Nobody else had Denny Fitch, who beat those one-in-a-billion odds.
May 13, 2012 3:09 AM   Subscribe

Denny Fitch, one of 4 pilots who guided United 232 to a controlled crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa after a complete hydraulic fluid loss following an engine failure, has died of cancer. He was interviewed about the landing for Errol Morris' First Person series (YouTube) (previously). Denny's family also documented his journey with his incurable brain tumor on his website and blog.
posted by bluefly (22 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
(To watch the whole Morris interview, click on the YouTube playlist link itself, not the inline player.)
posted by bluefly at 3:14 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

RIP. He was a man whose cool considered analytical activity saved 185 lives that day, people who would have died without him, and by being such an example of how to do it right, he's saved thousands more because it's thanks to this incident that Crew Resource Management was developed as a discipline.
posted by ambrosen at 4:47 AM on May 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


posted by chillmost at 4:52 AM on May 13, 2012


One of the most astonishing aviation stories. Seeing that ball of fire go tumbling through the field, it's hard to believe that so many people survived. Rest well, Denny.
posted by andraste at 5:26 AM on May 13, 2012

Ambrosen already said it better than I could. All I have to add is this, an excellent account of the United 232 accident from pilot Al Haynes, who was also in the cockpit that day. Such an incredible story.

posted by compartment at 5:32 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for linking to that transcript, compartment. It's an amazing read. The focus on cooperation both in the cockpit and on the ground was really inspiring. People are just fantastic sometimes.
posted by bluefly at 6:14 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've never forgotten this.

Sioux City: United 232 heavy, you're going to have to widen out just
slightly to your left sir, to make the turn to final, and also to take
you away from the city.


UAL 232: Whatever you do, keep us away from the city.
posted by hank at 6:29 AM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sioux City: United 232 heavy, winds currently 360 at 11, three sixty at
eleven, you're cleared to land on any runway.

UAL 232: You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?

Holy shit that is badass.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:30 AM on May 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

I highly recommend watching the entire episode of First Person. I watched the series years ago and Denny Fitch stuck in my head as someone who wasn't just a hero but a truly good soul. His continuing remorse at not being able to save more of the passengers was just heartbreaking

posted by crayz at 6:52 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

"Denny's family also documented his journey with his incurable brain tumor on his website and blog."

Stupid cancer. Next time, they should write a happier ending.
posted by markkraft at 6:56 AM on May 13, 2012

Incredibly humble and intelligent man.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:33 AM on May 13, 2012

I remember watching the Black Box episode featuring this flight and thinking what an extraordinary group of men and women on that flight. Clear skies, Denny.
posted by maxwelton at 8:09 AM on May 13, 2012

A lot of people made it, including the kid in the memorial. His brother also lived, but their mother did not. She died shielding her kids, of course. Damn.
posted by pracowity at 8:12 AM on May 13, 2012

I also recommend watching the full episode of First Person, but definitely make sure you're in the 'right' mood for it. It's incredibly sad and haunting.

posted by nevafeva at 8:43 AM on May 13, 2012

A good man.

But spare a thought for those others who did their damndest to save their aircraft in similar situations but didn't make it. To name but one Japan Airlines Flight 123 lost all hydraulics too.

posted by marvin at 9:10 AM on May 13, 2012

marvin, according to Wikipedia, he'd actually studied JAL123 and practiced it in the simulator, which is why he had an idea about how to control the phugoid. There really aren't many other examples to chose from of aircraft remaining basically intact but losing all control surfaces. But the most amazing has to be the successful landing of a DHL cargo plane in Baghdad after an attempted shootdown. That's amazing.
posted by ambrosen at 9:30 AM on May 13, 2012

Now there goes a hero.

posted by dbiedny at 12:31 PM on May 13, 2012

Ambronsen- I didn't know that the DHL incident was as serious as that. I looked back too at the Turkish airlines crash outside Paris. They also lost all control after explosive decompression took out a large chunk of the rear fuselage and it went into a dive that started to level off at lower altitude, but too late. I wonder whether counter-intuitive application of more power might have created some pitch-up and given them time to sort things out.

All horrific. Poor souls.
posted by marvin at 1:12 PM on May 13, 2012

Airman Fitch showed an almost superhuman level of professionalism and calmness under pressure, yet was placed in a situation so impossible that any accolades for heroism must be cold comfort when juxtaposed the passengers who did not survive.

posted by jonp72 at 6:40 PM on May 13, 2012

I have SO MUCH respect for Denny Fitch, his intelligence, his knowledge, his experience, his bravery, his dedication.

posted by exphysicist345 at 9:22 PM on May 13, 2012

I'm always especially touched by news about the Sioux City crash because one of my childhood sports heroes was on the plane and survived (Michael Matz, pre-Barbaro). Thank you, Denny Fitch.

posted by swerve at 9:35 PM on May 13, 2012


posted by allkindsoftime at 6:11 AM on May 14, 2012

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