCMP officers.
My parents were at my dad’s high school reunion at a community hall at the airport. Someone came running in to the hall to say a plane had crashed. Imagine their shock when walking over to the runway to see a jet, nose down, on the runway. They arrived a little after my grandpa and told us their story!
The next week was interesting as the phone rang off the hook. This was before answering machines were in wide use. We gave up answering the phone. Some calls were from the media, a lot were from curious people wanting to know what happened, and from others congratulating my grandpa on doing a good job of helping the passengers and crew to safety.
We went for a ride to the airport to get a closer look the next day, but, the entire runway was secured and we could only see the plane from the perimeter fence. Lots of people walking around taking pictures and talking to other people.
A couple of days later, the plane was lifted up and towed into a hangar. The hangars were originally designed for smaller planes of WWII vintage as the airport was primarily used as an RCAF training facility during the war. I vividly remember the huge tail of plane sticking out of the hangar as crews worked on patching up the belly and front gear so the plane could fly to Winnipeg for further repairs.
Another story I can recall is that when everybody evacuated the plane, everyone had to leave behind ALL personal effects. Several days later, a lost and found table was setup at the airport for people to reclaim their items. These items included watches, shoes, jewellery, purses, glasses, false teeth, hats, jackets; pretty much anything that wasn’t attached to a person was on the table.
Some people who had false teeth opted out of reclaiming theirs. However, there were a few people who decided to try out some of the false teeth on the table to make sure it fit and it was theirs! Yuck!
My grandpa received an award for heroism for his role in ensuring passengers, crew, and others safety during the emergency. No one on the ground knew that there was no fuel in the plane and they assumed the worst possible scenario when evacuating everyone from the scene.
The made for TV show highlights the events of the flight. While that in itself was amazing, equally interesting were the following days of waiting to find out exactly how a brand new plane could run out of fuel. The media were speculating with the assistance of “experts”. There were theories of fuel leaks, excessive speed, fuel dumping. Imagine the astonishment when it was determined that there wasn’t enough fuel in the first place due to a conversion error. Canada was still converting to the metric system in the 80’s and this was one of those unintended consequences that resulted!
Thanx Alan for a great story that I still enjoy reading every so often. I also enjoy telling people my personal little part in it, even if it was just being there when it happened! :)
DI reading once again, and damn well written, too.
I wonder if the repair budget included new upholstery for the seats!
I read lots of NTSB air accident reports so when someone writes a story about this sort of thing I’ve already “read it” usually, this one is a new one for me though.
As always, expertly written Alan. Not to knock your guest authors one bit, but I have to say I more consistently enjoy your work.
Can someone turn this into a political argument already, please?
“Some grizzled old pilots swear that sometimes, when the wind is just right on a quiet night, you can just about make out the double-engine-failure BONG! as the old girl is flying by; and if you’re very lucky, you might catch the faint odor of damp pilots in the air.”
…Alfred Noyes just turned in his grave :)
Damn Interesting article :)
Your forgetting the religions, or creationilist/evolutionist argument that at one stage was inevtible with every DI post.
Oooh, lovely work, Alan! Right up there at 9.8 on the DI-o-meter.
On the use of language: This looks fairly true to life, and reads very clearly. The events are no more outrageous than any other typical avaiation ‘mishap’.
See also: http://www.planecrashinfo.com/lastwords.htm. (Warning, this is an emotionally rough site)
Curse you Spike, for beating me to a pie joke! Still, pie all round for the flight crew.
Great Article Alan. One request. I’ve recommended this site to many folks including some young kids that like this sort of stuff. Don’t mean to be Victorian, but IMHO, the article’s expletives weren’t absolutely necessary to the story.
I think those that are objecting to language should remember that Alan was QUOTING. It is considered to be a quote when you repeat what someone else has said. To censor that with “milder” words, means it is not a quote. I do understand that adults would like to believe that teen and pre-teen folks aren’t aware of this colorful language, but they are mistaken. In general this site does not espouse bad language….but when quoting someone directly you MUST be literal.
Um, complaint? Not really, just an observation. I have worked along side Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine. Been in situations of extreme peril. Had weapons pointed at me, listened to bullets Pi-ting when they struck the ground near me. Been hit by metal shrapnel. Tortured. Sewn up in the field without anesthesia. Used a knife to carve my own flesh to remove a foreign object or pestilence before it gangrened.
I have observed malfunctions in rockets, missiles, aircraft, etc. some of which resulted in the vehicle’s destruction and in some cases death of friends. Dangled outside various aircraft by a rope hundreds of feet off the ground. Thus have I heard foul language, yes. Have I used it, yes.
Do I suffer Rose Colored Glasses, no. Many of the people who were witness to these things with me, in the retelling of the tale we happen to leave out the expletives. Are we embarrassed by them, no. It’s just that there are some things you don’t have a need to repeat or say.
For instance I don’t feel a need to describe in a casual conversation what comes out of my body in a restroom or what happens in my bedroom. Why should I feel a need to allow those same things to come out of my mouth in retelling a tale? The use of that type of verbiage has it time and place, plus like my first example flushed and forgotten about rather than retained and shared. ;)
True, but the term “blotting” is used to mask expletives. Thus the quote is still true to the source but not as offensive. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that s*** or f*** means, but its not as offensive to some as the full lettering. Even a full blot as in “… then that ******* moron panicked.” Can still give the definitive answer as to what the blotted word is. Those that wish can add in the word while others understand it is a curse and just bypass.
Oh f—! We have to go to Winnipeg.
That’s exactly what passes through my mind, on any occasion that requires travel to Winnipeg.
I enjoyed very much the line about ripping the space-irony continuum, but I must say my favorite was
This reminds me of an infamous metric conversion error in 1999, which caused the loss of 125 million taxpayer dollars
and a Mars Orbiter : http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric/
Your assumption is incorrect, unless you are referring to British Airways Flight 9 (Boeing 747), which flew through volcano dust, resulting in the failure of all four engines.
I do not think words are offensive; language should be used freely and in good context. Thought should run wild and let to evolve freely. Like anything else in nature, good literature will transcend the barriers of time, while bad literature will die in oblivion. In the Spanish language, for example, there are many classics that include what puritans will call “foul language”. However, it is not in the hands of a group of people to decide what is good and bad in the use of words. Censorship is a double-bladed sword that often returns its blow on those who look for the “improvement” of morality, whatever morality means to that particular group living on that particular time of history. There are some societies that are characterized by their harsh control over “morality”, while at the same time showing such double standards towards things like pornography or the handling of weapons by the civil society, that appear to live in a state of massive schizophrenia.
