Mayday (2013) s05e02 Episode Script

Gimli Glider

VOICEOVER: A brand-new 767.
- (BEEPING) - Fuel pressure? Why would that be? (ELECTRONICS SHUT DOWN) How come I have no instruments? A catastrophic failure at 26,000 feet.
MAN ON RADIO: Winnipeg, Air Canada 143.
Air Canada 143, go ahead.
Just lost both engines.
Holy cow! I'm talking to a dead man.
Uh, how far away from Gimli? You're approximately 12 miles from Gimli right now.
I guess I'll just slip in.
The crew is out of options and running out of time.
They're at the controls of a 95-tonne jet .
.
that's quickly falling from the sky.
Air Canada Flight 143 is just past the halfway mark of its journey from Montreal to Edmonton, Alberta.
MAN: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
This is your First Officer.
The plane is carrying 61 passengers and 8 crew members.
Beautiful day.
Clear, temperature of 24 degrees Celsius.
It's July 23, 1983.
There - that's coming along, huh? Rick Dion is an Air Canada maintenance engineer.
I was going to Edmonton with my wife, Pearl, and my young son, Chris, who was four years old, and this was the beginning of a two-week vacation for us and we were all pretty excited about going on this new airplane.
- Compliments of the captain.
- Oh, hey, Rob.
Thanks.
Whenever you want to come up to the flight deck This was my first flight on a modern 767, as the company had just acquired them.
I'll be back in a minute, OK? I was interested in going to the cockpit to see all this new technology fit in with the work that I did on aircraft.
The captain on this flight is Bob Pearson.
He's 48 years old and he's spent more than 15,000 hours in the air.
His first officer is Maurice Quintal, who has more than 7,000 hours of flying time.
(KNOCK AT COCKPIT DOOR) Come on in.
- Pardon me, gentlemen.
- Rick.
I knew Bob Pearson from the small flying club that I attended in St Lazare, and he was actually one of the local pilots there that used to do some gliding, and he also flew the ultralight Lazairs.
We had departed heading north-west, a nice clear, sunny day in July.
We were flight plan at 39,000 feet.
There were few airplanes that flew that high in 1983.
And we requested 41,000 feet, which got us further above the jet stream out of the west.
The crew may have accumulated a lot of hours in the air, but very few in this plane.
It's Boeing's latest and most advanced wide-body jet, the 767.
An army of microprocessors in the belly of the plane automates so many functions that the flight engineer's job has been eliminated.
This is one of four 767s that Air Canada has recently acquired.
The plane itself has only 150 hours on it.
Quite a difference here, huh? Oh, yeah.
Reset on and start here.
DION: The cockpit is different in that all the old instrumentation that we're accustomed to, mostly that was all gone.
It was all CRT display, like small TV screens.
It was a new high-tech airplane which involved quite a change for the crew and the maintenance personnel people handling it.
This was a new aircraft for both the captain and I, and at the time I had 75 hours on that airplane.
So everything was new for me.
Pilots and maintenance crews are both still getting to know this airliner.
Well, then we get that same condition.
Captain Pearson explains to Dion how he handled a small problem with the engines on an earlier flight.
It comes back down to low stage, and then we just carry on.
You know, that brings up an interesting (REPETITIVE BEEPING) Fuel pressure.
- Why would that be? - Whoa.
A warning alerts the crew to critically low pressure at one of the plane's fuel pumps.
Something's wrong with the fuel pump.
The 767 has three main fuel tanks - two in the wings, which are always used, and one in the centre, only used on long-distance flights.
Electric fuel pumps draw fuel from each tank and feed it to the plane's two engines.
The low pressure warning could mean that one of the pumps needs maintenance, but it could also be a more serious issue - a lack of fuel to be pumped.
The forward fuel pump.
Hope it's just the bloody pump failing, I can tell you that.
(BEEPING) Another low fuel pressure warning sounds, this one from another fuel pump on the plane's left side.
Pearson's flight management computer tells him he should have plenty of fuel for the remainder of the trip.
The 767 also has separate digital fuel gauges, but on this flight those gauges are out of service.
