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Photo from the Wreckage of Flight 232

Date: 1989


Description: The scene shown in this photo is a hauntingly familiar one to many Sioux City residents. On July 19, 1989 United Flight 232 took off from Denver en route to Chicago. While airborne, one of the engines on the tail blew apart, after the internal fan fractured and sent metal shrapnel into the engine. The shrapnel severed the hydraulic lines in the tail, cutting the aircraft’s controls. Capitan Alfred C. Haynes and his flight crew kept the plane aloft for 45 minutes, with no way to steer or slow the plane down. Air traffic control at nearby Sioux Gateway Airport was contacted, and an emergency landing was organized. As the plane made its way to the airport the pilots were assisted by David E. Fitch, a former flight instructor who was a passenger on the aircraft at the time. They managed to get some minor control over the aircraft and made their way to Sioux City.


As the plane approached the Sioux City runway the landing gear was deployed in hopes to absorb some of the impact. The pilots were able to control the descent a little by controlling the engine thrust, but the plane was still going 240 knots (about 276 mph) as it approached, sinking at 1,850 feet per minute. Right before touchdown the plane veered slightly to the right. The right wing hit the ground and was shorn off, the fuel inside igniting. The plane bounced along the runway, sections breaking off until finally it skidded sideways, flipped upside down and slid to a stop in the cornfield next to the runway. Emergency response teams were already present at the scene, and the people of Sioux City acted quickly (for more on community response, see the Senate Resolution to Sioux City in this collection).

Overall of the plane’s 285 passengers, 111 perished in the crash, most from the impact or smoke inhalation.


This photo is of one of the broken-off sections of the aircraft, possibly the tail. The engine shown may be the one that failed, with the fractured fan still inside.


Donor: Phyllis Hindman


On display

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