Read this in Reader’s Digest when I was a kid…I was a kid only and I did not fully understand the article so I thought the pilots thought they had so and so kilograms of fuel but the refuellers gave them so and so pounds of fuel so they ran out in midair…
Outstanding writing on a DI topic! One minor (repeated) typo, however. The device is a “dipstick”, not a “dripstick”.
Excellent article! Keep up the DI work Allan.
Actually the term dripstick is correct. It is a small hollow tube, which is installed into the bottom of the fuel tank(s) of the jet. To check the fuel level, the tube is slowly withdrawn from the tank, and when the top drops below the fuel level, the fuel enters the hole at the top of the stick. This allows the fluid to drip through a hole in the cap at the bottom of the dripstick, thus the name. Marks on the side of the dripstick indicate the level of the fuel in the tank.
Follow this link for a Boeing dripstick chart — http://www.boeing-727.com/Data/fluidfuel/Dripstick%20Tank%2013.PDF
Newer aircraft now use a floatstick. Like the dripstick it is inserted into the bottom of the fuel tank. Consisting of two tubes, one with a float and magnet and the other with a magnet at its top. As the stick is withdrawn, the float magnet approaches the slowly extracted inner stick with the magnet on its end. When the magnets click it gives the level of fuel, safer that the dripstick as no fuel exits the tank.
My remark above is one of the first times I’ve done so without reading the other remarks. I thought I was the only one disappointed (not offended) in the language. I didn’t expect to see anyone else remark on it. Radiatidon, I respect your writing and am glad you’d already made a similar remark. No offense, Inti, but I think it’s a bit naive to think that words aren’t offensive. I’d understood from linguistics and philology that the (original) purpose for curse words was to offend, or express offense. I think over time, expletives have evolved to take the place of other words, when in the heat of the moment, the other words cannot be found by the person in the jam – hence the opening line in the story. However, redaction, as pointed out by the esteemed Radiatidon could have replaced the opening line with something more benign and nothing would have been lost. I, too, do not wear rose colored glasses. I’ve lived on multiple continents and heard and uttered curses in many languages. (Some I’ve heard are so verbosely colorful, they’re hilarious when translated into English). I’ve seen death and dismemberment up close too many times and been in situations where I expected to die. In some of these times, the only word or two I expressed was an expletive. In some instances, I didn’t have the presence of mind to even say a word, not even a curse. And in some instances, the only words out of my mouth were a cry of deital desperation – fully expecting to see my maker real soon. Yet, like Radiatidon, when I retell some of the stories, I have no need for exact quotes, not because I’m embarrassed by the language, but because the emotions are no adrenaline charged , and, after the fact, in a cooler mindset, I can retell it so all can hear it without offense. I do not believe I am overly concerned about offending someone. But neither am I so narcissistic or blind to the sensitivities of others, that I declare to the world, ‘I have the right to say any ****ing thing I want and to ** with all. BTW, I (and likely others) usually prefer bloggers to stick to the storyline, so forgive the digression.
Damn, beaten to the pie! Oh well, DI anyway. By the way, great first line.
One more thing. I understand that some people don’t think there should be any expletives here, but they forget one crucial thing. The site is DAMN Interesting. And damn is a curse. So I just don’t see the point in complaing about words of a similer type.
Long time reader but and I’ve only registered just now for 2 reasons:
1. This article is the most DI I’ve ever seen on DI
2. @Radiatidon either you’ve got the most DI life ever lived and you should write a memoir -or-
I’ve gotta find the asylum you’re locked up in and get you to write all this stuff down so I can create a new TV show. With the writers strike on your life-story could be gold.
Absolutely marvelous flying, necessitated by dispatching an aircraft which did not comply with the MEL (Minimum Equipment List).
You just bagged another registered user with this tale. Really superbly done (and @Radiatidon’s hair-raising tales are a terrific bonus).
The last time I flew (25 years ago now), I had already developed a pretty bad phobia about flying, and it was my first flight in 15 years; I’d had to talk to myself sternly for weeks beforehand: sports teams fly all the time; business people fly all the time; the president flies all the time; driving is far more dangerous; don’t be silly, you’ll be safe as houses.
We left from LaGuardia. The plane was a smaller jet, two-seat rows on either side of the aisle. I thought the takeoff felt awfully rough, but nobody else seemed concerned, so I figured it was just that I was overly sensitive.
Five minutes out, the intercom comes on. “Uh, this is your captain speaking. We have a slight problem…”
Turns out the back stairs had never retracted into the plane before it took off and were merrily flapping in the breeze. Great for the aerodynamics.
We had to turn around, fly over the ocean to dump fuel, then land at JFK, which has longer runways in case of problems. Full-dress emergency landing, sharp objects out of pockets, shoes off, heads between knees.
The landing was smooth as silk. Wild applause as we slowed to a halt, led by the flight attendants, who had been cool as cucumbers up to that point. Out the windows we could see fire engines lined up along the runway. We debarked normally. One flight attendant told me the captain had been flying for 30 years, and this was his first emergency landing. None of the attendants had ever heard of the back stairs failing to retract.
I managed to get myself onto another flight, which was uneventful; but when the time came to return two weeks later, I got as far as the plane’s door and had to turn back. Took an overnight bus home instead. Haven’t flown since, never intend to again.
The silver lining is that I can read airplane horror stories like this one and enjoy them thoroughly.
I remember reading about this…
I’m not quite sure, but I thin the glitch with the fuel reader was, the wire leading from the fuel tanks to the cockpit was only half soldered at one part. The system would have reverted to a backup gauge had the connection been fully lost, but since it didn’t know what to do with a weak single, it just shut down.
I remember reading a more detailed version of this story in something called Uncle Johns Bathroom Reader. Not sure which issue it was in though.
The title alone brings up images of an armor-clad John Rhys-Davies looking dwarf floating about on a patchwork hang glider.
DI as always. Indy! Get to the glider! lol
It’s an excellent docudrama — I don’t even know if it’s well done or not, but the story is so… whatever you call it, that it doesn’t matter. Reading this story gives me the chills, just like the movie did, and even though I’ve seen the movie a few times (always random latenight cable) and read a few different articles about it, each time I see anything about it I still find my heart racing as I get to the end.
