When A Plane Ran Out Of Fuel At 41,000 Feet, Its Pilots Were Faced With A Stomach-churning Decision

The pilots of Air Canada Flight 143 don’t dwell too much on the warning light that blinks on during their journey on July 23, 1983. Indeed, having calculated the amount of fuel they have left, they conclude that they’ll make it to their destination. But then, another bulb lights up – and this one tells them their numbers are all wrong. In fact, they’re dangerously low on fuel, and they’re hundreds of miles from their destination.

Air Canada had just added the Boeing 767 to its fleet, with the vessel bringing with it a new form of measurement. This was the metric system. On the ground, the plane’s electronic gauge failed to work, so airline employees manually calculated how much fuel they needed. But they did so incorrectly, slashing in half the amount of gas it’d take to get from Ottawa to Edmonton.

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