This past week marked the 30th anniversary of the infamous Gimli Glider.
On July 23rd 1983, an Air Canada 767, flight 143, made a successful landing on an abandoned airstrip at Gimli, Manitoba. The plane ran out of fuel on a flight from Montreal to Edmonton.
The reasons for that classic snafu would take far too long to detail. The pilot, Captain Bob Pearson had experience flying gliders, and he brought the big plane down with no power or hydraulics. There were no serious injuries to the 69 passengers on board.
It’s safe to say that landing the Space Shuttle was quite a bit easier than what Pearson achieved that day. It became a classic scenario in flight simulators that were used in pilot training. The first several times that anyone tried it, the result was a simulated crash with serious casualties.
Captain Pearson got another free meal in Gimli this week, and there’s now a street in the community that bears his name. He retired ten years after flight 143, and has been pretty much relegated to a small chapter in Canada’s aviation history.
He doesn’t get offered book deals, or fancy speaking gigs like Sully Sullenberger, the Hero of the Hudson. Pearson has not even been awarded the Order of Canada.
Far from being treated as a hero at the time by Air Canada, Pearson was demoted for six months after landing the Glider. I interviewed him 15 years ago on the anniversary. He shrugged and said, “No big deal. A deadstick landing is one of the first things you learn in pilot training.”
The man must be Canadian.
I’m Roger Currie