Bad Math, Pepsi Points, and the Greatest Plane Non-Crash Ever

Wired | 7/23/1983 | Matt Parker
jesse456jesse456 (Posted by) Level 3
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There was still some fuel left from the flight in to Montreal, and this was measured to check how much fuel needed to be added for the next flight. Except that both the ground maintenance personnel and the flight crew performed their calculations using pounds instead of kilograms. The amount of fuel required was in kilograms, but they filled the aircraft using pounds, and 1 pound equals only 0.45 kilograms. This resulted in the aircraft taking off with approximately half as much fuel as it required to make it to Edmonton. The Boeing 767 was now going to run out of fuel mid-flight.

In an unbelievably lucky twist of fate, the aircraft, flying with a dangerously low amount of fuel, had to make a stop in Ottawa, where the fuel levels were to be double‑checked before the plane took off again. The plane landed safely, with its crew members and passengers unaware how close they had come to running out of fuel in the air. It’s a near miss that reminds us that using the wrong units can put people’s lives in danger.

Twist - Fate - Crew - Fuel - Check

But then, in an unbelievably unlucky twist of fate, the crew doing the fuel check in Ottawa made exactly the same kilogram/pound unit error, and the aircraft was allowed to take off again without nearly enough fuel.

The fuel then ran out mid-flight.

Alarm - Bells - Story - Credulity - Plane

There should be several alarm bells going off as you read this story. It’s so unbelievable as to strain credulity. Surely a plane will have fuel gauges to indicate how much fuel is left. Cars have such a gauge, and if one runs out of fuel, it merely rolls to a stop and causes a mild inconvenience: You have to walk to the nearest gas station. If a plane runs out of fuel, it also rolls to a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Wired
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