Skip to comments.That Time a Commercial Aircraft Ran Out of Fuel Mid-Flight...
Posted on 05/29/2014 8:32:05 AM PDT by virgil283
"On July 23, 1983, in the small town of Gimli, Manitoba, Captain Robert Pearson and Co-Pilot Maurice Quintal expertly glided a 100-ton Boeing 767 carrying 69 people to a safe landing without engines, air brakes or flaps, and minimal control of the aircraft......"
(Excerpt) Read more at todayifoundout.com ...
Bottom line, this meant that the plane was filled with only about half of the fuel it needed to make the trip. .....Just minutes later, another pressure gauge lit up, and they lost their left engine. Two minutes after that: The EICAS issued a sharp bong indicating the complete and total loss of both engines. . . . Its a sound that Bob and I had never heard before. . . . . Starved of fuel, both . . . engines had flamed out. Pearsons response, recorded on the cockpit voice recorder, was Oh +++++"......
After a quick perusal of the manuals, which had no procedures for a loss of both engines, the pilots quickly realized their only hope was to somehow glide the plane to a safe landing. Luckily for the passengers aboard, while hed never tried gliding a Boeing 767, Pearson was an extremely experienced glider pilot....At this point, the plane was losing altitude at a rate of approximately 2,000 feet/minute, but at least the pilots could still control it.....
Upon approaching the runway at the old Gimli base, Pearson and Quintal realized they were too high. They then performed a common maneuver in small aircraft called a forward slip, which is to bank into the wind, then apply opposite rudder to keep the plane flying straight, rather than turning; this results in the plane descending more rapidly without increasing airspeed. While commonly done in personal aircraft, this is a very rare maneuver for commercial craft.
Although somewhat risky, this was the pilots only option since the flaps and dive-brakes required power from the now-inoperable engines. While all pilots are well familiar with this maneuver (in fact its generally required before you can go on your first solo flight in personal aircraft), Pearson had a wealth of experience performing the forward slip maneuver, thanks to not only frequently piloting gliders, but also years of experience towing them: After releasing the glider, I would have this long tow line hanging under the plane, and I had to be careful not to snag it on the farmers fence as I approached the runway. So I would stay high until I cleared the fence, and then did a steep slip to make the runway.......Nevertheless, they managed to glide in safely and as the plane touched down:
Another problem was that, unknown to the pilots, the abandoned runway had been converted to a recreational center, including auto and go-cart racing. Spectators, racers, and kids on bicycles fled the runway. The gigantic Boeing was about to become a 132 ton, silver bulldozer. One member of the . . . Club reportedly was walking down the dragstrip, five gallon can full of hi-octane fuel in hand, when he looked up and saw the 767 headed right for him.
Pearson laid heavily on the wheel brakes directly after touching down and: Two tires blew out. The nose gear . . . collapsed . . . the nose . . . slammed against the tarmac, bounced [and threw a] three hundred foot shower of sparks. The right engine nacelle struck the ground . . . .
The 767 came to a stop . . . less than a hundred feet from spectators, barbecues and campers
more at site. [h/t American Digest]
It’s a true fact that all planes land. Not exactly how you want them to land, but still...
That's comparable to Sully's Hudson river landing.
Thanks for reminding of that amazing story and pilot.
The story of the Gimli Glider. I read that recently that very aircraft had been retired from passenger service.
Take offs are optional. Landings are not. :<} I remember reading this story several years ago. Sometimes skill and luck go hand in hand. Just get the racers off the air strip. STAT!
We have never left one up there.
Gimli, son of Gloin?
I’m still surprised that thing can be profitable carrying 69 passengers
Ever try to google the tail number?
767s were flying in 1983?
Thanks Ken, I haven’t seen this program.
Except MAF 370.
So far - there is still no proof that it ever landed.
...and the Obama Administration’s investigation is likely to be completed by January 31, 2017.
It is not the passengers that keep an airliner in business. It is the cargo.
It usually returns all sorts of information about that particular plane, the owner and service details.
...there were only 69 on-board the 767-233.
“Two minutes after that: The EICAS issued a sharp bong indicating the complete and total loss of both engines. . . . Its a sound that Bob and I had never heard before. . . . . Starved of fuel, both . . . engines had flamed out.”
I wonder if it sounds like the cloister bell on the TARDIS?
First flight in 1981, first commercial flight in 1982.
I miss those days.
I used to do slips in sailplanes all the time. It gets you on the deck fast.
I remember a TV movie about this very flight. I think Richard Jordan was one of the pilots.
Forward slip is standard for the private pilot training here- won’t even get to solo if you can’t do it.
Forward slips are a standard technique for correcting high approaches but normally are not necessary for commercial aircraft because they’re equipped with spoilers and it’s usually better to just execute a missed approach.
