For 27-years, Captain Al Haynes has had to live with the events of July 19, 1989, and the crash of the plane he was piloting at Sioux City's Sioux Gateway Airport.
And, for the last 27-years, Haynes has willingly relived the crash, on stage, talking to crowds about the lessons he learned. That is, until now.
Back on July 19, 1989, Haynes sat down in the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 232 at Denver's Stapleton Airport. While that airport is now gone, the memories are still fresh for Haynes. "Just routine," said Capt. Al Haynes, United Flight 232 Pilot. That's the way July 19, 1989 started for Haynes, and his crew. "You went out, did the briefing, and got on the airplane," said Haynes. But, before the plane took off, a momentary delay. "I believe we pushed back, and had some sort of mechanical, and they put us back," said Haynes. "But, it was just a five-minute delay. And, then we took off, and everything was pretty routine from then on... until the engine blew."
Over northwest Iowa, the failure of the fan disc in the plane's tail engine shredded all three of the plane's hydraulic lines cutting virtually all control to the DC-10. "When the airplane first blew, it started to roll to the right," said Haynes. "It was going to go over onto its back. We stopped that by closing one throttle, and pushing to other forward. Why? We don't know. We're not trained to do this." Using throttles, Haynes, his crew, and a United Airlines training check airman who just happened to be on board, managed to guide the crippled DC-10 to Sioux City. On approach, they throttled the engines one last time. "We added power... I say Denny added the power, to try and bring the nose up," said Haynes. "And, when the power went up, for some reason the number one engine spooled up faster than the right engine and lifted the left wing."
The crash looked unsurvivable. But, because of the crew's actions, 184 of the 296 people on board lived. Haynes says that cooperation was what saved lives that day. Cooperation is one of five keys at the heart of every speech Haynes has given in the 27-years since the crash. "The five things that I talk about are luck, communication, preparation, execution and cooperation," said Haynes. And, not just for other airline pilots. Haynes says they're things that apply to almost everyone. "Using them in their business, and everyday life," said Haynes. "How we used it. How it turned out for us."
Haynes has circled the globe. "When I first started, I was doing three or four a month," said Haynes. He's spoken on nearly every continent. "The furthest I've been, I guess, would be... I did five talks in Australia," said Haynes. "From there we went to Hong Kong. And, from there, we went to India."
Haynes' harrowing story often leaves crowds speechless. "The group in Australia were very influential businessmen, and the belonged to this specific club," said Haynes. "They're reaction was the same as a lot of them... stone silence."
Now, after 27-years, it's Haynes' turn to be silent. "I've done two this year," said Haynes. "But, this is it. I'm through." This speech he recently gave, in Denver, was his last. "I would never get tired of doing the talks, and raising money for the foundations, and the scholarships," said Haynes. But, the rigors of travel have simply become too much for the 85-year-old, which leaves time for his other passions.
Haynes announces Little League baseball games, and high school football, in the Seattle suburb where he lives. "I've just been doing it so long, it became habit," said Haynes. "It's my hobby." It's a fitting hobby for a man, whose life has centered on teamwork, which is why Haynes never takes credit. "This is not my doing," said Haynes. "It was a team effort, so I can't take credit for anything except what the team did. And, I always do that."
When asked if he feels he has closure 27-years after the crash, Haynes said closure is something he's stopped searching for. He believes closure means forgetting about the bad thing that happened. Instead, Haynes says he's come to accept the events of July 19, 1989