Al Haynes, a retired United Airlines pilot who is credited with commanding a crippled jet to a crash landing 30 years ago in Iowa, saving the lives of 184 passengers and crew, has died, according to the airline. Haynes was 87, CNN affiliate KTIV reported.
Haynes died Monday at a Seattle hospital, KTIV said. His cause of death wasn’t reported.
Haynes and his crew managed to fly the Chicago-bound DC-10 for about 45 minutes after the tail engine failed on July 19, 1989. The crash landing at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City killed 110 passengers and one crew member.
The Federal Aviation Administration cited Haynes and his crew for their work in preventing more deaths, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
“Al did not like the name ‘hero’ associated with Al Haynes. He never saw himself as a hero,” Gary Brown, the emergency services director in Woodbury County, Iowa, told KTIV. “Anytime he talked about what went on that day, he talked about his entire crew. He talked about the flight attendants. He talked about the passengers doing what they needed to do, and the emergency responders, and the whole community coming together.”
United Airlines mourns the former captain
United Airlines said the airline was saddened to learn of Haynes’ death.
“We thank him for his service throughout his career at United and for his exceptional efforts aboard Flight UA232 on July 19, 1989. His legacy will endure,” United Airlines said in a statement.
Haynes was born in Paris, Texas, and attended Texas A&M College, according to his biography on the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website.
In 1952, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Training program. He served as a Marine aviator and was released from the service in 1956. He joined United Airlines that year and worked as a flight engineer, first officer and captain.
Haynes’ plane was flying from Denver when he heard a big bang, followed by a brief vibration about 75 miles north of Sioux City, he told CNN in 2013.
The noise was the sound of a cracked engine fan disk shooting out of the tail engine. The disk severed the plane’s hydraulic lines, cutting off all steering and speed control.
“When the engine failed, the airplane started to turn to the right and started to roll,” Haynes said. “If we had not stopped that and it had rolled over on its back, I’m sure the nose falling down would have increased the airspeed so fast that there’s no way we could have controlled it.”
Somehow, Haynes, who was the captain, along with first officer Bill Records, engineer Dudley Dvorak and instructor Dennis Fitch learned how to steer the plane by adjusting the power in the aircraft’s two remaining engines, Haynes said. It was like trying to drive a car without power steering, said Haynes, only harder.
Haynes and Records struggled with the control wheel, circling it in right-turn circles, bound for Sioux City airport. Fitch struggled on his knees as he used both hands to muscle the plane’s throttle levers, which were hard to move.
Flight attendants tried to keep passengers calm in the cabin and prepare them for the crash landing.
“One passenger thought she was having a heart attack and the flight attendants calmed her down, and it turned out she wasn’t having a heart attack, she was just very nervous,” Haynes said.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ll have a beer when this is all done,” Fitch told Haynes, according to the flight recorder transcript. “Well, I don’t drink,” Haynes replied, “but I’ll sure as hell have one.”
Videos of the crash played on TV news for months. In the months after the disaster, authorities recreated the emergency in flight simulators. But the simulator pilots couldn’t maintain control of the plane all the way through to landing.
Haynes “will forever fondly be remembered for a career of professionalism, training, and superior airmanship,” the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in a statement.
A life of humility
Haynes retired from United Airlines in 1991, according to the Smithsonian. He lived in Seattle where he was a longtime volunteer Little League Baseball umpire and high school football stadium announcer, the Smithsonian said.
Brown, who met Haynes in the days after the crash, said he would like his friend to be remembered for his humility.
“Al was a very humble captain,” Brown said, according to KTIV. “He was a very humble individual. He loved his family. He loved his community. He loved his job. The United Flight 232 crew became a family of his.”