On This Day in Aviation History

July 19, 2012

United Airlines Flight 232 Miracle Crash Landing: July 19 in Aviation History

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United Flight 232 on final descent, with visible damage to its tail.

1989: United Airlines flight 232, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 en route for Chicago O’Hare from Denver, crashes in Sioux City, Iowa, following the uncontained failure of the #2 engine and the loss of all hydraulic controls. What followed would be remembered as one of history’s most extraordinary feats of flying, as the crew, led by Capt. Al Haynes, guided the plane to the Sioux City airport using only differential thrust from the two remaining engines. The plane crash landed at the Sioux City airport, allowing 184 of the 296 on board to fly another day.

In 2009, the Des Moines Register published an extensively detailed piece looking back at the disaster, interviewing people involved from every angle, from the flight crew to some surviving passengers, the control tower supervisor to the chaplain.

“It is still a wound,” said Jerry Schemmel of Littleton, Colo., a passenger on Flight 232. His good friend and boss, Jay Ramsdell, died in the crash. “It is still a wound that I don’t think has healed completely, nor will it ever. It is part of my life. I know that it always will be. I have dealt with it about as best as I can, but it will never go away. But you move on and you try to deal with it.”

1961: TWA becomes the first airline to screen in-flight movies.

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  • Matt, since yesterday, this headline on twitter has hit at my gut. While, under the horrible circumstances, Capt. Al Haynes did an admirable job, “miraculous” is an inappropriate label. 111 people died and recommended safety protocol for lap babies was proven wholly ineffective. But, I think the quote from Jerry Schemmel sums up the reality.