• James Parry

Gimli Glider Captain Bob Pearson lands in Hudson for book launch


PHOTO BY JAMES PARRY

Gimli Glider pilot Bob Pearson (left), and Pearl Dion who was a passenger on the memorable Air Canada flight in 1983 and who now lives with him on their farm in Ontario, were warmly welcomed by Hudsonite Clint Ward at his recent book launch at Gallery Plus.

In the world of civil aviation, the date July 23, 1983 has gone down in history as the day of the Gimli Glider. When, with Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue-born Captain Bob Pearson in the cockpit, Air Canada Flight 143 on a scheduled run between Montreal and Edmonton ran out of fuel 41,000 feet up midway through the flight due to an error in fuel calculation done in pounds as opposed to kilograms.

Assisted by First Officer Maurice Quintal, with 61 passengers aboard and against all odds, Pearson miraculously glided the Boeing 767 aircraft to an emergency landing at a former Royal Canadian Air Force base in Gimli, Manitoba, that had been transformed into a motor racing track. Despite the fact that the decommissioned runway was being used as a race track that day and the grounds were full of attendees, no lives were lost as the plane landed and a hero was hailed.

This past Saturday, December 2, and accompanied by one of those passengers, Pearl Dion, Pearson was in Hudson for the launch of On All The Other Days: The Adventures of a Renaissance Man, an autobiography written by another former Air Canada pilot, Clint Ward. (See Parrywinkle column). And what a wonderful story he himself had to tell that has never appeared in the media to date.

He and Pearl, now the love of his life, live on a 100-acre farm in Glengarry County, Ontario, having met once again when they attended the 30th anniversary celebrations in Gimli in 2013. And their new relationship took flight.

Explained Pearson in an exclusive interview with Your Local Journal, “I had known her husband, Rick, a maintenance supervisor with Air Canada, but only got to know Pearl and her son Chris at that reunion. The Dions were passengers on our July 23 flight and I had invited Rick up to the flight deck to visit us en route.

“He was new to the B767 and wanted to see this marvel of invention. The cockpit voice recorder tape will attest to the lengthy technical discussion we had on the lack of information that we and the mechanics had on the introduction of this new high tech airplane.”

Added Pearson, who retired from commercial flying in 1995 after 37 years with Air Canada out of Montreal and Toronto, and 1 1/2 years with Asiana Airlines out of Seoul, South Korea, “Rick, and my wife of 25 years Joann, had passed away several years before and it seemed a good idea to continue the journey together.”

Laughed Pearson, who since retiring has been busy being an expert witness at aviation accident court cases, travelling, maintaining a cottage in PEI, in sports, and looking after the farm, “Pearl and I are having a great and interesting life together. And if we ever run out of topics of conversation, we can always talk about airplane crashes!”

As for his flying memories with Clint Ward, Pearson recalled, “It must be at least 50 years since I had my one and only four-day Vickers Viscount cycle with Clint in the Maritimes. But I had heard discussion about Clint's book over the last year, and was aware that he had made supportive comments about our Gimli landing in one of the chapters.

“Also, Clint had always been an enthusiastic supporter of justice being done concerning our 1983 emergency landing in Gimli and Hudson is lucky to have someone of his distinction within its bounds.”

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