The warnings don't make sense.
It got a little more interesting when the second fuel boost pump light came on for that tank, which was the left tank.
This seemed quite abnormal, that two pumps would fail in a brand-new airplane.
We had some kind of a problem that we didn't understand.
What would your assessment of that be? My own personal thoughts? You might be low on the left tank.
I used to be involved with transferring fuel and I know that when you're trying to empty a tank, it'll start flashing periodically and then the pump will reprime and then the light will go out.
In this case, it appeared to do exactly the same thing.
Captain Pearson knows that if the left tank is running low, the right tank may be low as well.
Let's head for Winnipeg.
Now.
Pearson wants to land as soon as possible in case he is running out of fuel.
The crew is still more than 700 miles away from their original destination, Edmonton, Alberta.
The nearest major airport is Winnipeg, Manitoba, a mere 120 miles away.
We're showing lots of fuel on board our flight management computer and three normal fuel checks cross-checked with our fuel on our flight plan.
So we elected to divert the flight to Winnipeg, where Air Canada has a main maintenance base.
Winnipeg centre, Air Canada 143.
Air Canada 143, go ahead.
Ron Hewett has 20 years experience as a radar controller.
Yes, sir.
We have a problem.
We're going to requesting direct to Winnipeg.
Air Canada 143 cleared.
Take position direct Winnipeg.
You're cleared to maintain 6,000.
Descent your discretion.
Descend to 6,000, his discretion, and that was it.
He didn't tell us what the problem was, and it's none of my business.
Give him what he wants, get everybody out of his way.
That's about what we do.
OK, we're at a 4-1-0.
Pearson now begins to descend from 41,000 feet.
(BEEPING) Oh, man.
They're all going out, hey? The low pressure warnings are spreading to more and more of the fuel pumps.
Quintal instructs the cabin crew to prepare for an emergency landing.
Hello.
Cabin, I think we have problems with our fuel system.
We are diverting to Winnipeg.
All flight attendants to front galley, please.
(BEEPING) I hope this is just false warnings.
Rick, can you think of anything we haven't done? No, I can't, Bob.
(MORE INSTRUMENTS BEEP) OKwe've lost the left engine.
Losing an engine erases any doubt - Flight 143 is in fact running out of fuel.
OK, checklist - single engine landing.
Pearson is trained to land a 767 with one engine.
No-one has ever tried landing with none.
He scrambles to get his plane down so that he doesn't become the first.
With only one engine powering Air Canada Flight 143, and with the possibility of the other engine shutting down, the crew prepares the passengers for the worst.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your in-charge flight attendant speaking.
Due to mechanical problems, we'll be preparing for an emergency landing.
Please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.
Your crew is fully trained to deal with the situation and as you may have noticed, some crew members have already started to prepare the aircraft.
I had no idea, like the rest of my crew members, that there was a problem with fuel.
I had no idea why we were going to Winnipeg.
(BEEPING CONTINUES) Approach and landing.
- Flaps will be 20.
- Right.
Ground flap override.
DION: As they're doing that drill, the right hand fuel pump low pressure light was flashing as well, much like it did on the left.
They were quite busy carrying out the first engine out, not watching the pump light, which was right at my eyebrow, so I kind of knew that that one there was gonna shut down too.
(LOUD BEEP) - What was that? - (ENGINE POWERS DOWN) Very shortly we will begin giving you instructions.
(BEEPS CONTINUE THEN CEASE) How come I have no instruments? Our beautiful coloured engine and flight instrument displays simply went black.
Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm.
Please follow our instructions, refrain from smoking and put your chair back in the upright position.
Secure your seatbelt tightly against your hip.
It's exactly what Pearson had feared - he's lost both engines.
At 26,500 feet, still 75 miles from the nearest major airport, he's out of fuel.
- Winnipeg, Air Canada 143.
- Air Canada 143, go ahead.
Just lost both engines.
When both engines, uh, shut off, I think I said, "Holy I'm talking to a dead man.
" We were trained in the simulator to handle a single engine failure.
