23 July 1983

Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, after emergency landing at Gimli, Manitoba, 23 July 1983. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, after emergency landing at Gimli, Manitoba, 23 July 1983. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)
Captain Robert Pearson
Captain Robert Pearson

23 July 1983: Air Canada Flight 143 was a Boeing 767-200, registration C-GAUN, enroute from Montreal to Edmonton, with a stop at Ottawa. On board were 61 passengers and a crew of eight. On the flight deck were Captain Robert Pearson and First Officer Maurice Quintal.

At 1:21 p.m., over Red Lake, Ontario, the 767 ran out of fuel and both engines stopped. This caused a loss of electrical and hydraulic power to the aircraft. The 767 was equipped with a “glass cockpit” and the pilots lost most of their instrumentation. The airliner became very difficult to fly without the hydraulic system functioning, and flaps and landing gear were inoperative.

Unable to reach Winnipeg for an emergency landing, Captain Pearson turned toward a closed airport, the former RCAF Station Gimli. First Officer Quintal had been stationed there during his military service.

Pearson had extensive experience flying gliders and used this knowledge to extend the glide of the 767. The airliner touched down on a closed runway that was being used as a race track. The nose gear, which had not locked when dropped by gravity, collapsed, and the airliner suffered some damage as it slid to a stop.

Of those aboard, there were ten people injured. The airliner was forever after known as “The Gimli Glider.”

The investigation of the accident faulted the airline for not reassigning the responsibility for calculating the fuel load when use of a flight engineer became unnecessary with the new Boeing 767, which was designed to be flown by a two-pilot crew. Also, the recent change from the Imperial measurement system to metric resulted in a series of miscalculations as to how much fuel was actually aboard the aircraft before the flight.

In 2008, C-GAUN was retired to The Boneyard at Mojave, California. Captains Pearson and Quintal and several of the Flight 143 flight attendants were aboard on her final flight.

Air Canada’s Boeing 767-200, C-GAUN, “The Gimli Glider,” in storage at Mojave. (Akradecki via Wikipedia)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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10 thoughts on “23 July 1983

  1. Hi Bryan,

    GREAT website and very well done. I was looking into your future dates and saw one that I may add for you: The loss of the Pan Am Hawaii Clipper (NC14714) between Guam and the Philippines. I have spent the last 15 years or so tracking down the legend including self funding three trips to Truk Lagoon in search of remains of the passengers and crew.



  2. “The investigation of the accident faulted the airline for not reassigning the responsibility for calculating the fuel load when use of a flight engineer became unnecessary with the new Boeing 767…”
    As a professional aviator since 1983 with extensive time in the FE and both Pilot seats, I can tell you that responsibility for a proper fuel load rest squarely on the Captain’s shoulders. It’s normal for dispatchers and load planners to initially determine the fuel load for a given flight. But we the pilots decide if that final load is sufficient. To say otherwise is ridiculous.

  3. Agree with the responsibility being the captain’s. Running out of fuel as an ATP flying a perfectly good airplane shoulder be something you only get to do once.

  4. Were the fuel indicating gauges inoperative? If that is the case, find it difficult to believe any pilot would attempt to operate an aircraft without a functioning fuel quantity system.

    1. The APU uses the same fuel as the engines. No fuel no APU. The APU when powered provides pneumatics for air conditioning/engine start and AC 400 cycle electrical power. The DC buss is powered by the main battery.
      The standby (Boeing term for emergency) hydraulic system would not work either without electrical. The 767 per design FAR’s is equipped with a RAM air turbine that drops down from the right wing in these sort of emergencies to provide limited electrical power…. Enough to get the airplane on the ground.. the report does not talk about this and I question why. I’m sure the investigation also focused heavily on why that NLG failed in emergency extension.
      Good thing this wasn’t an ETOPS flight…. Once over that big ocean in this situation people are gonna be swimming.

  5. I have to agree with the investigation decision on blaming the airline for its poor communication with it’s pilots and the people filling the planes will fuel. My personal believe is Pilot Bob Pearson should have been highly recommended for knowledge of operating a glider. Had it not been for Both pilots experience for knowing about Gimli Airport and gliding, I am sure that plane would have crashed killing some, if not all, on board. I personally would have awarded both pilots for their knowledge and ability to handle that situation.

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