July 19, 1989: A Day That The Human Race Should Know

  • A repost w/ additional commentary. This flight was evidence where people worked well together, especially the passengers of United 232. This is partial evidence where people keeping a level head helped save lives and not endanger others.
  • Karens and Kens should learn from this

United Airlines Flight 232

I was a little kid the first time I saw the VHS grainy footage of a fiery plane crash shot through a fence. I might have not known what was going on, but I know that it wasn’t good. It didn’t sound great either.

What I didn’t know is that event was evidence that there are a few great heroes out there. It might have taken a small amount of tragedy to let them rise to the occasion, but rise they did. It wasn’t just the normal figures that we looked up to.

Without delving into the mechanical reasons why the plane failed to arrive as sent, it took a mathematical event to force a passenger into a role he had no intentions on taking. Dennis Fitch, who was a “training check airman” with United, was a passenger. He rose to help the crew salvage the flight.

(The plane had a rear engine loss and lost hydraulic power to important controls, making it nearly impossible to level and control its elevators.)

Fitch, after the crew unsuccessfully made efforts to gain control, joined up with the crew to help. They made observations to see what they could do. It wasn’t pretty.

The decision to use the throttles to control their altitude and steering wasn’t the most desirable, but it was the hand that was dealt. Fitch had experience doing this in a simulator.

The captain of the flight, Al Haynes, kept a clear head in setting up an emergency landing at a nearby airfield. He had enough wits about him to crack a joke or two, knowing that it would be a “miracle” if he could get the “bird” down.

It wasn’t just one person throwing his weight around. The whole team worked in a beautiful dance to get the flight on the ground. They couldn’t fly straight, having to circle around to turn into their final heading.

If you don’t know the full story, UA Flight 232 went down taking 112 lives. But there were 184 people that survived, a few passengers had walked out of the airplane.

This would not have been possible if it weren’t for the flight attendants managing the passengers and keeping the panic down. (I had seen a few of the flight attendants during speeches years after the crash. They needed to take a bow for their part of what could have been worse).

The unsung “heroes” were victims of happenstance. National guardsmen and shift change personnel made the triage/recovery possible, many were onsite or near the hospital when the opportunity rose. The townspeople even showed an amazing level of consideration to the families of the passengers. (This was reflected during many of the speeches that I heard from surviving crew members).

Many don’t know that the landing was never duplicated when some of the best pilots were put in simulators. We never want to repeat it, but this was listed as one of the few times that crew resource management helped make things better than they would if everyone was fighting themselves.

(Please note: Many of the pilots and crew struggled with the deaths of their passengers for years. They didn’t get a big head although they never accepted the title “hero”. But thousands of people still shower them with our gratitude).


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1 Response to July 19, 1989: A Day That The Human Race Should Know

  1. Pingback: FreeMatt in Review: 7-18 to 7-22 (2022) | Mogadishu Matt

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