We had never practised - and I don't believe most pilots ever get the chance to practise - total engine failures.
143 has lost their engines.
It's highly unlikely that anybody's going to survive this.
'Cause I could see them trying to make a turn and spinning in.
An airplane's engines not only provide thrust, they also generate the power needed to manipulate the plane.
It would be completely uncontrollable, but modern airliners are like a Swiss army knife with one last blade hidden away.
In the event of a loss of power, they automatically deploy the RAT, or ram air turbine.
It's spring-loaded, and the propeller that drives this small hydraulic pump is about the size of a propeller you would see on a little Cessna 150.
And this arm catapults down into the slipstream, this propeller starts to turn, drives this hydraulic pump, and it gives you basic systems.
It was pretty quiet, flying without motors.
Pearson knows that time is running out.
He needs directions to the closest landing strip.
143, this is a mayday, and we require vector arm to the closest available runway.
143, we copy that all OK.
But the loss of the plane's engines has had an unexpected consequence at Air Traffic Control.
They're gone.
They were right here.
We've lost him.
He's dropped off the screen.
I need primary radar.
143, we've lost your transponder return and are attempting to pick up your target now.
We work on transponder it's called secondary radar.
We take the pilot's signal to paint the aircraft.
Commercial jetliners are equipped with a transponder - a device that transmits coded information which air traffic controllers use to determine the plane's location.
But when Flight 143 lost its second engine, only a small number of items got backup power.
The transponder was not one of them, so the plane disappeared from Hewett's screen.
Flight 143 is somewhere east of Winnipeg, but no-one knows exactly where, or how far it is from the airport.
In spite of its enormous weight, a 767 doesn't plunge from the sky when it loses its engines.
Its aerodynamic properties keep it in the air, but slowly coasting to earth.
And I was trying to figure how many miles we were moving ahead versus how many thousands of feet we were dropping.
But Quintal doesn't have the instruments which provide the information he needs to make that calculation.
Since he lost the plane's signal, Hewett can't give Quintal that information either.
Controllers hurriedly work to rig up a way to find the plane.
Just before landing, you will hear the command, "Brace for landing.
" Brace immediately, and stay braced until the plane comes to a complete stop.
There are two ways to brace - one, bend forward, raise your arms and hands against the seat back Bryce Bell is a businessman on his way home to Edmonton.
As soon as they announced that we were making an unscheduled stop in Winnipeg, I immediately wished I hadn't had the two drinks that I'd had, 'cause I thought, "You're gonna have a split second here, "and this plane's gonna explode in flame, "and the decision you make in that split second "will depend on how alert you are.
" Please put your personal belongings in the seat back pocket.
The response of the passengers when we were doing the emergency briefing .
.
was basically alert.
They were looking at us, they were paying attention to every word we were saying.
I couldn't have had better passengers.
HEWETT: I think that's him.
Let's say that's him.
Because their modern equipment can't see Air Canada 143, the controller switched to old-fashioned radar, which doesn't need a transponder to locate planes.
I've got to turn up my true radar, the reflective radar, which is not nearly as good.
And we don't use it at all if we can help it.
OK.
I got it.
65 from Winnipeg.
45 from Gimli.
143, we have you at 65 miles from Winnipeg and approximately 45 miles from Gimli.
For the first time since losing power, the pilots know their distance to Winnipeg.
We might make Winnipeg.
Quintal, however, thinks that Gimli is a safer bet.
Gimli, Manitoba, has a decommissioned air force base.
It's about 20 miles closer than Winnipeg.
As luck would have it, Maurice Quintal trained at Gimli while in the armed forces.
He knows it well.
45 miles to Gimli.
That is a long runway.
(OVER RADIO) Is there emergency equipment at Gimli? Negative emergency equipment at all.
Just one runway available, I believe.
And no control tower and no information on it.
Pearson must consider the possibility of a crash landing.
If he has any chance of making it to Winnipeg, which has full emergency support, he knows he must try for it.
PEARSON: (OVER RADIO) OK, then.
We would prefer Winnipeg.
Fine.
143, continue your present heading.
A brand-new 767.
Just lost both engines.
(BEEPING) HEWETT: (OVER RADIO) 143, question, if you have the time.
OK.
Go ahead.
Total number of persons on board, please.
The actual number of people on board is 69.
But Quintal is overtaxed.
He gives a lower number in error.
I have 33 people on board, including the crew.
OK.
I have to ask of souls on board.
I know he's busy.
I don't want to ask him questions.
But I have to.
This thing can go down in a lake or a field.
And I remember thinking, "Great.
" "I know this airplane carries about 300 people.
"At least it's not 300.
" JEWETT: We all reacted very businesslike and say something specifically to the situation.
But never would we ever look at each other.
I think we were all afraid that we might break down.
BELL: Parents were hugging their little kids and people were busy scribbling away.
I found out afterwards they were writing their notes to loved ones and their wills and all kind of things like that.
It was about regrets.
It was about things I hadn't done in my life.
It was about ways I've treated the odd person here or there that I wish I'd treated more gently.
It was about how stupid I was at some of the things I used to make big issues out of that are so insignificant when it really comes down to what real reality is about.
It was pretty devastating.
And I remember telling a mother with a baby And I had .
.
my daughter Victoria.
And telling this woman that it was going to be OK.
And I did it.
I did.
I was so proud of myself that I could be so straight with her .
.
and tell her that it was gonna be alright and really look at her in the eyes.
OK.
How far from the field are we now? You're 35 Correction, make that 39 miles from Winnipeg.
Roger.
Now that controllers can see Flight 143 on radar, they can provide Quintal with the information he needs to figure out if he can glide as far as Winnipeg.
Roger.
What is your altitude now? - 8.
5.
- 8.
5.
About 8,500 feet above the ground, Captain Pearson can see his destination.
Winnipeg's airport is less than 35 miles away.
We're visual.
But the news from Quintal is not good.
Bob.
Maurice was calmly keeping track of our distance by input from Winnipeg air traffic control and our altitude, and had calculated our profile and came to the conclusion that we might not make the runway in Winnipeg.
We can last maybe another 20 miles.
We're not going to make Winnipeg.
Quintal has calculated that at the rate they're falling, they would hit the ground a full 15 miles short of the runway.
Er, how far are we from Gimli? You're approximately 12 miles from Gimli right now.
Er, where is it? Which way is he moving? On your right.
Turn right to a heading of, er345.
I would say you have 10 miles to fly.
OK.
Fine.
We're gonna go there.
I'm gonna go check on my family.
You guys don't need me up here right now, huh? - No, no.
We're OK.
- OK.
Don't worry.
It's OK.
They've got it under control.
Just make sure your seatbelts are tight, alright? JEWETT: When I went finally to sit down in my seat, this is where I thought, "Wow," you know? "This is it.
" - Landing gear down.
- Roger.
First officer Quintal lowers the landing gear.
Because there's no hydraulic power, Quintal does what's known as a gravity drop, letting the gear's own weight drop and lock it into place.
The two main gear are heavy.
They fall immediately, and two green lights confirm they've locked.
But the nose gear is lighter.
It doesn't lock.
We could hear the main gear clearly falling and locking.
I was not aware that the nose gear was not down and locked.
QUINTAL: It was sort of last-minute.
And if it's something that you cannot control, you don't talk of it, you don't mention it.
The main thing was bringing the aircraft on the runway.
HEWETT: (OVER RADIO) Five miles to touchdown.
Roger.
We have the field in sight.
Five miles from Gimli, Pearson and Quintal finally see a runway they can land on.
But there's a problem.
We're too close.
It's going to be too steep, too fast.
Yeah.
I know.
Pearson is almost at the runway but he's much too high above it.
If he comes down at a normal descent rate, he'll miss the landing strip.
But if he comes down steeply, his plane will gather a dangerous amount of speed.
He won't be able to stop before the end of the runway.
In the normal approach, we have leading-edge and trailing-edge flaps which allow us to slow the airplane down and fly at a slower speed safely.
