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FUEL FOR THOUGHT

It's time to reflect on the fact that there is still a margin for error


October 24, 2007
By David Godfrey

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Now that two Canadian carriers have achieved the dubious distinction of
having made deadstick landings with large, twin-engined jetiners —
happily, safely — it is time to reflect on the fact that there is
still a margin for error despite computer-controlled systems and
multiple safeguards.

The
Air Transat adventure in late August with a Lisbon-bound Airbus A330
that ran out of fuel before making safe landfall in the Azores had a
precursor in 1983 when an Air Canada Boeing 767 ran out of fuel and was
glided down safely to an abandoned military airfield at Gimli,
Manitoba. It was soon determined that this incident was precipitated by
the Canadian move to metric measurement, since the fuel that should
have been loaded as kilograms was in fact loaded as pounds — less than
half the amount.
In the Air Transat case, the fuel shortage was caused by a fuel leak, but there was a great deal more to the incident than that.


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