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Sat Mar 9, 2019, 03:39 PM

An Airplane Ran Out of Fuel at 41,000 Feet. Here's What Happened Next

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Reply An Airplane Ran Out of Fuel at 41,000 Feet. Here's What Happened Next (Original post)
yortsed snacilbuper Mar 9 OP
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 9 #1
DemoTex Mar 9 #8
RightiswrongTn Mar 9 #15
DemoTex Mar 9 #21
2naSalit Mar 9 #25
Hassin Bin Sober Mar 10 #38
mitch96 Mar 9 #29
burrowowl Mar 9 #36
mitch96 Mar 10 #40
louis-t Mar 9 #19
Kurt V. Mar 9 #24
MicaelS Mar 9 #27
cp Mar 9 #2
hatrack Mar 9 #3
grumpyduck Mar 9 #4
Nitram Mar 9 #12
TimeToGo Mar 9 #22
mitch96 Mar 9 #31
PoliticAverse Mar 9 #5
Nitram Mar 9 #11
LastLiberal in PalmSprings Mar 9 #28
House of Roberts Mar 9 #16
Nitram Mar 11 #47
regnaD kciN Mar 9 #6
Historic NY Mar 9 #7
NotHardly Mar 9 #9
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 9 #14
Major Nikon Mar 9 #23
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 9 #26
Major Nikon Mar 9 #32
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 10 #43
Nitram Mar 9 #10
GetRidOfThem Mar 9 #13
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 9 #18
Major Nikon Mar 9 #34
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 10 #44
dawn5651 Mar 9 #17
Scruffy1 Mar 9 #20
lordsummerisle Mar 9 #30
LastLiberal in PalmSprings Mar 9 #33
Major Nikon Mar 9 #35
burrowowl Mar 9 #37
cstanleytech Mar 10 #39
paleotn Mar 10 #41
The Velveteen Ocelot Mar 10 #45
rickford66 Mar 10 #42
tclambert Mar 10 #46
yortsed snacilbuper Wednesday #48

Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 03:44 PM

1. This is an amazing story. The captain's hobby was flying gliders,

so he had a better than average understanding of what to do. He managed to put the thing down on an abandoned airstrip that was being used as a racetrack, and nobody was seriously injured. The airplane blew all of its tires and the nose gear collapsed, but it was able to be repaired and put back into service. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #1)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:26 PM

8. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was also a glider pilot.

No doubt in my glider-pilot mind that it helped him land US Airways 1549 - an Airbus A320 with double engine failure (due to bird strikes) - in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

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Response to DemoTex (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:59 PM

15. No matter what else happens..

Continue to fly the plane. Rule #1

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Response to RightiswrongTn (Reply #15)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:25 PM

21. Absolutely!

Go in under control, and you might well make it. Go in out of control, and it is probably all over.

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Response to DemoTex (Reply #21)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:52 PM

25. +1

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Response to DemoTex (Reply #21)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 12:03 AM

38. How many others would have tried to stretch it and ended up maybe short and in a building.

I always thought his skill wasn’t so much flying but making that really tough split second decision to land on The Hudson.

Jesus. Just thinking about having to make the decision to put a $80? million dollar plane in the drink.

I wonder how close the Hollywood dramatization was regarding the second guessing of his decision.

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Response to RightiswrongTn (Reply #15)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:26 PM

29. Yup, the mantra is Aviate, navigate then communicate... nt

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Response to mitch96 (Reply #29)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 11:20 PM

36. Also, learn your math!

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Response to burrowowl (Reply #36)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 10:35 AM

40. That's why I liked flying Gliders...

Takes that whole engine/fuel thing out of the equation.. Then again for me it was just seat of the pants fun flying... 4000 feet,40 mph and just the whoosh of the wind.. heavenly....
m

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Response to DemoTex (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:03 PM

19. In this photo, there is a rather large gentleman 2/3

of the way down the wing on the right side. His name is Joe and he was my roommate in 1982! Saw an interview with him and couldn't believe it. He was a skinny guy when I knew him.

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Response to louis-t (Reply #19)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:36 PM

24. That's pretty cool.

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Response to DemoTex (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:17 PM

27. I found a blog, and read a bunch of pilots had dissed Sully.

I explained to the blogger why I as a civilian I thought they was wrong.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 04:16 PM

2. Heart-pounding! Heroic pilots--wow.

Thanks for posting.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 04:19 PM

3. Knew it had to be Gimli

Some serious airmanship!

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 04:29 PM

4. Yes it's an amazing story and the captain was right on the button.

But a lot of people don't understand that airplanes are designed to fly. Barring any structural problems or major weather issues, if they run out of fuel they will tend to stay level and just glide until they run out of air. If you can guide it to a safe place, you can land it safely.

Back when I was working on my pilot's license, one of the instructors shut off the fuel without my knowing it, so the first hint I had was when the propeller stopped. As in stopped. As in "what is wrong with this picture?" We were at maybe 4,000 feet, and the first thing I did was follow the drill I had been taught: trim it, check gauges, find a place to land, and so forth. By the book.

I found the "problem" soon enough, but he wanted me to leave the fuel off until we were almost ready to land safely in somebody's field. He wanted to make sure I knew the drill and wouldn't panic.

Kudos to that captain.

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Response to grumpyduck (Reply #4)


Response to grumpyduck (Reply #4)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:28 PM

22. When I was in the Navy

(after a crash of one of our planes) I asked a pilot about the possibility gliding -- he said something like -- "these jets glide all right -- just like a rock."

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Response to grumpyduck (Reply #4)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:30 PM

31. "one of the instructors shut off the fuel without my knowing it,"

When I was learning to fly gliders my instructor popped open the canopy at 3000 feet.. I kinda freaked but kept on flying after some encouragement. I was kind of a WTF moment. He said at 40 mph it's no problem and just fly the plane.. I got it...
m

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 04:34 PM

5. See, this is why the US doesn't convert to the metric system. n/t

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:50 PM

11. Some years ago one of our spacecraft missed Mars because of such an error.

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Response to Nitram (Reply #11)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:18 PM

28. I remember the mission debriefing:

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #5)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:59 PM

16. I'm currently working on aircraft parts

that are dimensioned in metric. The numbers are seemingly random sizes, until they are converted to inches, and then they mostly conform to typical inch dimensions like 3 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. The engineer clearly drew them on the CAD as standard, then converted them to metric to conform to contract requirements. It's really a waste of time

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Response to House of Roberts (Reply #16)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 11:29 AM

47. It is indeed a waste of time to use anything but the metric system.

The English System is intuitive because we learned it growing up. In practice, it is a total muddle of 32nds, 16ths and 8ths or multiples of 12. Although U.S. customary units have been defined in terms of metric units since the 19th century, as of 2018 the United States is one of only seven countries, including Myanmar (Burma), Liberia,[1] Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Samoa that have not officially adopted the metric system as the primary means of weights and measures.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 04:36 PM

6. It's a shame that the aircraft was scrapped...

There was a lot of sentiment for saving it, but no one was able to come up with the money to put it in a museum (and, truth be told, I'm guessing Air Canada was none-too-keen on the preservation of an airplane whose story would be a reminder on how their ground crew's incompetence nearly caused a tragedy). A year or so ago, a company was selling keychains made from the recycled aluminum from the particular airplane.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 04:59 PM

7. Its always about math....

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:42 PM

9. What sort of a pilot does not know how much fuel there is... where was ground maint?

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Response to NotHardly (Reply #9)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:56 PM

14. Here's what happened:

The aircraft's fuel gauges were inoperative because of an electronic fault indicated on the instrument panel and airplane logs; this fault was known before takeoff to the pilots, who took steps to work around it. During the flight, the management computer indicated that there was still sufficient fuel for the flight, but only because the initial fuel load had been incorrectly entered: the fuel had been calculated in pounds instead of kilograms by the ground crew, and the erroneous calculation had been approved by the flight crew. This error meant that less than half the amount of intended fuel had been loaded. Because the incorrect fuel weight data had been entered into the system, it was providing incorrect readings (as any computer predictably will).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #14)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:33 PM

23. I'm surprised the MEL allowed this.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #23)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:59 PM

26. Here's what the accident report says about the MEL:

Yaremko then dispatched the aircraft after complying with the qualifying conditions of MEL item
28-41-2. Under this item of the MEL, because one of the processor channels was inoperative, the
fuel load had to be confirmed and was confirmed by the use of the fuel measuring sticks located
under the wings of the aircraft. This procedure is usually called "doing a fuel drip" or "doing a drip
check".

The Minimum Equipment List is a document developed by Air Canada from the Master
Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in
Washington, U.S.A. and approved by Transport Canada in Ottawa. It lists those circumstances and
conditions under which an aircraft may safely be dispatched, even though some of its equipment is
inoperative. This is possible because most items of equipment vital to the operation of an aircraft in
flight are protected by a system of redundancy. This means that such systems are duplicated so that,
if one fails, the other can be used provided that certain stipulated conditions set out in the MEL are
met to ensure the safe flight of the aircraft.

The MEL is part of the Boeing 767 Aircraft Operating Manual carried on board the aircraft. 14
It is found in Chapter l under the heading "Limitations".

Before dispatching the flight, Mr. Yaremko not only made a note in the log book of the snag
with channel 2 of the processor, he also discussed it with Captain John Weir. The latter, as captain
of the aircraft, had the final decision as to taking or not taking the aircraft. Captain Weir satisfied
himself that it was legal to operate the aircraft under the provisions of the MEL. He did, however,
get the impression from his discussion with Mr. Yaremko that the aircraft had arrived in Edmonton
from Toronto with the same snag. Mr. Yaremko had, in fact, been referring to a similar problem on
a flight from Toronto to Edmonton experienced on July 5, 1983, rather than on July 22. This
misunderstanding is important in the light of a conversation that Captain Weir had with Captain
Pearson when the aircraft arrived in Montreal on July 23.
http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e444/e011083519.pdf

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #26)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:53 PM

32. It's hard to make heads or tails about what happened from that

It says only one of two channels had failed but it says it failed in such a way to render the other channel unusable until the CB was pulled. It also says the problem was intermittent. So I suppose it's possible it failed in flight and rendered the whole thing unusable, but that doesn't explain why they weren't getting a fuel indication at startup and if they weren't why they dispatched anyway.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #32)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 01:53 PM

43. There was a lot of confusion by a lot of people about a lot of things in that accident.

One area of confusion seemed to be whether the airplane could be dispatched with inop fuel gauges or inop channels. The MEL they followed allows the alternate method of figuring out the fuel load with drip sticks, and this is what really caused the screw-up. Drip sticks are calibrated rods that can be unlocked from underneath the wing and are attached to floats inside the fuel tanks. When they are unlocked they drop down to a level indicating how much fuel is in the tank. The drip sticks were calibrated in centimeters, and the drip tables on board the airplane converted centimeters to liters. But then you have to convert liters to kilograms, which involves math. Unfortunately they used the conversion factor of 1.77 pounds per liter, when they should have used the conversion factor for liters to kilograms, which is .8. So they thought they had twice as much fuel as they really had.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:49 PM

10. What a story! Those pilots had nerves of steel.

I can't believe the pilots were blamed for the fuel issue after safely landing the plane under incredibly difficult conditions. The race track people must have been totally blown away to see a jet suddenly land. Too bad it wasn't filmed.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 05:54 PM

13. There is one important detail missing from this video...

The fuel quantity computer was on the fritz and decommissioned. Since it was not on the minimum equipment list, or it was waived from the list (I don't know which), the airplane was still allowed to take off. But this made fuel monitoring in flight impossible, so there was no warning that they were low on fuel.

This would answer why they did not know.

I am a trained pilot, albeit on small, general aviation airplanes. We were taught never to trust a fuel gauge - always visually inspect the contents of the tanks. This was not just for the right fuel type or water in the fuel, but also for level of fuel. And you always calculate your fuel burn. This is also important for aircraft weight and balance.

I suppose they flew under the same operating assumptions. Calculated consumption/burn, started with a starting number, and knowing how much would be left in the tanks upon landing. But they had the wrong starting number..

This is really an incredible story. How they managed to land that plane, without anyone getting hurt, is a sign of really good airpersonship...

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Response to GetRidOfThem (Reply #13)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:01 PM

18. You can't visually inspect the fuel tanks on a big jet. You have to rely on the numbers supplied

Last edited Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:57 PM - Edit history (1)

when the ground crew fuels the airplane. (There are what's called dripless sticks which give you at least a WAG) There's a before and after gauge on the fuel truck, and those numbers are given to the crew and to dispatch for weight purposes as well as required fuel, but the fuel guys supplied the load in pounds rather than kilograms and the flight crew didn't catch the error.

