Town marks 25 years Gimli Glider

Twenty-five years after Ron Lyseng risked his life to save the Gimli Glider from erupting into flames, he says the threat of disaster wasn’t over after the plane’s remarkable emergency landing.

Lyseng helped extinguish an electrical fire in the cockpit of the Air Canada Boeing 767 after a forced landing on a Gimli race track.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the dramatic incident that began when the plane ran out of fuel at 40,000 feet near the Manitoba-Ontario border on its way from Ottawa to Edmonton.

The pilots, crew, bystanders and several boys who were riding bikes on the runway when the plane suddenly landed are gathering in Gimli today.

The ceremony marking the event is slated for 2 p.m.

On July 23, 1983, when the flight crew realized they couldn’t make it to Winnipeg, First Officer Maurice Quintal suggested landing at Gimli’s old airforce base where he once served. They glided the plane in safely onto the old runway — then being used as a drag racing strip — causing only minor damage to the passenger jet.

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As 61 passengers and eight crew members scrambled from the plane, 20 members of the Winnipeg Sports Car Club and other bystanders rushed over to put out smoke that was coming from the cockpit, Lyseng recalled Tuesday.

Upon reflection he now believes the aircraft could have blown up as they extinguished the likely start of an electrical fire.

Lyseng maintains they shouldn’t have been near the aircraft.

“If we had known for certain the fuel tanks were bone dry, it would have made our actions even more insane,” said Lyseng, a member of the car club.

“Fuel fumes make a bigger boom than the liquid itself.”

Lyseng remembers being dressed in a flame-resistant racing suit and standing right beside the cockpit, which was already engulfed in smoke.

One by one, Lyseng handed Capt. Bob Pearson 17 fire extinguishers to stop the fire from spreading.

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