Remembering the UA 232 Crew upon the Death of their Captain

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Al Haynes, who piloted crash-landed Flight 232 in Sioux City in 1989, dies at 87

An impossible landing– how did the crew did it?

UA 232 had the good fortune to have 4 highly competent pilots!!!

Prime example of Crew Resources Management.

SIOUX CITY — Al Haynes, who piloted a crippled jumbo jet to a crash landing at Sioux Gateway Airport on July 19, 1989, helping save the lives of 184 passengers and crew, died Sunday.

Haynes, who passed away in a hospital in his hometown of Seattle following a brief illness, was one week shy of his 88th birthday.

At age 57, Haynes was captain of United Airlines Flight 232, which was bound from Denver to Chicago. After the DC-10 jet suffered a catastrophic failure of its tail-mounted engine, which resulted in the loss of many flight controls, Haynes and his crew were forced to make an emergency landing at the Sioux City airport. The jet stayed afloat while the pilots made a series of 360-degree turns to the right as it approached the airport.

On the final impact, the aircraft’s right wing broke off, causing the fuselage to skid sideways and tumble, before sliding to a stop upside down in a corn field at the end of a secondary runway.

Miraculously, 184 of the 296 people aboard survived, many due to the heroic actions of the crew, local emergency responders and medical staff.

Captain Haynes soon after the 1989 crash

If you are unfamiliar with the circumstances of UA 232, here is an excellent YouTube recreation:

Many experts termed the landing as impossible. Here are some of the reasons why that adjective was used:

  • The tail-mounted General Electric CF6-6 engine fan disc explosively disintegrated. The catastrophic failure sent “projectiles” through the horizontal stabilizer and severed the lines of all three hydraulic systems







  •  the autopilot disengaged.
  • the tail engine was inoperative,
  • the  control column was not responsive–   even with the control column turned all the way to the left, commanding maximum left aileron, and pulled all the way back, commanding maximum up elevator—nothing happened
  • the crew reduced the left wing-mounted engine to idle and applied maximum power to the right engine. This caused the airplane to slowly level out.
  •  gauges for all three hydraulic systems registered zero. Though all three hydraulic systems were separate (a redundancy—designed so that a failure of any one of them would leave the crew with full control)
  • the lines for all three systems passed through the same narrow passage through the tail and all were severed
  • all control surfaces were inoperative
  • the ailerons were inoperative
  • in order to extend the landing gear , the crew had to manually unlock the doors, and the doors and landing gear will then fall down into place and lock due to gravity.
  • On final descent, the aircraft was going 220 knots and sinking at 1,850 feet per minute  while a safe landing would require 140 knots and 300 feet per minute. The speed was needed to keep the plane airborne.

These are but a few highlights which challenged the 4 pilot crew.

The DC10 had a standard complement of 3 in the cockpit– Capt. Alfred Hayes, First Officer William Records and Second Officer Dudley Dvorak.  Training Check Airman Captain Dennis Edward Fitch, who was travelling in the passenger cabin, moved to the flight deck. They coordination among all four of these highly qualified pilots should be the text for Crew Resources Management.

Indeed, the addition of Fitch was most fortuitous. When he learned that the 1985 crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 was caused by a catastrophic loss of hydraulic control, he had practiced under similar conditions in a simulator.

Capt. Alfred Hayes, First Officer William Records, Second Officer Dudley Dvorak,

Training Check Airman Captain Dennis Edward Fitch (left to right)

Captain Hayes refused to accept the title of hero and insisted that all of his team were instrumental in landing the plane.

The NTSB found that the probable cause of the crash (the disc failure) was human factor of the United maintenance technicians failing to detect the flaw.

Though Captain Haynes eschewed any honors, the people of Sioux Falls named a street after him.

Sadly, it is important to remember that in spite of the UA 232 crew’s efforts, 111 of the 296 passengers died.







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1 Comment on "Remembering the UA 232 Crew upon the Death of their Captain"

  1. Well, as a licensed Private Pilot (not current on type Piper PA140)
    always nice to see an article on the Internet that has some appeal!
    As a practicing Safety Professional and recently retired (2015), always
    enjoy a life-saving event that flyers can relate to.
    I always make sure I watch the “May Day Series” on television, as it is
    very inspirational, even though I am a private pilot, all the Airline
    Pilots undergo “strenuous” testing and of course, a Flight Simulator is
    the ultimate training tool…………

    Keep Up the Good Work! Have A Great Day!

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