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United pilot who made 'impossible' landing in 1989 dies at 87

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Captain Al Haynes, United Airlines pilot and captain of UA 232 when it crashed July 19, 1989, in Sioux City, Iowa, died Monday in Seattle. He is pictured here speaking at at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. in 2012. Photo by Wayne Russell/U.S. Air Force
Captain Al Haynes, United Airlines pilot and captain of UA 232 when it crashed July 19, 1989, in Sioux City, Iowa, died Monday in Seattle. He is pictured here speaking at at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. in 2012. Photo by Wayne Russell/U.S. Air Force

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The United Airlines pilot who made an "impossible" landing and saved nearly 200 lives in 1989 has died.

Capt. Al Haynes, 87, died Monday in Seattle nearly 30 years after he was hailed as a hero for executing an emergency landing at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa. The crash landing killed 110 passengers and one crew member. But 184 passengers survived the impact.

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The Federal Aviation Administration cited Haynes' skills as a pilot for saving lives, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum reports.

"We thank him for his service throughout his career at United and for his exceptional efforts aboard Flight UA232 on July 19, 1989," the airline said in a statement. "His legacy will endure."

RELATED UPI Archives 1992: Crash changed survivor's life forever

Haynes never saw himself as a hero and he never forgot those who died in the crash.

"Al did not like the name 'hero' associated with Al Haynes," Gary Brown, emergency services director for 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."

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Haynes was born in Paris, Texas and attended Texas A&M University. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Training program in 1952, where he learned to fly. He served four years in the U.S. Marines as an aviator.

RELATED UPI Archives 1989: Transcripts detail conversations in cockpit of Flight 232

On the day of the crash, Haynes' plane was flying from Denver when the turbine shot out of the tail engine, severing the plane's hydraulic lines and cutting off all steering and speed control.

The airplane veered right and started to roll. Haynes quickly righted the airplane to prevent the DC-10 from going into a steep dive. The crew regained some control by adjusting power to the remaining engines on the wings. They immediately headed for the Sioux Falls airport while flight attendants kept passengers calm.

For 40 minutes, Haynes kept the plane in a slow, circling descent.

Air-traffic controllers first tried to direct the plane to its destination in Chicago but then directed it to Dubuque before finally deciding to turn around for Sioux City. The aircraft crash landed at 3:57 p.m., nearly 45 minutes after the engine failure was reported.

Transcripts of the cockpit conversation published by UPI in 1989 show the pilots struggling to regain control of the aircraft.

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"We had no control in the aircraft or very little -- ah, we don't have much yet," one of the pilots said.

Traffic controllers asked whether the plane would need assistance on the ground.

The pilot responded, "Sure, we need the works. We're just, ah, having trouble controlling the airplane right now."

Authorities tried to recreate the emergency in flight simulators but couldn't replicate what Haynes was able to do all the way to the ground. The airplane cartwheeled across the runway and plowed into a cornfield, UPI reported.

"The consensus of the group was that the pilot could fly the airplane but an adequate landing could not be accomplished within the pilots' control," said John Clark, senior performance engineer for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Pilots could pick touchdown position, direction or altitude but "achieving all desired conditions at the same time were virtually impossible."

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.

Haynes spent his retirement years volunteering as a Little League Baseball umpire and high school football announcer.

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