The Gimli Glider

The American system of measurement and its units—feet, miles, pounds, and gallons—are quite bizarre. They are random, unintuitive and have no logical relationship to one another, which makes conversion from one type to another a nightmare. In the 1970s, the United States tried to push the country to metric and even passed a law that directed federal agencies to adopt the metric system. But the legislation was not strong enough and many industries chose not to convert. However, some industries, having realized the benefit of the metric system, decided to switch on their own volition.

Now there are two different systems at work, and anytime two different industries using two different system of measurement have to coordinate, extra care needs to be taken to ensure the units are correctly converted. Otherwise the results could be disastrous, just like Air Canada found out in 1983.

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Air Canada Boeing 767 C-GAUN, “the Gimli Glider”, taxing at San Francisco International in February 1985. Photo: Aero Icarus/Wikimedia


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