I am not offended, and I am grateful in your interest to reply to my post. I must partially agree with you, and change my rather radical position at the beginning upon the “offensiveness of words”. However, I must stand firmly on the ground of freedom to use words for literature and thought. It is often wrong to course or insult someone in the street, but there is nothing wrong in the use of strong words to express your thoughts in literary creations. If there is a novel, story, poem or essay -such as those included in this site- that does not suit your personal moral beliefs, then is up to you to stop reading them. However, I do not think is appropriate to try to impose your moral standards over the literary creativity of others.
No one even commented about the “fuel hosers.”
That’s because it happened in Canada …eh!
I haven’t met a Canadian pilot who didn’t. Eh.
Holy fuck on a fuck sandwich, that’s scary. This is one of the many reasons I’d rather my father didn’t become a pilot.
As I said before, I loved this article. My only nit pick of it: Could you rotate the picture of the slip manuever 90 deg. clockwise. Poor fellow looks like he’s falling straight down.
HA! He certainly does. Do you think you can just grow a mo like that. Hell no, you have to earn that mo, and wear it with Damn pride!
The term “Jumbo” is not commonly in use for any aircraft other than the Boeing 747.
It is not applied to Wide-Body (Double-Aisle) Aircraft in general.
The story is gripping, as most narrowly averted disaster stories are, but the are a few technical errors. Young Mr. Bellows writes like someone with common sense, so I trust he will accept it in the constructive way it was intended.
A Boeing 767 is not a “jumbo jet.”
A “dead stick” landing is always attempted with excess altitude and airspeed. Excess altitude and airspeed is “slipped” off at the end of the approach, once the pilot is assured of making the runway. A side-slip is not an unusual or dangerous maneuver and doesn’t need to be represented as one for any added dramatic effect. The story was dramatic enough. These are not unusual errors for someone who is not a pilot or has no aviation experience.
I don’t believe the expletives add anything to the story. In fact, bots scouring the site will now add the site to lists that many companies use to filter content, so damninteresting will eventually be blocked at the workplace for some people, and for some children of parents using home filtering software. That will be a shame and probably not worth whatever benefit the article was supposed to gain from its use.
Surely as a blog admin, where you’re allowing the public to post comments, you can’t worry about this. As we’ve seen about 10 comments above this one, a poster swore twice, and its not the first time. Will this contribute to it getting banned from search engines/filter software too? I’d imagine these programs would have a hard time telling apart content from user comments, after all.
I seem to remember that the passengers were unaware that both engines had quit, and one said to another:
“It’s amazing how quiet these modern jets are!”
@fullback: your facts are off, i’m afraid… as discussed above, the dictionary defines a jumbo jet as “a widebody jet airliner”. that’s the dictionary definition, and the common usage. when people talk about zippers, do you correct them by saying “unless you mean the BF Goodrich brand fastening device, the proper term is ‘sliding fastener'”? i hope not, because that would be dumb. kinda like saying a 767 isn’t a jumbo jet.
as for the side/forward slip being dangerous, if you read the info from the links, you’d learn that when this was attempted in 1983, it was the first time such a deadstick slip had been tried in a jumbo jet, so it *was* unusual, and potentially dangerous.
sorry for the tangent, i just hate when people post bogus “corrections”.
You must be right, since you have wikipedia. I only have 33 years of experience as a CFI, CFII and ATP to use as a reference.
When first reading this I noticed how funny this story got when I inserted John Candy and Dan Akroyd as the pilots. They are both from Canadia right?
“ripping a hole in the delicate space-irony continuum” is now a favorite quote of mine :)
Does anyone else think the Don is chanelling dead crazy people? He’s way too packed with good stories to tell. Hell he just threw at us five or six aircraft related ones, most likely without much forced recall. Glad DI gives him an outlet though. DI article!
Do Canadians really end every single sentence with “eh”? One could be led to believe the pilot was that Doug MacKenzie hoser.
As Richard Dawson was known to say, “good answer!” Looks like Game, Set, Match to me.
There’s a difficulty here, though. Because of the medium, how does anyone know if anyone else is ever telling the truth? By nature, I am a trusting person (and I have paid for that, on occasion), but, whenever I am online, my shields automatically go up to 110%.
Uh, Guys? The site is name “Damn” Interesting. If you are that easily offended, then I’m not sure how you made it past the first glance.
And even if they’re both telling the truth, experts can be wrong, even in their field, and novices can be quite right. One time, when I was in college, I politely corrected my biological psychology teacher in class twice. The first time he admitted the mistake, but the second time he chewed me out in front of class, going on and on for what felt like a long time, asking if I had his degrees and years of experience and why I should be trusted over his material. On Monday, at the next class, he noted the same correction I made on Friday, and then quickly moved on. No apology. No admission of wrongdoing. But like I said, even experts are wrong sometimes.
In this case I think it comes down to context. Within the airline industry the definition of “jumbo jet” is very specific, while in the general public it has a somewhat broader definition (see here). In that case, neither of their definitions are wrong in their specific contexts, but in this context I’d say the use of the term is acceptable.
That’s just my opinion though. I could be wrong.
You can leave them up for all I care. The second sentence is obviously my opinion. The first one can very easily be checked at numerous web sites. Personally I saw no difficulty at all but I am curious as to why you commented as you did. Only thing I can come up with is you forget to take some of your meds.
In closing I’ve always wondered why anyone would ever say something was 110%. Maybe you need to crank them up to 250% and adjust your aluminum cap while you’re at it. I don’t know if you are telling the truth but I do know you are an idiot.
The ram air turbine is pretty DI, never had any clue that all passenger jets possessed little propellers ready to pop out and provide hydraulic power. Sure enough do a search for ram air turbine photos and you’ll see hidden away on many common jets this safety device.
Only commercial jet I’m aware of that doesn’t have one is the 747 since it is setup to freewheel an engine fast enough to provide backup power. Something designed into the engine
This article is best read with 3D glasses and a large extra buttered popcorn.
I already can’t view this site at work because of the URL address would be my guess. My job filters out anything with the word “interesting”
This article was damn well written! Very entertaining!
@fullback: if you were paying any attention at all, you’d notice that the wikipedia link i pasted was *not* for the jumbo jet, but to the history of the zipper, as a backup for my metaphor. so your comment about my reliance on wikipedia is meaningless.
also, your time in the industry explains your overzealous and misplaced “correction” regarding the term “jumbo jet”. if you and your airplane buddies want to use a narrower definition of a particular aviation word amongst yourselves, that’s fine. but don’t expect everyone in the real world to honor your strict, self-imposed jargon. language is defined by common usage….. not by outdated, unnecessary rules.
Somehow I knew Radiatidon would sell a bunch of bs on this one. I’m actually amazed that it didn’t include a prop taking somebody’s head off.
