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Iowa History Daily: July 19 - United Airlines Flight 232 Crash in Sioux City

Iowa History Daily: On July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232 crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, following a catastrophic failure of the plane’s tail-mounted engine. 112 passengers died in the landing, while an additional 184 people survived the horrific incident.

The DC-10 aircraft took off from Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, at 2:09 p.m. CST to head for Chicago’s O’Hare International. Flown by experienced pilot Alfred Haynes and first officer Bill Records, the plane climbed over the Midwest to 37,000 feet. After a shallow right-turn, an unknown manufacturing defect caused the tail-mounted engine to explode and disintegrate roughly an hour after take-off.

Haynes almost immediately cut the fuel to the tail engine at the suggestion of Flight Engineer Dudley Dvorak, the crew worked to steady the aircraft as their control columns failed. Reducing the left-wing engine to idle and accelerating the right-wing engine leveled out the aircraft slowly. Passenger and former DC-10 flight instructor Denny Fitch happened to be aboard, and came to the cockpit to assist with the crew's attempts to prepare for the landing at Sioux Gateway airport.

With the left landing gear mechanism inoperative, the crew managed to use gravity to deploy the landing successfully. Dumping excess fuel and attempting to steer the plane toward Runway 31, the pilots diverted to a decommissioned runway which proved easier to line-up.

With emergency vehicles lined up, Fitch took Dvorak’s seat as the aircraft barreled toward the runway at 250 miles per hour. As the aircraft descended the started to pitch forward into a dive, leading the right wing to strike the ground first. Fuel spilled from the gash, igniting immediately, and the tail section broke off on impact. The plan rolled, coming to rest upside-down in a nearby cornfield.

First responders worked fearlessly to rescue the crew and passengers, and their dedication resulted in 184 people managing to survive the terrifying experience. 112 others, including eleven children some of whom were traveling alone as a part of a ‘children’s day promotion,’ died in the accident. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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