A piece of Canadian aviation history will be up for sale Sunday afternoon when the famous Gimli Glider goes on the auction block just outside of Toronto.
The so-called Gimli Glider, a Boeing 767 that was retired from Air Canada?s fleet in 2008, secured its place in the annals of aviation history when it nearly became one of the industry?s worst disasters were it not for the quick thinking of its pilot, Captain Robert Pearson, and his First Officer, Maurice Quintal, nearly 30 years ago.
The plane?s current owners, an unnamed California aircraft lessor, is looking to sell the Gimli Glider at an auction in Mississauga Sunday afternoon for between $2.5-million and $3-million, said Terry Lobzun, a spokesman for the auction house, Collector Car Productions.
The plane has been stored in the so-called ?boneyards? for aircraft in the Mojave Desert since it was retired from Air Canada?s fleet nearly five years ago.
?We?re looking at generating some interest if there?s somebody who is interested in bringing it back to Canada for its historical significance,? Mr. Lobzun said.
The story of the Gimli Glider began on July 23, 1983, when maintenance crews 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 from Montreal to Edmonton, with a brief stopover in Ottawa.
Rather than cancelling the flight, the ground crew calculated manually how much fuel would be needed ? triple-checking their work before it took off. None of them had been trained to do this, but when the plane arrived in Ottawa safely, they were heartened by their work.
A warning signal at about 41,000 feet, however, somewhere over Red Lake, Ont., shattered that confidence and pointed to a critical error in their calculations ? they had used imperial rather than metric measurements for their calculations? and the plane was rapidly running out of fuel.
First one of the engines when out. Then, because the electrical system was run off the engine too, it was knocked out next. Soon the power went in the cockpit, forcing the pilots to switch to manual controls as the plane began plunging at 2,000 feet per minute.
Fortunately, Capt. Pearson was trained glider pilot and immediately had his first officer begin calculating the optimum gliding speed for an 80-tonne jumbo jet.
They determined they could make it Winnipeg, but instead First Officer Quintal suggested they land the plane at a nearby Air Force base in Gimli, Man., where he had once served.
Unbeknownst to either pilot, however, was that one of the airstrips at Gimli ? where the plane would eventually land ? had become a drag racing strip where crowds had collected with their campers along the runway to watch go-cart races that day.
The Gimli Glider eventually landed just 100 feet from where the crowd had collected after its landing gear collapsed.
The Gimli Glider was eventually returned to Air Canada?s fleet, where it continued to fly for another 25 years before it was retired in 2008.
Mr. Lobzun said the plane has garnered some interest, and he noted the 30th anniversary of the event is quickly approaching.
?We?ve had some interest from out West. Something like this, it would take a group or a generous philanthropist to come forward and certainly the community of Gimli, Man., is very interested in it, and that would seem like the logical place for it,? he said.