It’s a good thing I work from home as I laughed so loudly at this statement that I would have aroused my bosses curosity and have gotten myself fired for reading something interesting on the companies dime. Thanks supercal for the best laugh since … that field goal yesterday.
Can’t everybody just get along. I love this site for the fact that the comments are usually very polite (a true rarity on the Internets). Spend enough time surfing Digg and you forget that people are capable of real conversation.
-Signed, Digg junkie
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your response as it gave me a bit of exercise in spotting logical fallacies and propaganda devices.
Are you this verbally confrontational when you are in a room with the person to whom you are speaking?
I could just as easily engage in insults, invective, and vitriol, but doing so lacks honor. Gentlemen don’t use sneak attacks (hence, the duel at sunrise), and they don’t speak ill of others unless they can say directly to the others and then accept what consequences may follow. Even when they do speak ill of others, they restrict their comments to the facts and do not use emotional appeal and other illogical techniques.
Do all gentlemen rise to this level? Of course not. Just take a quick at the House of Representatives in the United States and at the House of Lords in England. However, they usually succeed at far surpassing Hardball, Sixty Minutes, Crossfire,, and virtually anyone with a talk-radio program on commercial radio.
Thanks again for your reply. I look forward to your next.
Do you take your DI screen name from The Doors’ first album?
(Note: I don’t know The Don; I can neither vouch for his tales nor debunk them. But I’m willing to be a gentleman about this, giving him the due benefit of the doubt. You might try that tack yourself, Hoekstes. Even if you can’t bring yourself to believe him, you can at least be entertained—and it’s free, too. You really have no cause for complaint.)
Holy Fuck on a Fuck Sandwich! Love it. Words are just that… words.
In the immortal words of Bill Murray, Lighten up Francis!
For those who enjoyed this story, I highly recommend the book about the incident. It is entitled “Freefall”.
I felt the need to finally register in order to post a comment. I’ve been reading articles here at DI for a while now, and this was one of the first ones where I actually read through most of the comments – now I wish I hadn’t.
That is apparently what most of you are. A ridiculous portion of the comments are making corrections to either the article itself or corrections to the corrections, which is just absurd. Unless something with the article is blatantly false, inaccurate, or in some other way detracts from the overall article then I don’t see why you don’t just keep it to yourself. Do you just lack attention and want your voice to be heard? If you feel that you can do a better job, write a more interesting story with fewer grammatical errors, less expletives, and/or no “controversial” terms then do it. If not, then just sit back and appreciate those who can. As for me, I think I’ll avoid the comments on DI from now on.
You can see the video of the 747 doing the sideslip at:
The 2nd video down has the caption:
The Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport (now closed) was legendary for its approach procedure, which was offset 90 degrees from the runway heading. Pilots of even the largest jumbo jets had to make a tight turn at low altitude just seconds before touching down. Here, a Korean Airlines 747 makes what, believe it or not, is a typical approach into this airport.
The direct link is: http://www.alexisparkinn.com/photogallery/Videos/Boeing%20747%20Extreme%20Landing.mpg
Wow, great article, I was gripped.
If you want to spur cogent discussion, explore facts and possibilities but don’t engage in ad hominem attacks which, by the way, are one of the surest signs of an illogical argument.
I suggest that, if you are truly concerned about the level and tenor of the exchanges in DI, you submit posts that are exemplars of elevated thought and keen insight.
I neglected to mention one item.
Some of the DI participants do appear to be younger than perhaps you, but their minds are involved, and they are exploring ideas.
The stereotype of the average teenager today (especially the white male teenager) is that he/she spends all time available either texting or playing some sort of a highly visual video game.
The teens here have minds, and they are using them. Please consider giving the “brats” a break. The vast majority of DI participants are intelligent, humorous, inquisitive, and creative – all traits that our country always direly needs.
I never did understand how this sort of thing would be less than obscene. I mean, here’s my thought process when I read something like this.
“Oh, f—-!” Hmm. Someone must have said a naughty if they’re blanking the letters out. Let’s see, what could it be? Of the seven words that you cannot say, how many begin with an f? Oh, yes, just one. “Oh, f—-!” and “Oh, fuck!” read exactly the same to me. How mollycoddled could you possibly be to not know what f—- refers to? And if you know the word, how does it not spring immediately to mind when you read the f-dash-dash-dash? When you see an extended middle finger, do you not already know what it means?
I can understand putting the blur over someone’s danglies if it’s on TV, you know they’re naked but knowing ain’t the same as seeing. But when someone flicks the bird and it gets blurred, that seems silly. It’s language, in this case, sign language. If the raised fist with a blur over it conveys the same message as the unblurred finger, i.e. that someone has just been flicked off, what’s the difference?
Something I always liked doing was censoring innocent conversations, especially quotations from the Bible. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, —–.” “You will be greater than all the others. Judas, you will —- the man that clothes me.” “Whatever thy hand findest to do, do it with all thy heart.” (see, I don’t even have to do anything to that one to make it sound wrong!) My point is, people will look at these things and purse their lips and get offended. Why? There is NOTHING offensive contained within! It’s all in the way YOU perceive it. So if you see something dirty there, maybe you have a dirty corner in your mind. :) This argument never went over well in church.
In the original version of the story I read, the development team had to fight to include the device since experts felt it was a ridiculous and expensive safety measure that could never be required in real world operation. Who ever heard of a passenger jet losing all engine power? Well, now we’ve got several examples. I should hope there’s no more argument about it. :)
I just thought back to this article when I saw the news about today’s Boeing 777 jet that had to make a deadstick landing:
“An airport worker told the BBC the pilot on the Boeing 777 had said he had lost all power, and had been forced to glide the plane into land at Heathrow.
All BA short-haul flights from Heathrow have been cancelled and others delayed.
The worker also said the pilot had told him all the electronics had also failed. “
This just in, the Gimli Glider is being retired and shuffled off to a retirement home in the Mojave Desert. More at http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=00ad8889-e4ee-4f6a-8b5a-1ccd23f2daf3&k=19959
Great story, well written and engaging!
Some more on the space-irony continuum, from the wiki link: “and the injuries were addressed by a doctor who had been about to take off in an aircraft on Gimli’s other runway, which was still being used by the Air Cadet Gliding Center flying club”
The Gimli Glider scenario has been programmed into virtualization software for pilots in training. As of this date nobody has successfully emulated a safe landing.
