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Pilot Makes Heroic Landing With No Engine Power

On July 23, 1983, Capt. Robert Pearson, an Air Canada pilot, managed to avert what could have easily become one of the worst airline disasters in the country’s history by drawing on his background as a glider pilot. It started when the maintenance crew for Air Canada Flight 143 discovered a shoddy soldering job had knocked out the computer that calculates how much fuel was needed to get the plane to its destination. At about 41,000 feet, the crew realized the plane was rapidly running out of fuel. Because the electrical system was run off the engines, it was knocked out, and soon the power went out in the cockpit. The pilots were forced to switch to manual controls as the plane began plunging at 2,000 feet per minute. Fortunately for everyone on board, Capt. Pearson was trained as glider pilot and able to calculate the optimum gliding speed for an 80-ton jumbo jet. Unbeknownst to the pilots, the runway where the plane planned to land had become a racing strip where a crowd had collected with their campers to watch go-cart races that day. Captain Pearson was able to land the plane, which came to rest just feet away from the crowd. The plane was eventually returned to Air Canada’s fleet, where it continued to fly for another 25 years before being retired.