|The Gimli Glider C-GAUN|
The plane, four months old, the first Air Canada plane to convert fully to metric. A high tech plane with high tech glitches including a faulty Fuel Quantity Indicator System (FQIS). Failure of the FQIS should have grounded the plane but AC was still writing the procedures manual. A series of small mistakes led up to the big one. The decision was made to calculate the necessary fuel load manually. In times past, this would have been done by a flight engineer but the new planes eliminated that position.
The fuel truck worked in volume but the aircraft people work in weight as they need to keep track of the total weight of the aircraft. The tanks were dipped and the calculations done and redone, checked and rechecked. Except they used the conversion factor of litres of fuel to pounds of fuel instead of the factor to convert o kilograms of fuel. So when the plane took off they had half enough fuel. When they stopped in Ottawa they checked everything again, making the same error.
When the plane ran out of fuel, The instrument panel went dead except for a few pre-WWII instruments that were run by an airspeed driven turboprop. The decision was instantly made to divert to Winnipeg. Captain Bob Pearson was an experienced glider pilot and knew how to fly deadstick. It was soon obvious they were not going to make it. It was too far and they were losing speed and altitude too fast.
First Officer Maurice Quintal had served in the RCAF and knew of the abandoned airforce landing strip at Gimli which was closer so they changed course. As luck would have it, the "abandoned" airstrip had been converted to a racetrack, including go-kart track and that day was "Family Day" so the strip crowded with people and BBQs.
There was enough power from the turboprop generator to get the main landing gear locked into place but not the nose wheel as the slower they went the less power generated. Braking was at a minimum as the flaps etc could not be deployed but the nose wheel collapsed and the plane ground to a halt without hitting anyone. No one on the plane was hurt other than a few bumps getting off using the emergency chutes.
While everyone considered the two pilots to be heros, Air Canada tried to pin the blame on them and ground crew. An external independent investigation laid the blame fully on Air Canada's lack of training and lack of procedures, as it should have been.
|Gimli Glider retired to the Mojave Desert|
For more detail here are some links:
Wiki has an excellent write up, especially the explanation of the series of errors.
Mojave Skies Blog has a post relating the story as one of the interesting planes at the Mojave Desert site (the picture above is from that post).
Flight Safety Australia has a very detailed article covering both the series of errors and the investigations assessment of Air Canada's responsibility.
And one final blogger: