LONDON – Today in Aviation marks 37 years to the day since Air Canada (AC) Flight 143, also known as The Gimli Glider, landed safely in Gimli, Manitoba after a double engine failure.
The Pilots made Canadian aviation history. The landing is quite possibly the best example of how to safely glide an aircraft to an unbefitting spot.
Captain Robert (Bob) Pearson, 48, and First Officer Maurice Quintal, 36, were at the controls. The aircraft carried 61 passengers and 8 crew members.
Captain Pearson was a highly experienced pilot, having accumulated more than 15,000 flight hours. First Officer Quintal was also experienced, having logged over 7,000 hours of total flight time.
How the Events Unfolded
July 23, 1983, saw AC Flight 143 in-flight at 41,000 feet when a fuel pressure problem caught the Pilot’s attention.
The Pilots turned the left fuel pump off on the assumption that it had failed. They reckoned that gravity should feed fuel to the aircraft’s engines without such pumps needing to be in action.
Moments after the left-side was producing cautions, the second fuel pressure alarm sounded, this time for the right engine.
By this point, the left-hand engine had failed. Thus, the Pilots planned to divert to Winnipeg, Canada, and prepare for a single-engine landing.
Instrument Displays Go Blank
As the pilots communicated with the air traffic controllers at Winnipeg, the cockpit alarm sounded again.
This time it was to indicate that the second engine had also stopped due to the issue.
Once that happened, most of the instrument displays in the cockpit went blank. However, with the Boeing 767 being the first airliner to include electronics for flight instruments, there were some displays left.
Upon that point, the Pilots deployed a RAM Air Turbine (RAT). This gave them the back-up power needed to complete an emergency approach into Gimli Industrial Park Airport.
To the Pilot’s surprise, the decommissioned airport was now just a run-down racetrack.
No Conventional Runway And No Nose Gear
This area was where First Officer Maurice Quintal once served as a Pilot at the Royal Canadian Air Force. At the time of the emergency landing, he was unaware of the conversion of the field.
Without the main power, the Pilots had to manually deploy the landing gear. However, only the middle set of gears deployed, with the nose failing to do so.
The fact that the nose gear was not working would prove in favor of the Pilots. It slowed the aircraft down.
The aircraft then came in for a final approach when the pilots realized they were going too fast. At this moment, they performed a forward slip to increase drag and lose altitude.
A forward slip is where the nose will point in a different direction to where the wind is.
As soon as the wheels touched the ground, the Pilots hit the brakes, blowing some of the aircraft’s tires. The main landing gear collapsing onto the floor.
Air Canada Corporate Woes
The Aviation Safety Board of Canada report stated that Air Canada management was responsible for “corporate and equipment deficiencies.”
It also stated that the airline had “neglected to assign clearly and specifically the responsibility for calculating the fuel load in an abnormal situation.”
A Landing without Fatalities
Further investigation discovered that the airline failed to reallocate the task of checking the fuel load. Additionally, AC had a lack of spare parts.
Investigators also praised the flight and Cabin Crews for their “professionalism and skill.”
This would have taken a lot of effort to pull off in the first place.
In-all, we look back at The Gimli Glider as the most proper way to glide an aircraft into an area not suitable for aircraft anymore and how to pull it off without any fatalities whatsoever. Period.