We did not have those flaps, as they run off the main hydraulic system.
"So, now, what are we gonna do?" So, we discuss We have two possibilities.
One of them was to do a 360-degree turn .
.
and lose the excess of altitude.
On the other hand, I thought it would take about three minutes, and we were already descending at a rate of 2,500 feet a minute.
Only about 3,000 feet above the ground, the plane doesn't have enough altitude to make a full circle.
It would hit the ground before making it back to the landing strip.
Pearson chooses a second option.
Well, I guess I'll just slip it.
Pearson decides to try a manoeuvre called a sideslip - practically unheard of on commercial airliners, but sometimes used by glider pilots.
And Bob Pearson has a lot of experience flying gliders.
I'm just gonna slip it down till we're almost down at the runway, then I'll straighten it out.
OK.
Sideslipping involves what's known as 'crossing the controls'.
Here we go.
Pearson plans to force the aircraft into a sideways freefall, allowing it to drop quickly without increasing its forward airspeed.
Pearson has never actually performed a sideslip in a glider, but he's attempting one now in a Boeing 767.
The only way that I could control our speed and our descent profile with the runway was to induce drag in the fuselage by cross-controlling the rudder and the elevators on the tail and the ailerons on the wingtips and cause the aircraft into a crab configuration.
Then I can vary that to increase or decrease our speed or increase or decrease our descent rate.
Pearson controls the plane's descent by using his rudders and ailerons to change the angle of the plane.
Crossing the controls involves tipping the wings in one direction but turning the aircraft in the opposite direction, pushing it sideways into the oncoming air.
As Flight 143 begins to drop towards the earth, Quintal is about to discover something he did not expect.
The runway he trained at 15 years ago (ENGINES REV) .
.
is no longer a runway.
Captain Bob Pearson is out of fuel, out of engines, out of options.
If he can't line up with the runway at Gimli, he doesn't get a second chance.
Pearson turns the yoke left and pushes the rudders to the right.
The plane slips .
.
to its left.
DION: We're sitting in the centre, which is the heart of the airplane, where it starts, so it's pretty solid there.
I thought, "There's a real good chance here that we'll be alright.
" However, when he put the airplane into a sideslip, all that went out the window 'cause I figured, "If he hits a wing or something "or starts to catapult and roll, "that's not going to work anymore.
" The 767 loses altitude quickly, ploughing sideways through the air.
When I looked to the left of the aircraft, I was looking directly at the ground.
Because the airplane is angled quite .
.
well, about maybe 60 degrees, at banks.
The bank angle was quite high and the nose of the aircraft was quite high.
It was an awkward moment.
And if it was awkward for me, I can imagine for the passengers it must really have felt odd.
DION: I saw a sand trap from this golf course and I thought, "We're gonna crash.
" Pearson must maintain a crucial balance.
He's got to slow the plane enough to be able to land safely.
But if he slows down too much, the airliner could lose its lift and plummet to the ground.
When a pilot is normally lining an airplane, he's manoeuvring the flight controls and operating the thrust levers .
.
pretty continuously, on most landings.
And so I was doing the same thing - without the thrust levers.
JEWETT: This is where I thought of my daughter, Victoria, being alone with my husband and, umand how he was gonna cope withwith our daughter and how she was gonna cope without having a mom.
As they approach, Pearson focuses on his target - the threshold of the runway.
I got tunnel vision like I've never had it before.
It was just our speed and our relationship with the threshold of the runway.
But now, only hundreds of feet from the ground, Quintal sees that their troubles are far from over.
(CAR ENGINES ROAR) The Gimli landing strip has been converted .
.
into a drag-racing strip.
Today is Saturday.
And it's not just a race day, it's a family day on the Gimli strip.
Racing is done for the day, but the airfield is filled with members of the local sports-car club.
Camping out with their families for the weekend.
Two children have decided to pedal the length of the runway.
They don't hear the plane coming for them.
Without engines, it's silent.
And one thing the 767 doesn't have .
.
is a horn.
Brace.
Brace for landing.
PEARSON: The nose hit with quite a bang on the runway.
