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Gimli Glider – The Air Canada 767 That Made A Miracle Landing

It was a case of improper procedures, incorrect conversion of fuel loads, deferred maintenance and bad luck. On Jul 23, 1983, all the possible forces of Murphy’s Law combined for a bad day…except one.

Air Canada flight 143 departed from Montreal on July 23, 1983. The new 767-200 climbed to 41,000 to fly above the strong jet stream. Halfway through its flight, a number of fuel warnings started to chime in the cockpit. At first, it was dismissed as a faulty pump. But when one then the other engine failed, it became apparent that the jet had somehow ran out of fuel.

Captain Pearson established the jet at the optimal glide speed.  Being an experienced glider pilot, the captain made mental calculations that he could not make the emergency divert field of Winnipeg.  Knowing the area, he queried the distances to other fields in the area.  He remembered that the old Gimli Air Force base was located nearby.  After querying the controller, the crew determined that the closed field within gliding distance.  With expert skill, to including slipping the jet, the captain landed the jet on the former airstrip turned drag strip.  It was an unprecedented feat.  All 61 passengers survived.

The feat would stand alone until 1988 when a TACA Boeing 737 landed on levee near New Orleans with no loss of life.  Another amazing occurrence happened in January 2009 when Captain Sully Sullenberger guided his Airbus A320 to a safe powerless landing on the Hudson river.

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