Alfred C. “Al” Haynes entered aviation history as the United Airlines Captain who miraculously landed his crippled DC-10 aircraft at Sioux City, IA in 1989, saving 184 lives. Al was born in Paris, Texas on August 31st, 1931 and raised in Dallas. He attended Texas A&M University for three years before joining the Naval Aviation Cadet Training program in 1952, learning to fly in the North American SNJ Texan aircraft at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas. Al was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina flying the Douglas AD Skyraider. His military aviation career culminated as an instructor pilot for advanced instrument flying in the North American T-28 Trojan at NAS Kingsville, Texas. First Lieutenant Haynes was released from the service in 1956 and promptly joined United Airlines as a Flight Engineer based out of Seattle, Washington.
In 1963, he was promoted to and served as First Officer for over twenty-two years until his promotion to Captain in 1985. Al’s extensive flying experience proved invaluable on the fateful day of July 19th, 1989 when United Airlines Flight 232 departed Denver, Colorado at 2:09 p.m. and climbed to 37,000 feet on a routine passenger route to Chicago, Illinois. After just over one hour of flight, the crew heard a loud bang or explosion followed by vibration and shuddering of the airframe as the tail-mounted engine failed catastrophically. Shrapnel ripped through the tail, puncturing the lines of all three hydraulic systems. The flight crew proceeded to conduct an emergency engine shutdown of the failed engine. Further evaluation revealed a lack of response to all flight control inputs as the aircraft entered a descending right-hand turn. Captain Haynes immediately decreased power on the left engine and increased power on the right engine to bring the aircraft back to a wings-level attitude.
What followed in the next forty-five minutes was one of the most compelling dramas in aviation history as the crew meticulously used differential thrust from the remaining two engines—the only control they had—to return the plane and nearly 300 passengers to the ground in a crash landing at the Sioux City, IA airport. Tragically, 112 people died in the landing as the plane split apart, cartwheeled, and caught fire. Miraculously, 184 survived due, in part, to a recent live drill for Sioux City emergency responders and thorough training of the cockpit and cabin crews.
Despite this extraordinary life experience, just under three months later Al returned as a United Airlines Captain flying the Boeing 727 and DC-10 until his retirement in August 1991. Within a commercial airline career spanning 35 years, Al accumulated over 27,000 hours flying DC‑6, DC‑7, DC‑8, Boeing 727, and DC‑10 aircraft. He has selflessly spoken to more than 1,700 audiences so others can learn from his “against all odds” experience and has raised thousands of dollars for charities. Al has also volunteered as a little league baseball umpire for over forty-two years and high school football stadium announcer for over thirty-seven years.