Sounded like a shotgun going off at our feet.
The front landing gear gives out immediately.
Pearson brakes hard.
Two tyres blow out.
The bottom of the right engine scrapes the runway.
PEARSON: I was a robot.
There was just no emotion at all.
Finally, Pearson sees what's in their path.
I looked up and I could see two boys on bicycles.
They must have been about 1,000 feet down the runway from our position when I saw them.
QUINTAL: And then at one point I could see he raised his head.
And he's surprised - here's this big aircraft.
I can still remember the look of terror on their faces.
So they were close enough for me to see that.
With no nose gear to steer with, Pearson's only hope of driving the plane left or right is by varying the brake pressure on the two main landing gear.
That's when my heart started to pitter-patter a little bit.
The kids panic and try to outrun a plane that's travelling about 200 miles an hour.
I knew I couldn't take the airplane into these boys.
And I was gonna take it off into the grass on the right side.
There were campers along the west side of the runway that I didn't notice until after we'd touched down and the nose was on the ground.
And I can still remember out the left side people standing by their barbecues.
Dino Calvert is at the track with his friends for a weekend of racing.
CALVERT: One of the gentlemen in the pits suddenly jumped in his car and he took off.
I thought, "Well, you don't drive like that in the pits usually.
" And I looked up and all I could see was smoke rising.
Pearson does all he can to stop the plane in time.
Holy crow! The plane ploughs into a guard rail installed down the middle of the runway.
Smoke, Bob.
17 minutes after running out of fuel, Air Canada Flight 143 comes to a final stop on the ground.
- (LAUGHS) - Yeah, you OK? JEWETT: Somebody yelled 'yahoo!' or something and then people started applauding, and we were so grateful.
"We made it!" When you believe that you're gonna crash, you do believe that the airplane is gonna break apart.
You're gonna have fire Evacuate! Evacuate! Evacuate! Alright, let's go.
We gotta get off the plane.
Thick smoke is quickly filling the cabin.
The crew doesn't take any chances.
They want everyone off the plane as quickly as possible.
There was a sense of joy and then a panic - it kind of seemed to go in waves.
And a panic saying, "We gotta get out of here.
"We gotta get out of here.
" Less than two months earlier, an Air Canada DC-9 made a successful emergency landing in Cincinnati only to burst into flames on the tarmac before all the passengers could get off.
- (SCREAMS) - 23 people died.
The crew and passengers of this flight want to avoid a similar fate.
It took maybe just a few seconds to come up to a full halt on the runway but the cockpit was full of smoke.
- Passenger evacuation checklist.
- Passenger checklist.
- Fuel shut off.
- Off.
Cabin pressurised.
- Electrics off.
- Electrics off.
- Checklist complete.
- Time to get out of here.
Come on, guys, get some fire extinguishers.
We grabbed the fire extinguishers on our way and you never go to a fire at a racetrack without having a fire extinguisher with you.
And, uh, we ran up towards it.
The doors open up and you see the chutes come out, sort of like a spider growing legs.
The plane ended up eventually standing almost what would appear to me to be almost on its nose.
When I opened my door and I saw that the chute was so steep I thought, "Oh, my goodness, how do I get these passengers to go down?" Due to the nose-down angle of the plane, the two rear slides don't reach the ground.
10 people are slightly injured during the evacuation, most of them coming down the steep rear slides.
I heard on the west radar frequency, he said One of the 767s says, "He's down OK.
He's in one piece.
" And that's when .
.
our cheer went up! (LAUGHS) I said, "OK!" Because all of these people were gonna sleep in their own bed that night.
There's still a lot of smoke coming from the plane's nose.
Turned out it was about six inches of insulation between the inner and outer skins.
From friction, that was starting to burn.
The flight attendants have good news - all 61 passengers have made it off the plane.
There's not so much as a single serious injury.
- We'll give you a hand.
- Yeah, the extinguisher.
Bob Pearson has done what no-one has done before - he's safely landed a 767 with no engines, gliding to safety for more than 26,000 feet.
