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Sioux City To Commemorate 25th Anniversary Of United 232 Crash

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roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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(CBS) — In a month, the people of Sioux City, Ia., will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crash of a crippled, Chicago-bound United Airlines DC-10 that was forced to make an emergency landing at Sioux Gateway Airport.

The video of United 232 cartwheeling along Sioux Gateway’s runway 22 is unforgettable. A total of 112 people died when the plane broke apart, or in the weeks afterward. But hard work by the crew and first responders assured that another 184 lived.

Pilot Al Haynes had the benefit of a United Airlines DC-10 instructor, Dennis Fitch, on board, but the complete loss of hydraulics caused by a disintegrating tail jet fan was something no one had experienced and manufacturer McDonnell-Douglas had not planned to address.

Sioux City To Commemorate 25th Anniversary Of United 232 Crash

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Those on board could not steer the plane and were limited in how they could control the two remaining engines. The plane made continual right turns, because that was the position the flaps were in when the fan failed. The steering yoke was of little use. As Haynes tried to work with the yoke, Fitch worked with the two remaining engines.

Haynes originally was given emergency clearance to land on a different runway, but Runway 22, which was closed for repairs, is the one the plane lined up to.

The plane’s slow, circular descent also allowed first responders a chance to get into position, and then change it because of the change in runways. Local Emergency Services coordinator Gary Brown, who still holds that post, executed a plan that had been practiced only months before.

Brown, Haynes and surviving crew members will return for a panel discussion on Friday, July 18. Ceremonies are scheduled the next day 25 years to the hour after the accident, with a remembrance service the next day.

Commemoration committee member Woody Gottburg said Haynes urged Sioux City-area officials two years ago to plan a 25th anniversary memorial, and said local officials gladly honored his request.

Sioux City’s air museum, which is located on the now-shuttered runway, is sponsoring the commemoration, expected to be the last in Sioux City.

Survivors of the crash of the Denver-to-O’Hare DC-10 are invited to participate, and Siouxland officials are reaching out to locate them. Gottburg said that several dozen are expected to attend.

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