I enjoyed reading this the first time round, it was just as exciting reading it again…great story and very well written…I think I’ll be digging deep to buy the book…
According to WikiPedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider#Retirement) the plane is now retired. :)
This sounds like the same story which was on TV a couple of nights ago, but in that one they attributed the lack of sufficient fuel to a leak in a fuel line. Everything else sounds identical to this story.
Also, is a “dripstick” the same as a “dipsick?” I never heard the former before and I’m 77 years old.
Good story for Flying Farmers week in Oskosh+-, Wisconsin!! Flying Farmers is to Planes as Sturgis is to Motorcycles (Harleys more specifically).
On small planes there is a little valve under the wing that when pressed it will release gas, that may be a version of a “drip stick” on the larger commercial planes?? Our fuel levels in tip tanks can also checked by wet stick like a power steering pump stick, that may be the drip stick of the big boys??
Can you imagine opening up the door of your camper to see a massive jetliner barreling towards you? I think that incident attributed to many pairs of crapped pants.
A dripstick is basically a hollow tube in the underside of the fuel tank, with graduations marked on the side of the tube. You basically unscrew it, then slide it downwards. Once fuel starts dripping out of the bottom of the tube, this means the top of the tube has reached the fuel level in the top of the fuel tank, you read the marking on the side and this gives you an indication of the fuel in the tank. Something like a dipstick, but dipping from the bottom instead of the top. Something more easily described with a diagram rather than words.
So how do you choose which articles to re-issue? Do you use the Random Article button too? :)
amazing how they managed to glide it down with no fuel, DI
Dear Alan, I have read this story before but since there was a highly intelligent conversation regarding the subject of plane flying and handling in emergencies between those who obviously were in the know, I felt I should keep quiet as I am not equipped to offer comments on such a lofty level (pun intended)! Anyway, my simple comment is “WOW!” Kudos to the pilots for saving the day! And thank (diety of your choice) that all ended well in this instance. And to the other commenters, fear not, I will always respect your conversations and keep out until a more opportune time. Signed – A simple medical office administrator.
I once parallel parked a 85 tempo black out drunk in Chicago traffic and no one made a big deal outta that.
An opportune time to reshow this story what with the problems Qantas have been having. I’ve been playing a bit of attention to those stories as I just flew to England and back on Qantas planes.
Still, they’ve never crashed…
Wow! I recently found your site and it’s wonderful! I’ve read a LOT of your entries and haven’t been bored by one. I put your blidget on my blog, http://queen-rosebud.blogspot.com/ hope you can drop by when you’ve finished your deadline!
Great re-post! I’ve told this story countless times since I read it back in November. Such a great read.
I know I can’t be the first to think this but:
“Oh fuck,” Pearson lamented, “we’ve got to go to Winnipeg.”
It’s like something out of the Far Side Gallery
Captain: (in baritone voice) “Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I’ve dreaded this day for years but now it’s happening (presses intercom) ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please try to remain calm and protect your children, I’ll just be blunt with this. We have to land in Winnipeg. Please assume the brace position and if you feel like praying… now is the time!”
Co-pilot: “but Captain, we don’t stand a chance in Winnipeg, I’ve never even heard of anybody coming out of there alive or even anybody crazy enough to go in there!”
Captain “Well we don’t have a choice, we’ve got a job to do and 150 lives depend on us to land them on that runway and spend 30 to 45 minutes waiting for a turnaround. It’s a one in a million chance… but it’s all we’ve got!”
(enters)Head Stewardess: “Oh Captain! What are we going to do, the passengers are getting hysterical, many have never been to Winnipeg before and half of them can’t even find it on a map! They’re asking questions and I don’t no what to say. Oh God, they train you for this but you never expect it will happen to you!”
Captain: “Don’t worry Stacy, we’re in the Lord’s hands now…
Co-pilot: “… and it’ll take one of his miracles to get us out of this”
Stewardess: “But Captain, there’s a man here who says he might be able to help you, he says he knows about Winnipeg!”
Captain: “well send him in… we need all the help we can get.”
Passenger: “You’re the captain right? I’ve never been in a situation like this before, me and my family are so scared I can hardly think, but I knows things…”
Co-pilot: “God Dammit man, snap out of it we don’t have time; what do you know!”
Passenger “well, I’ve heard stories – tales – about Winnipeg. They say it’s in the exact centre of the North American continent but most terrifying is the COMPLETE LACK OF FREEWAYS IN THE URBAN AREA!”
Captain: “My… God…”
Co-pilot: “Tha-thats… that’s impossible!”
Passenger: “It’s true, I heard it from a man who actually saw it with his own eyes. But I never saw him again…”
Captain: “thank you sir, you’ve been a great help, but go back to your wife and children… you will want to be together when we touch down”
Passenger: “good luck… and Godspeed!”
Co-pilot: “I can’t take this sir, I never thought I’d land in Winnipeg, I mean I just qualified two months ago, my wife and baby are home alone…”
Captain: “Soldier up Pilot, you didn’t think this job would be easy, the best a man can do is his duty. And don’t worry, you’ll see your wife and baby again, I promise!”
Copilot: “sure… (sniff)… hey! I see it! There it is!”
Captain: “My God, look at the size of that thing”
Copilot: “looks like this is it.”
Captain: “yeah… see you on the other side”
Ha! Ha! Teblaine
Yes!..Durn good Treblaine
Just wondering what the ‘ space-irony continuum’ is- I’d love to be in on the joke and I tried Googling it, but to no avail. Could anyone enlighten me on this? Thanks, and much appreciated!
The irony to which the esteemed Mr. Bellows refers was this: The assessment crew, going to investigate the aircraft’s running out of fuel, ran out of fuel also. Highly embarrassing, I’m sure, though of course not an event of such magnitude as to disrupt the space-time continuum. The imaginary space-irony continuum was definitely endangered, however.
Your kidding me. This isa TRUE STORY? First of all, was Bob and Doug McKenzie piloting this thing? EH? Did they actually have to consult a 767 User’s GUIDE. More than once? The co-pilot didn’t tell the pilot of possible victims on the field because he didn’t want to distract him? And the co-pilot never considered the possibility that the airport was no longer in existance? Is it April 1st? Oh wait I forgot, like the brains who travel to Mars and decided to convert metric with standard, these two “pups” did the exact same thing? The next time somebody tells me that flying is safer than me driving my own car, I am going to punch them right in the mouth. I can assure you I know EXACTLY how much fuel I have in my car at all times and I have YET to crash because my fuel tank is dry. This isn’t DI, this is damn stupid.
