Skip to Content

Remembering Al Haynes, the pilot who guided United Flight 232 to its crash-landing at Sioux Gateway Airport

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) – Captain Al Haynes is being remembered fondly by family, friends and colleagues.

The man who piloted United Airlines Flight 232 to a crash landing at Sioux Gateway Airport 30 years ago died Sunday in Seattle at the age of 87. Haynes had a big impact both in and out of the cockpit.

Haynes was a strong man, but a humble one. Hailed as a hero for what he did on that fateful day 30 years ago, Haynes would never accept that title.

“My definition of a hero is someone who puts his life in danger to protect someone else.” Haynes said during a visit to Sioux City in 2010. “The fire department, the survivors who went back into the fire to do that, people who do jobs like that they can be your heroes.”

But it’s as if it’s why Haynes was put on this earth. July 19, 1989, he and his crew guided a crippled jumbo jet to a crash landing at Sioux Gateway Airport. It looked unsurvivable. But more people lived than died that day, thanks in large part to the efforts of Haynes and his crew. After the crash, Haynes resumed flying and for years he spoke to groups around the world about the importance of emergency preparedness.

“I talk about five separate things,” Haynes said at a news conference in Sioux City in 2004, on the 15th anniversary of the plane crash. “I call them luck, communication, preparation, execution and cooperation. And it’s how they came together in a kind of unique way to allow us to have so many survivors from what should have been a non-survivable crash.”

There was a packed house when Haynes gave his presentation at Western Iowa Tech on the 15th anniversary of the crash. At that time, he told KTIV’s Al Joens not a waking hour passed that he didn’t think about that day and the passengers who survived.

“They can’t forget this incident,” said Haynes. “Whether they survived it or if not. But they need to go on with their life and not dwell on it. I’m dwelling on it for a purpose and it’s not detrimental for me to dwell on it. But I’m dwelling on it because I want other people to get the message.”

Some would call Haynes a hero for what he did that had nothing to do with flying. For more than four decades, he volunteered as a little league umpire and announcer. Haynes said he loved sitting at the scorer’s table making little leaguers feel like big leaguers.

“Done properly, it teaches the kids to work together to be a team,” Haynes said. ” And that’s my theme of my whole life.”

He touched thousands of lives during his lifetime, and despite his humble demeanor, you couldn’t meet Al Haynes and not be at least a little in awe.

Al Joens

Skip to content