The commercial aviation industry helps us to travel the world swiftly and efficiently, however, even with advanced aircraft and rigorous safety protocols, these accidents can still occur when a plane runs out of fuel and crashes. Among the most alarming causes of the plane crash are fuel starvation and fuel exhaustion.
In this blog, we’ll learn about five frightening incidents where planes crashed because of fuel exhaustion.
Air Canada Flight 143 Crash – 1983 (The Gimli Glider)
Route – Montreal, Canada, to Edmonton, Canada
Fatalities – None
Cause – Fuel exhaustion due to a series of errors in fuel quantity calculation.
On July 22, 1983, the Gimli Glider underwent routine checks in Edmonton, Canada, where a technician found a defective Fuel Quantity Indicator System (FQIS). The FQIS had a history of high failure rates in Boeing 767s, and the replacement available was also nonfunctional.
The pilots used a dripstick reading to verify the fuel quantity. However, this measurement required manual conversion from centimeters to liters to kilograms. The density figure for jet fuel used for this conversion was in pounds per liter instead of kilograms per liter, leading to incorrect calculation
Plane runs out of fuel
As Flight 143 cruised over Red Lake, Ontario, at 41,000 feet, the aircraft’s cockpit warning system alerted them to a fuel-pressure problem. They initially believed it was a fuel pump issue and turned off the alarm. Moments later, the fuel pressure alarm sounded for the right engine as well. The crew diverted to Winnipeg, but both engines ultimately failed.
Plane falling from the sky
The 767, with no working engines and most electronic systems disabled, faced a rare situation of gliding with all engines out and safely glided to an emergency landing at the airstrip in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada.
Remarkably, there were no serious injuries among the 61 passengers or people on the ground.
ALM Antillean Airlines Flight 980 Crash – 1970
Route – New York City, USA, to St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Cause – Fuel exhaustion during multiple landing attempts.
ALM Antillean Airlines Flight 980 embarked on a journey from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten.
The fateful event – Plane runs out of fuel and crashes
The flight commenced smoothly, departing from Kennedy Airport and heading towards its Caribbean destination. However, as it approached St. Maarten, regional air traffic control (ATC) reported weather conditions below landing minima, leading the captain to consider diverting to San Juan.
Miscommunication and Plane runs out of fuel
The tower at St. Maarten conveyed improved weather conditions, prompting Flight 980 to attempt a landing. The first landing attempt was unsuccessful, and the flight opted for a missed approach. Subsequent landing attempts also failed due to alignment issues with the runway and concerns arose regarding fuel levels as the crew contemplated diverting to St. Croix.
ALM Antillean Airlines flight 980 plane falls from the sky
Realizing the severity of the situation, the captain informed ATC of the intent to ditch the aircraft and initiated a low approach over the water. Flight 980 made a forced water landing in the Caribbean Sea, approximately 30 miles east of St. Croix, at 3:49 pm local time resulting in 23 fatalities.
Avianca Flight 052 Plane Crash ran out of fuel- 1990
Route – Bogotá, Colombia, to New York City, USA
Fatalities – 73
Cause – Mismanagement of fuel. failed attempt to land due to poor weather and inadequate communication,
Avianca Flight 052 is a chilling example of a cascading series of errors. This Boeing 707, on its way to JFK Airport, plane runs out of fuel after a failed landing attempt due to adverse weather conditions. The crash occurred in Cove Neck, New York.
The Tragic chain of events
Avianca Flight 052 initially had more than enough fuel for its journey. However, en route, it was placed in three holding patterns due to air traffic controllers’ inaccurate delay estimations.
What makes this incident particularly heart-wrenching is the inadequate communication between the flight crew and ATC. Despite the dire situation, the flight crew did not use the word “emergency” when communicating with controllers.
Desperate attempts and plane crash ran out of fuel
The flight attempted a landing at JFK Airport but, unfavorable weather and inadequate aircraft management forced an abort and a go-around. Tragically, the plane runs out of fuel during the second landing attempt, crashing around 20 miles from JFK.
East Coast Aviation Service Flight Crash – 2000
Route – Atlantic City, New Jersey to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Fatalities – 19
Cause – Inadequate refueling, resulting in fuel exhaustion
Plane crash ran out of fuel
The year 2000 witnessed a tragic incident attributed to fuel exhaustion – the East Coast Aviation Services British Aerospace Jetstream crash in Bear Creek Township, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The flight carried 17 professional gamblers returning home from Caesar’s Palace Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, along with 2 crew members, the plane runs out of fuel over Atlantic.
Plane runs out of fuel over Atlantic – Real Reason
The flight initially departed from Farmingdale, NY, and made a stopover in Atlantic City, NJ, with 12 passengers on board. Afterward, it resumed from Atlantic City to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with 17 passengers. Notably, no additional fuel was added during the second leg of the flight.
Approach to their destination, plane runs out of fuel and crashes
As the flight neared Wilkes-Barre, the crew established contact with the approach controller for clearance. However, the first landing attempt was unsuccessful, leading to a missed approach. Later, the crew declared an emergency, citing an “engine failure.” Sadly, there were no survivors.
LaMia Flight 2933 Crash – 2016
Route – Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, to Medellín, Colombia
Fatalities – 71
Cause – Inappropriate flight plan and pilot error
LaMia Flight 2933, carrying the Chapel Among the passengers was the first-team squad of the Brazilian football club Chapecoense, traveling from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, to Medellín for the 2016 Copa Sudamericana Finals.
The reason why plane falls from sky
The crash was attributed to fuel exhaustion due to an inadequate flight plan by the airline and pilot errors, including a failure to declare an emergency when fuel levels became critically low. The tragic outcome serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of fuel mismanagement.
If you want to learn more about the major reasons why plane crashes because of no fuel, check out the blog, Has an Airline Ever Crashed because it Ran Out of Fuel – Factors and Reasons.
These five incidents serve as a reminder of the catastrophic consequences when a plane runs out of fuel mid-air, meanwhile, we can say technological advancements have made air travel the safest mode of transportation but human errors and unforeseen circumstances can still lead to plane crash as it ran out of fuel. Keeping in mind the accidents whether it’s an old crash story or the Spirit Airlines crash and those who lost their lives, let us commit to ensuring that such tragedies should never happen again because of human errors.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
Yes, there are multiple incidents of crash because plane runs out of fuel and crashes.
There are multiple incidents where a plane runs out of fuel such as the Gimli Glider, ALM Antillean Airlines Flight 980, LaMia Flight 2933, East Coast Aviation Service Flight, etc.
Canada World Airways’ Boeing 767 suffered the incident of plane running out of fuel because of a miscalculation by the ground staff in Montreal.
Yes, a plane can still land safely if all engines fail, in this case, the pilot with go for an emergency landing just like in the case of the Gimli Glider.
This depends on the size of the plane, its speed, and its efficiency. A modern Boeing 747 can go as far as 9500 miles (15000 km) when it’s flying at 500 mph (900 kmh)