Please ping me to aviation and aerospace articles. Thank you.
My father-in-law was a pilot and once ran out of gas in his Piper. He managed to land in a farmer’s field without incident. The farmer helped him get gas for his plane and my father-in-law offered to give him a plane ride for his trouble. The farmer politely declined saying he wouldn’t feel safe flying with any pilot who ran out of gas.
Be sure not to forget about Air Transat Flight 236 (yep, another Canuckian airliner!). And at the controls was another Bob (aka Robert).
Air Transat Flight 236 was an Air Transat flight bound for Lisbon, Portugal from Toronto, Canada that lost all power while flying over the Atlantic Ocean on August 24, 2001. The Airbus A330-243 suffered a complete power loss due to a fuel leak caused by improper maintenance. Captain Robert Piché, 48, an experienced glider pilot, and First Officer Dirk de Jager, 28, flew the plane to a successful emergency landing in the Azores, saving all 306 people (293 passengers and 13 crew) on board.
Most of the passengers on the flight were Canadians visiting Europe and Portuguese expatriates returning to visit family in Portugal.
At 06:13 UTC, while still 135 miles (217 km) from Lajes, engine #2 flamed out because of fuel starvation. Captain Piché then initiated a descent to 33,000 feet (10,000 m), which was the proper single-engine altitude for the weight of the plane at that time. Ten minutes later, the crew sent a Mayday to Santa Maria Oceanic air traffic control.
Three minutes later, at 06:26 UTC and approximately 65 nautical miles (120 km) from Lajes Air Base, engine #1 also flamed out.
Military air traffic controllers guided the aircraft to the airport with their radar system. The descent rate of the plane was about 2,000 feet (600 metres) per minute. They calculated they had about 15 to 20 minutes left before they would be forced to ditch in the ocean. The air base was sighted a few minutes later. Captain Piché had to execute one 360 degree turn, and then a series of “S” turns, to dissipate excess altitude.
At 06:45 UTC, the plane touched down hard, approximately 1,030 feet (310 m) past the threshold of Runway 33, at a speed of approximately 200 knots (370 km/h), bounced once and then touched down again, approximately 2,800 feet (850 m) from the threshold. Maximum emergency braking was applied and retained, and the plane came to a stop 7,600 feet (2,300 m) from the threshold of that 10,000 feet (3,000 m) runway. Since they had lost the anti-skid and brake modulation systems, the eight main wheels locked up; its tires abraded and fully deflated within 450 feet (140 m). Fourteen passengers and two crew members suffered minor injuries, while two passengers suffered serious injuries during the evacuation of the aircraft. The plane suffered structural damage to the main landing gear and the lower fuselage.
And then there was the Air Transat (IIRC) guys out of Canada who had to land in the Azores after their plane ran out of fuel.
I’m very glad that the pilots in these cases were able to dead stick their planes in to a safe landing, but neither case should have happened. 1.7 lbs/liter? Were they actually using that number at some point? Bad idea to mix two different sets of measurements like that.
That a lot of time in the air without an engine and a lot of stress !
It crash landed in the ocean off of a resort, and many people in the resort rushed out in boats to pull passengers out of the water.
The majority lived, if I recall correctly.
That was the first leg of the trip. The plane ran out of fuel on the second leg, from Ottawa to Edmonton, which is some 2,800 km (1,740 miles).
Actually what Scully did relative to flying was not that difficult. The landing of the 767 in Gimle Canada was a more difficult flying feat. Scully had miles of water to land on. The Gimle Glider (a 767 with out power) had just a few thousand feet to land on.
Scully's brilliance was his decision making. If he tried to go back to La Guardia or make it to Tetterboro he had one chance to land and if he did not make it to the runway an airliner full of fuel and passengers would come down in a heavily populated area. He had little time to make the decision. He made the right decision as did the pilot of the Gimle Glider.
I salute both exceptional pilots.
Kinda like the Coast Guard's
"You have to go out, You don't have to come back"
Or, submarines going down but not coming up. Yewww! What an awful way to go. Hell, I sometimes thought we were a sub in the North Atlantic in 50’ seas on a destroyer escort.
Yeah I remember those seas on one fisheries patrol in January. On the mid-watch the Captain was being kept awake by a loose monkey's fist banging on the hull of his stateroom. As BMOW it was my task to secure it in a wet pitching deck.
Yes, but the A300 was the first wide body twin engine, a market that now dominates large commercial airliners.
At least it was when my uncles and father flew in World War II.
When are going to switch to binary? The benefit of the metric system is that it allows bureaucrats to count on their fingers.
I remember when this happened. It was shocking that no one was injured or had a heart attack! I know that there are probably MANY that saw God’s hand in that landing that day!
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