REPORTER: Air Canada Flight 143 glided The event makes international headlines immediately.
People are already asking how one of the most sophisticated passenger planes in the world could have run out of fuel.
.
.
sliding down emergency chutes.
By the next day, the investigation has already begun.
Bill Taylor and Diane Rocheleau of Canada's Aviation Safety Bureau are among the first investigators at the scene.
I was a junior in mechanical engineering at the time.
I had been working for Transport Canada for a year.
Going to field for the first time was very exciting.
It was new.
It was a major aircraft.
Once we got into the fuel quantity indicating system I actually left Diane to deal with the specifics of the computer system.
First, Bill Taylor needs to confirm what everyone has been telling him - that the plane is out of fuel.
Investigators drain the tanks, collecting less than 17 gallons of fuel.
The 767 can hold almost 24,000 gallons.
It's like having five tablespoons of fuel in a mid-sized car.
Taylor next needs to examine the possibility that the fuel leaked out during the flight.
The other checks involved looking for any evidence of fuel having been lost.
I even went so far as to go into what they call the 'dry bay' of the aircraft.
I'm a bit claustrophobic so I really wasn't too enthused about going up in there but I crawled up and had a look around with a flashlight and confirmed that there was no evidence of fuel having been lost in there.
That leaves Taylor with only one conclusion - Flight 143 took off without enough fuel.
Now investigators need to find out why.
MAN: Can't believe it's in one piece.
Diane Rocheleau begins looking for the answer to that question in the plane's sophisticated electronics bay, located beneath the cabin.
The 767 was a newer-type aircraft and it did have a lot of computerised system and, I guess, back in 1982, these were coming onto the market at a fast rate and they were newer types of electronic system.
Rocheleau confirms that a computerised unit, the digital fuel gauge processor, had been malfunctioning on this plane.
There was no spare in Montreal so it couldn't be replaced.
Rocheleau takes the component for testing.
It was decided early on that the fuel processing unit would be taken to the manufacturer, Honeywell in Indianapolis, for testing and I was tasked with taking the unit.
So we went through all the testing procedure and then, at one point, we did discover that there was a malfunction with the unit.
During the testing, we went more and more in-depth and we found out that one of the circuits - it's called an inductor coil - it was a very, very small part and it was encapsulated at manufacture and 'encapsulated' means it's covered with plastic.
You cannot visually see it because it's now covered with plastic and you can't see the inductor coil itself.
But once we took over the plastic case we could see that the solder joint had not been made properly which caused a malfunction in the system.
(BEEPING) The faulty processor explains why Pearson didn't have fuel gauges for the flight but doesn't explain why he didn't have enough fuel.
The inoperative gauges were clearly flagged.
Ground crews wouldn't have relied on them when they were fuelling the plane.
Investigators confirm that the ground crew did perform a manual check of the fuel before take-off.
We just need to know what you did next.
Yeah.
We did a manual check of both tanks.
And then we pump enough fuel for the trip to Edmonton.
Flight 143 should have taken off with enough fuel for the trip.
OK, thanks.
That helps.
Investigators now have to figure out how one of the world's most advanced jetliners took off with half the fuel necessary for its flight.
The investigators know that, with its fuel gauges out of service, Flight 143's fuel tanks were checked manually.
Then the fuel for the trip to Edmonton was added to the tanks.
But before the plane could be given more fuel, a crucial calculation had to be carried out.
Pilots need to know the weight of the fuel on their plane.
But fuel trucks pump jet fuel by volume.
In order for pilots and fuellers to communicate, a simple routine translation between volume and weight has to be made.
Thank you.
Investigators check and double check that math.
(CHUCKLES) The fuelling records from the day of the accident provide the answers they've been looking for.
This is a typical fuelling record.
But when investigators examine the calculations for Flight 143 And this is from Flight 143.
.
.
they look anything but straightforward.
The document clearly shows the amount of fuel in the right and left tanks but investigators are troubled by two particular numbers.
One converts volume to kilograms, the other converts it to pounds.
He shouldn't have been using both.
So did you convert to pounds or to kilograms? To pound.