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Response to GetRidOfThem (Reply #13)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 08:10 PM

34. In a small GA aircraft, the fuel gauges aren't much more sophisticated than a toilet bowl float.

Larger planes have much more sophisticated systems. On a jet you pretty much have to rely on the fuel gauges. You might know how much fuel was obtained and can somewhat cross check with how much fuel you already had on board, but that amount relies on the fuel gauges. A jet is rarely going to be empty or full. Some jets might have a way to stick the tanks. The ones I fly do not. You are pretty much totally reliant on what the fuel system is telling you. Typically you will take that fuel load and enter it into the FMS, which estimates fuel burn enroute so you do have something of a cross check but that relies on you entering the correct amount prior to departure.

I can't imagine flying a jet without having a reliable method of knowing how much fuel you have at any given moment. It's also important to know what amount of imbalance you have. It might be one thing if it failed in flight and you had no choice but to divert and land, but taking off or continuing under such circumstances seems a bit reckless.

Most transport category jets actually have pretty good glide ratios. I've practiced dead sticking them in many times in the simulator. Not something I'd particularly want to do in real life, but it's good to know it can be done.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #34)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 01:56 PM

44. A 747 has a glide ratio of 14:1, much better than a C-172. You wouldn't think so, but

those huge wings are more efficient than those of the 172, even despite the 747's vastly greater weight.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:00 PM

17. gimli glider

saw a documentary on this not that long ago...just wow that the pilot was able to do this...oh and i was amazed at what sully did as well

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 06:05 PM

20. I was at Gimli when it landed.

The friend I was visiting was a fireman for the auto race that was going on. He was also a former Canadian Air Force Fireman. He looked at the plane coming down, set down his brewski and got his gear back on. Then I realized what was happening.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:28 PM

30. Never heard of this, great story! n/t

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 07:54 PM

33. Here's a similar incident which occurred over the mid-Atlantic in 2001.

In this case the cause was a maintenance error which created a fuel leak.



In the Air Force we used Lajes as a staging base for the Egypt-Israel war in 1974. No other country would let us land in their country -- or even fly in their airspace -- as we flew ammunition into Tel Aviv, for fear of pissing off the Arab oil-producing countries. In order to make the trip through the Med, we adopted the fiction that by flying exactly on the border between two countries we weren't really flying in either country. It was a clever bit of subterfuge that worked for all concerned.

Had Portugal not let us use Lajes, Israel would have been screwed, as our range was insufficient to fly from the East Coast to Tel Aviv. In response to that problem the Air Force retrofitted the C-141 cargo aircraft to able to be refueled in the air. As a navigator, that meant I lost my sextant port, which ultimately put me out of a job.

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Response to LastLiberal in PalmSprings (Reply #33)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 08:12 PM

35. If I lost my sextant port, I'm not sure I'd tell anyone

Just sayin'

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sat Mar 9, 2019, 11:39 PM

37. Thanks for link to Brilliant!

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 07:39 AM

39. I remember reading about this and that he was lucky the front landing gear did no lock into place or

it could have been tragic for alot of people especially those on the ground.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 11:54 AM

41. Pulling your butt out of the fire...

and that of your crew and passengers is great. Getting your butt IN the fire in the first damn place is the real problem. Fuel levels are on the check lists. Check lists are NOT there simply for annoyance. They are critical, particularly when another process gets fucked up.

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Response to paleotn (Reply #41)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 01:58 PM

45. This was wayyyy more complicated than not following a checklist.

Everybody did what exactly they thought they were supposed to do - the problem was using the wrong fuel volume to weight conversion factor, which no checklist would have caught. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e444/e011083519.pdf

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 12:27 PM

42. Years ago I ran into fuel conversions on a simulator.

One of the instructor operator stations programmers asked a Canadian, how many pounds in a gallon. It took a while to find and fix the fuel loading. The programmer didn't know about imperial gallons.

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Sun Mar 10, 2019, 10:29 PM

46. Dammit, man, how many farthings in a furlong?

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Response to yortsed snacilbuper (Original post)

Wed Mar 13, 2019, 04:42 PM

48. Why the US doesn't use metric (even though it does)

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