A Plane Crash That Became History

A Plane Crash That Became History

I’m going to narrate a true story about a plane named ‘Air Canada Flight 143’ (Also known as the Gimli Glider) which was a Canadian scheduled domestic passenger flight between Montreal (Montreal is the second-most densely populated city in Canada) and Edmonton (Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta. It is one of the largest cities in the country) that ran out of fuel on July 23, 1983, midway through the flight.  

Let’s go into the story... 

As usual, the plane’s fuel was filled. Then, 61 passengers boarded the plane after the crew got into position. When everything was set, the plane started towards its destination.  When the plane was exactly halfway towards its destination, which was when they were flying 41,000 feet above Red Lake, an alarm rang from the cockpit. The pilot found out that the alarm rang to warn that the left engine was slowing down. He couldn’t figure out what caused the left engine to slow down. He then assumed that the alarm must be due to the fuel pressure. So, he turns the alarm off.  After a few minutes, another alarm goes off, indicating that the right engine was slowing down. Now the pilot understands that there is some big problem.

After another few minutes, another alarm…. the left engine was dead. The whole crew became panic.  The pilot informs the first officer that they need to do an emergency landing at the nearest airport. The first officer nods and checks for the nearest airport.  In a matter of minutes, an alarm burst out – an indication that all the engines were going to shut down. This was informed to the passengers creating panic amongst them. The alarm was soon followed by another which meant that all the engines were dead!

Then a thought struck the pilot!  The plane, being one of the newly introduced types of planes known as Boeing 767, the fuel filling unit system was different. In the earlier types, they used the ‘Barbarian Imperial Units’ but in this type of plane, they used the ‘Glorius Metric System’. The people who filled fuel were instructed to fill the fuel in kilograms, but they filled the exact number in pounds, which resulted in the plane having only half the fuel of what it was meant to have, as 1 pound is only half a kilogram. Even though the fuel gauge and the system showed that the fuel was sufficient before the plane started, only half the fuel needed was filled.  

The plane had an air turbine which provided the plane with temporary electricity which got activated when all the engines became dead – the only solution in this critical situation.   Now, the first officer found that the airport named ‘Winnipeg’ was nearby. He measured the altitude the flight was going and the distance from the Winnipeg airport and concluded that the plane couldn’t reach the Winnipeg airport. He contacted the airport and enquired if there was an airport much closer.   The airport authorities instructed them to land at ‘Royal Canadian Air Force’ which was an abandoned airport that used to function in the past. Relieved to some extent, the pilot and his crew still had a doubt if they could land successfully at such a speed.

When they neared the airport, they found that the airport was converted into a race track, and a race was going on with a huge crowd around. A huge stage was present at the centre. The problem was that landing gears were needed for the plane to land, but if they locked the landing gear in its right place, its electricity would stop. Thankfully, due to the gravity drop, the landing gear locked on its own, but the front wheel couldn’t lock itself. And that’s when the people, on seeing the plane, started to run outside the track. As the plane was landing, the front wheel broke and flew away due to the air pressure. This proved to be an advantage, as it caused the plane’s front part to be dragged on the runway. The plane’s speed reduced gradually due to the friction created by the impact. Eventually, the pilot applied the brake and stopped the plane – a successful landing!

The experience is still considered one of the most astounding plane crash survival journeys in the world.

By Raghavan Swaminathan 

Class VII A

School: Ramana Vidyalaya, Sholinganallur 

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