Iowa March 22, 2018
The Terrifying, Deadly Plane Crash In Iowa That Will Never Be Forgotten
Airplane is by far the safest way to travel, but the majority of Americans still have some anxiety when it comes to flying through the endless skyway. Unfortunately, accidents do happen, and many Iowans remember watching the tragedy of United Airlines Flight 232 unfold right in front of our eyes.
When passengers of United Airlines Flight 232 boarded at Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado in the early afternoon of July 19, 1989, they had no idea that for many of them, this would be their last flight.
The aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, which had been owned by United Airlines since it was built in 1973. Prior to the ill-fated flight, the plane had flown nearly 17,000 times.
Suddenly, shortly after takeoff, the pilots felt a jolt, and the autopilot shut itself off.
The pilots struggled to get the plane under control enough to make an emergency landing at nearby Sioux City Airport.
Air traffic control organized an emergency landing, letting Capitan Hayes know he was cleared for landing on any runway. With little control of the plane's steering and his sense of humor still intact, Hayes responded: "You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?"
The crew made a series of right-hand turns in the air as they were attempting to line up with Runway 31, and dumping excess fuel to prepare for the crash landing. With little maneuverability, they ended up better lined up with the much shorter and recently decommissioned Runway 22. Firetrucks had been parked on Runway 22 and had to quickly move out of the way of the incoming plane.
The right wing hit the runway and ignited. The tail section of the plane broke off, and the aircraft bounced several times - breaking the fuselage into many large pieces. On the final impact, the right wing flew off, and the aircraft skidded sideways and flipped over. It landed in a cornfield to the right of Runway 22.
The crash had a tragic end that no Iowan will ever forget.
Of the 296 people on board, 111 people were killed in the crash. 35 of those died from smoke inhalation, but the majority died from the multiple impacts. Only 13 passengers walked away without injury. Eleven children were among those who did not survive. It took 35 minutes for rescuers to find the cockpit and all four pilots, alive. Each pilot eventually recovered from their injuries and returned to fly again.
Today, there is a beautiful, peaceful memorial at Sioux Gateway Airport, paying respects to those who died, and commemorating the brave first responders who helped carry away many of the survivors.
Do you remember where you were when the story unfolded? Many Iowans watched this tragedy live on TV. It was surely a day that Iowans will never forget.
For more of the most unforgettable moments in modern Iowa history, read
9 Moments Everyone Born In Iowa Will Always Remember.