Chill out, ironcross. Airports going out of service are surely rather rare; it could very easily have been the case that the copilot had not tried to keep up with the state of a minor airport at which he never expected to have to land. Flying is safer than you driving your own car. (OK, I’ve told you. Now, just how you expect to deliver that promised punch is for you to figure out.)
The total number of people killed in the USA in highway crashes in 2001 was 42,116.
The total number of people killed in the world in airplane crashes in 2001 was 1,535 (statistics for aircraft with capacity of 6 or more people).
This makes it more than 27 times as likely that you will die in your car than in an airplane. I’ll take my chances in the air before I’ll trust arrogant drivers such as you to be safe near me on the road! Provided that your fuel gauge is working correctly, you mean. (And yes, I know that it usually is working correctly. But so were the gauges on Air Canada #143.) You’re trying to compare apples and oranges. When a car runs out of fuel, it is already on the ground, so there is no risk of impact therewith. Are you proferring a self-critique? I’d support it….
aliens ain’t real yall r trying to scare people
that is cool though. the aliens r so ugly though
Thanks for proving my points. Let me help you by sending you to Dictionary.com where you can look up sarcasm.
I find it amusing that you can calmly and astutely defend the indefensible. I am sure you would do the same as you sit in that flying tube as you no longer hear the roar of the engines and the captain of the craft notifies you that oops, we don’t have enough fuel to reach our destination, our bad! And their reply to your horror is “The fuel gauge says full!” Yep that’ll fly (HAHA!) I am sure.
so they could not have had much experience with it yet.
So during the flight they announce, “Ladies and gentleman, we need to look at the flight manual because we do not have experience flying this tub and we neglected to read the manual BEFORE we took off.” Brilliant. In WW2 they sent pilots into battle with little experience in their craft. This was because there was an emergency situation and they needed pilots. Having little experience flying a “state of the art” machine in the private sector is inexcusable. Read Chuck Yeager’s book and he states it is inexcusable for a pilot NOT to know how his craft performs.
which he never expected to have to land.
Would it not be prudent for these professionals to know ALL escape routes in case of emergency? And do not give me flying transAtlantic flights as an excuse, there are exceptions. Of course as you are driving around morons such as myself, you have a planned escape route? At all times? You should.
Provided that your fuel gauge is working correctly, you mean
Umm no, I don’t mean. I do not rely on my “fuel gauge” to tell me when to fill up. I do not let it get to the point where I may run out of gas because I do not wish to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and watch as you and hundreds of others blow past me without lending a hand. I prefer NOT to put myself in that situation so I fill up before I need to. And I fill up the same days of the week.
This makes it more than 27 times as likely that you will die in your car than in an airplane. I’ll take my chances in the air before I’ll trust arrogant drivers such as you to be safe near me on the road!
Statistics labeling flying as being safer are skewed as all statistics are. It is based on miles flown which of course is higher in aircraft. When was the last time you heard of hundreds of people dying in a car crash? If this plane crashed and you and all the other people died, what could you have done about it? Kiss your lame ass goodbye is it. At least I can take evasive action and maneuver rather than sit there and “take it.” There are too many variables involved that have to come together in order to make commercial flying safe. It is too easy for one of those variables to fail. I’ll match my “arrogant” driving skills to yours any day of the week.
27 times as likely that you will die in your car…
I’ll bet most statistics show that more people die while NOT in their car than they do in it.
When a car runs out of fuel, it is already on the ground, so there is no risk of impact therewith.
Hmm, try that driving on a road and there is no shoulder to pull off and somebody as yourself who relies on their fuel gauge leaves their car sitting in the middle of the road. The person may not impact the ground, but the Mack truck coming up surely will. Yes, I have seen it happen. Relying on technology (as ALL airplanes do) is unsafe.
Based on your post you would have no issues flying with a pilot inexperienced in the craft he is piloting, relying solely on technology for information, utilizing outdated information in a life or death situation and utilizing statistics to determine whether or not it is safe.
Your arguments are ludicrous and your ad-hominem attacks are typical. As far as me decking you, anytime anyplace.
ironcross, first check out Dictionary.com yourself, where you can look up the difference between sarcasm and condescension. Also check out ‘contempt’ and ‘contumely’ while you’re at it.No, their hypothetic reply would have been, in this incident, something like “The fuel gauge says empty!” [Go re-read the article.]
(They might continue, “We thought we had enough, but the stoppage of the engines makes it quite clear that the gauges are right, and we are somehow very wrong!”)
Don’t proffer examples that don’t reflect the reality of their situation; you present a straw-man argument, at best.Indeed! Thank whatever gods may be that they were able to apply other experience to the situation and bring it in with damage only to the aircraft. They may well have known about all active airports in the vicinity, but not about the inactive ones. I don’t know, but I consider it possible. And just how do you know that you have not reached the danger point, unless you do indeed trust the gauge to report reliably? (Assuming that your driving conditions, distances, etc. have some variation, so that your weekly fill-up might not be a datum sufficient by itself.) Go read the material at this link for some other useful information. Irrelevant. These modes of transportation do not correlate in that fashion. Apples and oranges again. If a bus crashed and everyone aboard died; if a train crashed and everyone aboard died; there would be an equal lack of ability to take evasive action. It’s part of the risks associated with those modes. (Although buses are shown to be much safer than cars or airplanes, at the site mentioned above. Data for trains were not given there.) Just stay in your lane, at appropriate speed, with use of proper signals — as do I — and we’ll both be fine. Irrelevant, again. What I was saying, that you did not quote in full, was that it is more likely that you will die in your car than in an airplane. I was not addressing accidental deaths in general, as you already know. Don’t misquote in order to try to make a point. (And partial quoting, without the appropriate context, counts as misquoting.) You need another basket, so you can better separate those apples and oranges. Impact with the ground, which was what I was addressing, is categorically different from impact with another vehicle. Stay on point, sir. Relying on anything is, in some way or another, unsafe. It’s a matter of intelligent decision concerning risk. (Or, as was said more than once upon a time, “Ya pays yer money an’ ya takes yer choice.”) Untrue. I would have concerns in such an unusual and unlikely situation, and would hope that the pilot’s various skills (and perhaps those of ground-support crew) would be able to pull off a risky resolution. Perhaps you regard my imputation of stupidity as an ad hominem? No. Stupidity, in my usual definition, is characterized by an inability to learn — which you seemed to be displaying. Perhaps you were just being sarcastic, and I missed it? Apologies if so.
As far as “typical” goes, w.r.t. me and ad hominem, well, that’s simply a lie. Apologize. Oh, I do quake in my boots, sirrah! [That was sarcasm, in case anyone needs to have it pointed out.] * Google him, if you need to.
