Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Why the United States should not adopt the metric standard

Thirty-six years ago on this day was the Gimli Glider incident, where an Air Canada Boeing 767 had to make an emergency, unpowered landing at what had formerly been the Gimli, Manitoba Royal Canadian Air Force Base.  The reason for the emergency?  Canada had recently gone on the metric standard, and rather than measuring the fuel in kilograms the ground crew measured it in pounds.  Since a pound is only about 40% of a kilogram, the plane ran out of fuel in mid flight.

Fortunately for all aboard that day, Captain Pearson was a glider pilot, and glided the plane to a safe landing.  Impressive flying.


The only injuries occurred when passengers deplaned.  The nose wheel collapsed leaving the aft escape slides unable to reach the ground.  Fortunately all the injuries were minor.

In this day of "Everything is an app" this SNAFU is much more likely to occur if we monkey around with basic measurements.  People are also less likely to be able to figure out what to do when the computer doesn't give them the answer.

18 comments:

SiGraybeard said...

By everything I can find, Capt. Pearson was the perfect guy to be in charge. But he's not the one who saved the plane.

When they ran out of fuel, the glass cockpit went dark. There was no power to run radios and flight controls wouldn't work.

Some Guy at Boeing designed in an emergency backup called the Ram Air Turbine that drops into the airstream if all other power fails. The RAT gave enough power to control the aircraft and use the radios, plus a few other things.

LindaG said...

Either way, well done! 🙂

juvat said...

I agree, Borepatch. The law of unintended consequences might never be overcome in that switchover. That having been said, woodworking is a heck of a lot easier using the metric system (once you've spent a gazillion dollars on new tools, of course).

Stephen Gustav said...

There's two kinds of countries in this world:

1) Those that use the metric system
2) Those that have landed on the moon.

Old NFO said...

The kerfuffle over meters/feet for the Mars lander... nuff said...

drjim said...

NFO beat me to it!

Wayne said...

“Don’t tell the elf!”

pigpen51 said...

I was in school when they started the idea of changing over to the metric system. They screwed it up royally. If the would have simply made the change over, and said, this is how it is, we would have adapted. What they tried to do, was to keep both systems in use. They gave us complicated formulas to change fahrenheit to centigrade, and the same for all the other measurements. So they were keeping us from learning how long a centimeter is, and instead, we knew how long an inch is, and then had to figure our mathematically a centimeter was from that. So by doing things the government way, that is, wrong, we were able to keep the SAE, or standard way of doing things, and let the metric system stay in use for the rest of the world. Which is fine, unless you try and work on a car, which has both sizes of bolts on it. I used to run into that a lot.

Will said...

pigpen:

British bikes in the 70's had American, Metric, AND British hardware sizes on them. Mostly the British stuff was Wentworth, but I think there were still some other legacy oddball items mixed in.

ASM826 said...

But if we metric, all our temperature readings will drop and global warming won't be a problem anymore.

libertyman said...

I guess because Captain Pearson was a glider pilot, he wouldn't have bothered looking at the fuel gauges to see how much he had on board before taking off.

I guess 767s have gauges, or do they hope the guy fills the tanks to the brim?

Ed Bonderenka said...

It's when you get to a metric ton that things get really weird.

JayNola said...

Nah... Metric ton is easy it's essentially the same thing as a long ton 2240 pounds or 1016 KGS. So all you have to do is remember that....
🤔

Aesop said...

The Metric System was just an unindicted co-conspirator in that little escapade.

Two rated pilots with the inability to read a fuel gauge was the cause of it.("Hmm, we're down to 1/4 tank, and we're nowhere near our destination? I know! Let's LAND THE PLANE!": Flying 101, second hour.) And no, managing to (sort-of) safely crash land your plane doesn't absolve you of the underlying culpability.

Those pilots should have been flogged, daily, for a month, for that bonehead move.
By the passengers.

Because I'm pretty sure Boeing put a fuel gauge in the cockpit somewhere.
Just spitballing there, but I don't think it an unreasonable assumption.

Unknown said...

Aesop, it wasn't that they couldn't read a gauge, it was (in part) that the panel was known to be untrustworthy, so they were using a workaround.

Aesop said...

Waitwaitwait...An entire Boeing jetliner series had an "untrustworthy" fuel gauge system, and it was still considered to be and signed off as "airworthy"...??

And the "workaround" still let them run out of gas and become a glider?

If that's correct, the Canadian version of the FAA, the TCCA, and the operators of said aircraft should have been flogged alongside the pilots.
Except until dead.
Then, go after their families.

Unknown said...

Not saying it was right, but - you apparently don't have the entire story. If I had made the same kind of assumptions and conclusions in your arena, you'd be all over me about it.

Unknown said...

Sorry I've been signed as "Unknown" - This is Hammerbach.