By Stacey Leasca
August 27, 2019
Capt. Al Haynes of Seattle, Wash., smiles while taking questions at a press conference in conjunction with the commemoration of the crash of United Flight 232.
John Gaps/AP/Shutterstock

Capt. Alfred C. “Al” Haynes, a retired United Airlines pilot credited with saving 184 lives in a crash landing in Iowa 30 years ago, has died.

In 1989, while flying over western Iowa, the number two engine on his United Airlines flight exploded. As USA Today explained, shrapnel from the engine sliced through the plane’s hydraulic lines, making it nearly impossible to steer the aircraft.

However, thanks to quick thinking, Haynes and his crew were able to manually steer the plane by rerouting alternating thrusts on both engines. Haynes then found the closest and safest place to land at Sioux City’s Gateway Airport.

"When the engine failed, the airplane started to turn to the right and started to roll," Haynes told CNN in 2013. "If we had not stopped that and it had rolled over on its back, I'm sure the nose falling down would have increased the airspeed so fast that there's no way we could have controlled it."

An engine and debris sit in a corn field after United Airlines Flight 232 crashed and broke into pieces July 19, 1989, while attempting to make an emergency landing at the Sioux City Gateway Airport. Of the 296 people on board, 111 were killed in the crash leaving 185 survivors. The flight was going from Denver to Chicago.
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The plane crash-landed and exploded on impact. Of those on board 112 died, however, 184 others miraculously lived.

"Al did not like the name 'hero' associated with Al Haynes. He never saw himself as a hero," Gary Brown, the emergency services director during the crash, told KTIV, following the news of Haynes’ death. "Anytime he talked about what went on that day, he talked about his entire crew. He talked about the flight attendants. He talked about the passengers doing what they needed to do, and the emergency responders and the whole community coming together."

According to CNN, authorities attempted to recreate the emergency in flight simulators for months. However, the simulator pilots couldn't maintain control of the plane through landing, further proving just how extraordinary this landing really was.

Of the loss, United Airlines shared in a statement with CNN, "We thank him for his service throughout his career at United and for his exceptional efforts aboard Flight UA232 on July 19, 1989. His legacy will endure.”

Haynes continued to fly until 1991 when he retired from service. He lived out the rest of his days in Seattle, where he volunteered as a Little League Baseball umpire, according to CNN.

"Al was a very humble captain," Brown additionally noted in his interview with KTIV. "He was a very humble individual. He loved his family. He loved his community. He loved his job. The United Flight 232 crew became a family of his."