Long time lurker, first time poster. Silverhill’s rebuttal quoting Salvor Hardin was absolutely brilliant and prompted me to register.
For those of us not engaged in Psychohistory or the advancement of certain Asimovian enyclopedias, I suggest a good round of Unreal Tournament to achieve satisfaction. =)
Concerning the sideslip maneouvre, this is a common lesson when learning to fly. When I was learning on Cessna 150s and 172s, it’s a great way to shed speed and altitude in a hurry whilst maintaining control of the aircraft (just watch your stall speed!) It seems counter-intuitve, but the aircraft maintains a steady heading toward your desired runway even though the nose may not necessarily be lined up with said runway.
Practised enough times, it’s a simple matter to execute a sideslip with a Cessna. However, you have to have some set of balls to try it with a wide-body Boeing. Thanks to DI for a brilliant article and for representing some Canadian content. Cheers, eh!
Intelligoth, a forward slip, not a sideslip, is what you are talking about. They’re not the same thing. A forward slip is what you use when you need to correct for being too high and/or too fast. A sideslip is used in a crosswind landing. In a sideslip, the nose stays pointed at the runway and the wing is lowered into the wind. The rudder keeps the nose pointed straight ahead throughout. Personally, I use a sideslip all the way down if I’m flying alone, but if I have passengers, I use the crab technique with a transition to sideslip at the very end, since it’s a little more comfortable for the ground-bounders.
Just about every aircraft (and certainly every large commercial aircraft) has a flight manual on board, for that specific aircraft. There are far too many systems on an airliner for the crew to memorize the exact corrective actions for every potential problem. The serious emergencies have procedures which are done by memory (called boldface) but after these actions are completed, the flight manual is consulted as a backup.
Love this story, especially the “fuel hosers” reference. I do remember seeing an article recently that the Air Canada 767-200 airframe, known as the Gimli Glider, was taken out of service sometime in January 2008, and flown to the Mojave storage facility in the California desert. I don’t know if that’s a permanent retirement or if the plane might go on to serve with a second line carrier or freight operation, but it is no longer in service with Air Canada. Thanks very much for the great stories!!
If you reread the text, you’ll find that the 0,8 referenced in the text is the conversion factor from litres to kg. It is what they should have used.
Instead they used the factor 1,77 which would have been required to convert from litres to pounds.
I’ve been working at an airport for fifteen years now, and while that might make me one of those airplane buddies, neither my co-workers nor any of my other friends would associate the term Jumbo with anything other than a B747 or in the case of “Superjumbo” with the A380.
Besides, the very term “Jumbo-Jet” is neither self-imposed jargon nor is it a rule. It is the very example of common usage adopted by the airline industry. Thus if the term actually were used for all wide body aircraft, I don’t see any reason, why the airplane buddies wouldn’t use it in exactly the same way.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people who use the term indiscriminately, especially if they can’t tell the difference between various wide-body aircraft. However the term “Jumbo Jet” was coined specifically for the B747 when the aircraft was first introduced in 1970.
Trivia: The German wikipedia site for “Jumbo Jet” redirects to “Boeing 747”
I choose the Weight Watchers ;-)
SUBJECT: DIETY OF CHOICE?!!! = ALMIGHY G-D!!!
NO DOUBT MY (AND EACH AND EVEY ONE OF YOURS) —– [DIETY OF CHOICE???!!!], “had you been on this particular Airplane” —- would have been the Holy SOVEREIGN of Israel!!!!
There’s no such thing as an ATHEIST in a foxhole, or on an INOPERABLE AIRPLANE at 40,000 ft!!! That’s where ALL religions truly become one and everyones G-D becomes the SAME one!!!!
Awesome Story, Outstanding writting DI!!!
And – I see MANY stating that they would want none-other than this Captain Piloting their Plane…..
I’m not so sure!!! He didn’t put enough GAS in his plane!!! Though, he no doubt does have Cast Iron Nads and Extreme Skill —– Thank “G-D” for that!!!
According to Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, the rest of the story.
1. There was no Flight Engineer. The 767 had a crew of two.
2. The Minimum Equipment List did not permit the place to fly without fuel gauges.
3. The aircrew tried to ground the flight but were told the flight had been cleared by Air Canada’s Maintenance Control division.
4. The problem was traced to a bad solder joint in the fuel sending unit, which gave off a very weal signal. Had the module completely failed, a backup unit would have come on line and everything would have been fine.
5. The Pilot and Co-Pilot were demoted until the further investigation place the blame on Air Canada’s poor training and poor procedures, and questioned the wisdom of introducing a metric aircraft in and imperial air fleet. The report not only exonerated Pearson and Quintal, but also credited them with saving the passengers against very long odds.
I loved the story. It is a true comment on the ability of Man to think and react under pressure. Pilots are some of the best at that, and Capt. Person’s ability to put his glider experience to use in getting the plane on the ground is amazing. Sorta like the DC-10 that lost it’s third engine and all hydraulics, and almost made a perfect landing thank to the exeperince and skill of the pilots and the check-pilot who happened to be on board.
Or like Capt. Sulenberger setting the plane down in the Hudson River.
The most amazing thing about what Capt. Pearson accomplished is that no one has been able to duplicate his feat in the flight simulators. They had many experienced pilots attempt it and everyone of them crashed.
It shows what an amazing accomplishment it truly was. Sometimes it seems that the right person is put in the right place at the right time. Thanks for posting this, its been a long time since I read about this story. It’s one of the numerous stories of flight crews accomplishing the near impossible. The Hawaii Air flight, the Hudson River landing, the list goes on and on. Miracles do happen.
The plane is being sold for scrap.
On my last trip to Canada I notice you guys have still not come to grips with the metric system .. its time you forgote pounds and miles and moved into the 21 st millenium so that errors like this can be avoided
Lovely article but not sure about all the comments that were spawned by the reference to “forward slip”.
As a glider pilot myself I am certain that the manouvre used (to lose height without increasing speed) was a “side slip”.
There’s a reference in the comments to a “side slip” being the directional attitude an aircraft naturally adopts, where it’s centreline is not aligned with its direction of travel, due to the wind direction also not being aligned with the direction of travel. In all flight manuals and discussions I’ve had, this is called “drift”.
Another small correction: Boing is spelled Boeing.
“That wasn’t flying, it was falling with style.” – Woody
You are correct. I was on AT236 and it was a rediculously long glide. I can’t believe we’re here. Thank you Piche!