Oh, toto kilo.
Excuse me, can I see that again? Further interviews with the technicians and crew reveal that the events on Flight 143 And now I don't know what I did.
.
.
were caused by human error involving poor calculations and, ultimately, inadequate training.
OK, fellas, we've finished the fuel The technicians refuelling Flight 143 got muddled in their calculations while converting the volume coming out of the fuel truck to the weight of the fuel in the plane's tanks.
No-one who saw the calculations that day noticed the basic error.
In 1983, Canadian ground crews were used to converting the amount of fuel leaving their trucks into pounds.
The 767 was the first plane in Air Canada's fleet to have metric fuel gauges.
Its fuel should have been measured not in pounds but in kilograms, which requires a different calculation.
Flight 143 needed 22,300kg of fuel for the trip but pilots and technicians let it leave with 22,300lb instead.
Because a pound is about half a kilogram, the plane only got half the fuel it required which explains why Pearson's flight computer told him he had plenty of fuel.
He entered the wrong amount of fuel to start with.
In the past, the flight engineer calculated the fuel loads.
This accident raised an important question - whose job was it with the two-man crew? Better training is definitely an issue in an incident such as that.
If everyone is trained and the lines are drawn as to who's responsible for what then there's no ambiguity on it.
People know what they're responsible for.
In this case, it was sort of open-ended.
We really We weren't aware who was responsible for the final say on the fuel stuff.
A subsequent inquiry found that none of those involved that day was trained in metric calculations.
Not the ground technicians, not the pilots.
I had not received any Neither of us had received any training at all on doing these calculations.
The computer that had replaced the 767's flight engineer was broken and no-one knew who should be doing its job.
Air Canada 143 was essentially down a man.
And the goal is to prevent a recurrence of this particular event and also, we also find out other systems that might have been either at fault or maybe they could cause a problem in the future and you do try to prevent recurrence.
Alright.
It took a string of mechanical and human failures for Flight 143 to run out of fuel.
But another failure that day may have saved some lives.
If the plane's nose gear had not collapsed, it would have taken Pearson much longer to stop.
The plane could have slid into the people who were at the strip that day, which would have had catastrophic results.
There could have been more injuries or even loss of life.
Pearson and Quintal were partly blamed for their roles in the incident.
A government inquiry recommended that Air Canada re-evaluate the training of flight crews and ground technicians in metric fuel conversions.
It also recommended that the airline keep more spare parts such as fuel gauge processors.
Rick Dion retired in 2003 after a long career as Air Canada's coordinator of maintenance control.
First Officer Maurice Quintal was promoted to Captain in 1989.
Captain Bob Pearson went on to fly 10 more years for Air Canada, his experience at Gimli shaping the rest of his career as a commercial pilot.
This experience affected me mostly by giving me .
.
making me more relaxed as a pilot, giving me the feeling that, as much as I've trained for all those years, that there's always that question about how you're gonna perform when the chips are down and I now have the feeling that, no matter what, as long as an aircraft stayed together, I would get it safely back on the ground.
And so it's been a relaxing experience.
QUINTAL: It's the knowledge that you know under stress you can perform.
Before that, you don't know.
You just hope you will and you train for it but you never know.
The things that they had to deal with was magnificent.
I think that got proven in a simulator in Vancouver.
They tried out the same circumstances with several crews and they all crashed.
Probably the most important thing that came out of it was the realisation that, when something new is introduced, special attention and training needs to be accomplished for people to be aware what they're dealing with.
When we had landed and the airplane was all in one piece, I thought, "Wow, I got another chance to fly again.
" Because of a tragedy like that, once you take your deck of cards and fire it in the air, you're truly free.
And I guess from that point of view, Gimli could I find it very difficult to say, but Gimli was maybe almost the best thing that ever happened to me.
Next to meeting my wonderful wife and marrying her.
Two days after the landing at Gimli, Air Canada's 767 was back in the air on its way to Winnipeg for repairs.
A quarter century later, that same plane is still in service and it still carries the nickname that Bob Pearson earned it - the 'Gimli Glider'.