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What happens When an airplane runs out of fuel mid flight? Does it fall to the ground instantly?

No, it doesn’t just stop and fall to the ground. When a plane runs out of fuel, the engines stop working, just like a car. When the engines stop, the plane loses power and certain plane functions that need power, also stop working, like some hydraulics. The pilots have been able to “glide” the plane to the ground.

Another posted about the Air Canada flight that ran out of fuel and was able to glide to a small former landing strip. There are a handful of other instances.

July 23rd, 1983

Air Canada flight 143 Gimli Glider – Wikipedia also known as the “Gimli Glider”, was flying from Montreal to Edmonton, Canada. There was a conversion error with the amount of fuel the Boeing 767 needed and ran out of fuel 41,000 feet in the air! The pilot was able to safely land the airplane on a former air strip turned into auto race track. There were people picnicking and saw this all unfold.

January 25th, 1990

Avianca flight 52 Avianca Flight 52 – Wikipedia Boeing 707 from Bogota to New York JFK Airport. The flight was placed in a holding pattern and the pilots didn’t say the word “emergency”. It crashed when it had to abort the first landing and did a “go around”.

September 23rd, 1996

Ethiopian Airlines – Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 – Wikipedia Boeing 767 was making a short hop from Addis Ababa to Nairobi (about a two hour flight). The hijackers demanded to go to Australia, using the in-flight magazine as a reference showing a 767 can fly 11 hours non-stop. The pilot said yes, it can fly 11+ hours but it needs the fuel to do so and that there was only enough to fly the two-hour route (with a small “cushion”). The pilot showed the hijackers the fuel gauge but they wouldn’t listen.

The pilot knew the plane was going to crash and he took the plane close to somewhere where it at least could be found. When the plane finally ran out of fuel, it glided into the sea. The pilot tried a crash landing on the water – and in front of a bunch of sunbathers in the Comoros. The video footage is incredible. Ethiopian Airline B767 hijack

August 24th, 2001

An Air Tansat – Air Transat Flight 236 – Wikipedia An Airbus A330 was flying from Toronto to Lisbon. There was a fuel leak and in the middle of the Atlantic, both engines stopped. The engines supply the power – so all power was lost. The plane was at 33,000 feet! The plane was “gliding” and steadily going down at 2000 feet per minute…imagine! Military Air Traffic Control guided the pilots to an air base nearby. However, the plane needed to dissipate excess altitude and made a 360 degree turn and landed hard. The pilot managed to land the plane with 200+ passengers.


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