Great story and thanks for it. Here in the States we call “dripstick” a “dip stick” and wondered if that was correct. Awfully well written. Again, thanks.
Would you prefer to insert a line crediting me for all of the lines you plagiarized from MY article on the same subject or chat with my lawyer?
You know, like “carving up” the runway…
@Wade Nelson: You are alleging plagiarism because we both used the commonly-used phrase “carved up” to mean “separated into portions” when telling the same story? That’s just silly.
Alan, I thoroughly enjoyed your account of the Gimli Glider affair, on this the 32nd anniversary. My favorite quote from the story:
“In all probability, their inevitable confrontation with the Earth would not be an improvement on their current situation.” Loved it!
I like the comments from people who seem to think that all airline pilots must be fully educated to every single system and every possible failure mode in their aircraft before being allowed to fly it. Apparently they have little concept of how complex a system an aircraft is, and how long it would take to learn even half of that information, and that without constant refreshing, they’d forget half of it anyway. The expense would be enormous. Who’s flying the aircraft while the pilots are taking an intensive 2-year course in the thousands of mechanical systems in their new aircraft? The pilot’s job is to fly the plane. In the rare cases there is an emergency, it’s usually caused by some obscure part, and there is usually plenty of time to access the manual and check it out, which is much easier than expecting them to know all these technical details IN ADDITION to their business of flying and navigating. If they don’t have time to read the manual, then they’re probably screwed anyway. I’d also point out that even if they were trained in every possible aspect of the aircraft before ever being allowed to fly it, they’d probably mandate that pilots reference the manual ANYWAY, just to make sure…memory can become confused, you might leave things out, different aircraft do things in different ways. An ex-Boeing 737 pilot might be on a 757, and a certain fuel pump fails, and he forgets and does what he would have done in the 737, and ends up blowing the other fuel pumps instead, because it was the wrong procedure. Referencing the manual is a safety check. Pilots are taught all the important things about flying the aircraft in normal operation, and many of the things they may be required to do in likely failure modes, such as a birdstrike killing an engine on takeoff. There is no point in cluttering them up with technical details about all the POSSIBLE things that might fail, because there are literally tens of thousands of things to fail on an aircraft. By the end of your career, after flying a 767 for 30 years, you’ll likely have experienced many different failures, and the more common of them you won’t even need the manual for. but there is no need to expect the pilots to know every single system on the aircraft. It’s not relevant. There isn’t even anyone at Boeing who knows the aircraft so well that they could explain everything about it without referencing a manual or two.
As for those who insist that they’d rather drive than fly, that’s fine, but the fact is that it’s an illogical response: you’re afraid to fly. Flying may SEEM more dangerous to you, but it is factually not. Driving is incredibly dangerous, even if you PERCEIVE it as safer. If it makes you happy to cater to you illogical ideas, ga ahead. But if you ask me, it’s a hell of a lot less comfortable driving 5,000 miles than flying, not to mention much more dangerous. Think of how many potential accidents you pass every mile you drive; you never know what drunken idiot or bad driver is behind that wheel, who’s driving in a car with a wheel that’s about to come off. “Evasive action” is all well and good in theory, but in most accidents, there is no WAY to “evade” it, or there would be no accident (although I’m sure that YOUR especially superior driving skills will be enough….). It’s hard to “evade” an idiot blindsiding you after running a red light at 50mph, or the distracted idiot who rear-ends you doing 60 while you’re sitting in line at the lights, or the cars slamming into you from behind when there is a pileup. I don’t car how good a driver you are, you can’t avoid most accidents, even when well rested and fresh (which you won’t be after driving 4,500 miles). The hell with that, I’m happy to fly. There is some risk in everything, but seeing as how there are 30,000 flights EVERY DAY, the few accidents that do happen seem a small percentage. Hell, the only other way to cross the ocean is on a boat, and I’m always reading about collisions and fires on boats. The only reason you don’t hear about more people dying on boats is because they all take a plane nowadays.
Would it be relevant to mention that the incompetent actions of the Captain, Bob Pearson, resulted in a plane falling from the sky, yet people are celebrating that he didn’t kill hundreds of people due to his negligence?
Bob Pearson personally certified that the “gas gauges” were nonfunctional on his 767, certified his own fuel calculations, did them WRONG and ran out of gas in the air because of his incompetence. That is negligent, incompetent actions by a COMMERCIAL AIRLINE PILOT. His actions resulted in the near destruction of a 767 airliner, its passengers, and innocent families and children on the ground. As it happened, the Captain narrowly avoided murdering people by crashing without crushing innocent civilians. Yet because he did not murder anyone, he is celebrated. What???!!!
Celebrating Bob Pearson is equivalent to celebrating a drunk driver who avoids killing a busload full of nuns and children, by skillfully turning away from crashing into them at the last moment. He’s a near murderer that didn’t kill anyone because of his actions at the last second. He and he alone crashed an airliner, due to his infantile miscalculations to begin with. This is by an airline pilot, with an extraordinary social and legal obligation to protect lives! The plane crashed due to pilot error! So, should he be celebrated because he narrowly avoided killing hundreds because of that? Is Canada on drugs or something??
Oi, Fact Speaker, You’re wrong.
The issue here is that Air Canada Pilots had been given insufficient training on the use of their new Metric airliner. They had been accustomed to converting to pounds of fuel, and the airport still delivered fuel in pounds, so to convert to KG’s of fuel was completely alien to them. They should have been given approriate training, which they were not. It is no surprise that the accident happened. The managerial structure of Air Canada is to blame, and both the Pilots should be celebrated for turning what could have been a tradgedy into a minor accident.
Shouldn’t the Captain have got the fuel load in litres as the manual drip stick readings gave it and used that directly to get a good handle on the distance possible with that amount of fuel (in litres) for that particular aircraft. Also, while the aircraft is on the ground do they not measure the amount of fuel loaded using the drip / float stick method for all flights regardless?
Thinking a bit more about it if I was an airline pilot before a flight I’d probably want to have a look at the rough ‘miles per litre’ number for the aircraft which I’d get from the postit stuck on the dash above the fuel guages part of the displays and would then get the two ‘litres loaded’ numbers from both the fuelers fuel flow measurement and the fuelers manual dripstick / floatstick measurement making sure they both agreed then would work out how many miles I could do with the loaded fuel directly from the litres loaded number. If that looked good I’d do a more detailed fuel / distance assesment.
Great story, glad I read it and the comments where there was that interesting info on the dripstick and floatstick fuel measuring methods from Radiatidon.
I am returned.