Fri, May 11, 2012
Sioux City Hero Helped Land Crippled DC-10 In 1989 Accident
United Airlines pilot and instructor Denny Fitch was deadheading home on a DC-10 in 1989 when an explosion in the back of the jet got his attention. He made his way to the flight deck to see if the crew needed help. There he found three men desperately trying to control the widebody jet after losing all hydraulic power. Fitch took a seat on the floor and helped operate the wing engines to try to land the aircraft carrying nearly 300 people. When the crippled plane crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, more than half of the passengers survived, making it one of the most admired life-saving efforts in aviation history.
Experts attempted to duplicate the feat in post-accident simulations, apparently without success. "I'm not aware of any that replicated the success these guys had," said Mike Hamilton, a United pilot who flew with Fitch. None of the simulator pilots were able to make a survivable landing."Most of the simulations never even made it close to the ground," Hamilton said. More than two decades later, the teamwork of Fitch and the others on the flight deck is still a model for the industry.
The Associated Press reported that Fitch, who had suffered from brain cancer, died at his home in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles at the age of 69. "To be one of those pilots, they are all heroes, and he played in instrumental role in saving all those lives," said Susan Callander, a flight attendant on United Flight 232. "What they all did, all working together as a team, now for the rest of history will be part of the training" of flight crews. (Image: NTSB map of UA 232 flight path after engine failure)
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