United Airlines Flight 232
This to me was some of the most heroic yet tragic crash-landings I have ever witnessed in Aviation. This wasn’t done by one pilot, but an entire crew. Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago suffered a complete loss of hydraulics due to a tail engine explosion, causing the crew to divert to Sioux City. These pilots were flying a plane with zero flight controls.
It had no wing flaps, it had no rudder, no elevators, no VS, no brakes for landing; the plane could not even deploy its wheels without manual deployment and gravity. They could not control the pitch, the orientation, direction or the altitude with their flight controls.
The pilots had to solely rely on their two remaining engines to control the entire plane.
- As there was a loss of flight controls, the plane banked right and nearly became inverted. To combat this, the pilots increased power on the right engine to keep the plane horizontally stable.
- The plane also tried to pitch down, for which the pilots increased engine power even more to stop it from diving. But this caused the plane to overshoot and pitch up, causing a stall, so the pilots repeatedly had to increase and decrease engine power to keep the plane from falling out of the sky while keeping the right engine at high power.
- While calling an emergency, the pilots had to make a right turn to the nearest airport. Since the airplane wants to bank right, the pilots used precious minutes of their time to commit a full left turn circle formation by using maximum power on the right engine to make the move.
For about 30 minutes, against complete loss of flight controls and multiple dangers, the pilots managed to keep the plane steady solely using the wing engines. But as engine power was high, it was flying too fast and too high for a safe landing. These pilots now had another dilemma: they had to slow down the plane to decrease altitude and speed while keeping the plane fast enough to keep it stabilized.
Unfortunately, luck was not on their side. Even after deploying gears to slow the plane down and managing to get the plane to descend, it was going way too fast for the plane to touch down in one piece. And so, the plane shattered across the field in Sioux City Airport going 270 km/h faster than normal.
It might not sound like a successful landing, but it turned out over 60% of the occupants of this flight, including all pilots, survived the crash. There were 52 children on this flight – only 11 died. For such extreme conditions this plane underwent, touching the runway at nearly 3 times over the maximum landing speed and dropping nearly 9 m/s, catching fire, it was a miracle that anyone survived such a trip.
Everybody on this plane was supposed to be dead, but these pilots managed to wrestle back 184 people lives from their fate. Those men, with remarkable decision-making, communication and teamwork under possibly one of the worst conditions a passenger airplane could experience managed to look death in the eye and beat him at his own game.
Edit: Aye guys, thanks for the up-votes. I just wanted to say that this was really a time where people came together at the right time and everybody did their jobs to the most perfect ability that set a standard and changed flying for years to come.
So I want to give credit to everybody on the ground as well, specifically emergency services without whose help and timing, a lot more people would have died. I also want to give credit to the ATC for handling this flight as well as the rest of the airport staff that provided critical medical attention to the injured. Clear weather as well.
And lastly the flight attendants, who unfortunately took the heaviest brunt on that crash for not only getting passengers into crash position but also moving them out of the plane broken in pieces when they were wounded as well! A group effort indeed!