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  • 42

What a plane crash feels like - United 232

Submitted
Brad Griffin had his hands on the first class seat in front of him, which was the first row in the airplane. Gerald Harlon Dobson, a retired state trooper from New Jersey, sat with his wife, Joann, dressed in their festive Hawaiian clothes directly across from Rene Le Beau’s jump seat. Griffin had been meditating. He felt no fear, even though he could feel how unusually fast the plane was going. “And when we hit the runway,” Griffin recalled, “my seat belt pops.” He was stunned for a second,… (www.salon.com) More...

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genethemarine
Gene spanos 6
Nothing can prepare you as a first responder when you first arrive at a crash site.
Flt # 191 @ O'Hare. As the 2nd fire rig in....and after being given our orders..we walked through the site. Much of those were burned down...yet the young flight attended that I knelt down next to was only in her 20's and in 1/2. I prayed for her and the others that day.
sparkie624
sparkie624 2
I have been to crash sites... Not pretty, and you do not want to remember a lot of the details.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 2
I was a member of the Go Team at America West. I was ready, but forever grateful the team was never needed.
thompson36532
My uncle was on that flight and it's still hard to deal with even after all these years.
preacher1
preacher1 4
Even though there was such a loss of life and injuries, there would have been many more but for the superb airmanship. They told Haines later that 4 pilot groups had ran that scenario in the SIM and all totally crashed. It wasn't pretty but when you lose everything, you got to know how to FLY YOUR PLANE.
bbabis
Bill Babis 1
That last sentence is the crust of airmanship!

I've flown many crash scenarios in sims and I'm sure you have also. Hind-sight makes many of them easy to "live" through and the sim, due to still not yet 100% realism, makes some of them more difficult than in real life. I've flown this one three times, no hydraulics and jammed controls, except in a different type of aircraft. Each time we got the aircraft basically on an approach path similar to UA232 but red screened "crashed" due to the sims 5 degree bank limitation at touchdown. I don't remember what UA232's bank was at touchdown, but thank God we didn't have to ride through the rest of their arrival.
immermannjoseph
Bill - wanted to tell you I love your profile picture, Grumman aircraft at the close of WWII were some of the finest piston aircraft ever made. I wish the Bearcat and the Tigercat could have seen combat. They had everything - speed, maneuverability, firepower, toughness. I'm not sure offhand if they had range capability similar to or comparable to the great Mustang, but they sure had every other good fighter quality in abundance!
preacher1
preacher1 0
I just took a quick look at Wiki and did a quick Google search and saw no reference anywhere to Bank Angle, specifically on 232
AlanBDahl
Alan Dahl 2
I re beer reading this talk by Al Haynes back in the '90s on Usenet. It's a fascinating talk about a day where so much went wring but is much went right too. I had the privilege of meeting Mr Haynes a few years ago when I went to a lecture given by Captain Sullenberger at Seattle's Museum of Flight. Captain Haynes was in the audience and introduced himself when he asked a question. My father had been a UAL pilot also based in Seattle when Captain Haynes was starting out so I asked if they'd ever flown together but I guess there was too much seniority difference even though they knew each other.

http://www.clear-prop.org/aviation/haynes.html
antokalaz1
Just put it in my amazon cart.
mdlacey
Matt Lacey 2
Haynes traveled (travels?) around giving lectures on that day to groups. When I was in undergrad, my dad suggested that my department get him in for our occasional colloquium series. I had the privilege of picking him up at MCI, bringing him to campus and showing him around.
genethemarine
Gene spanos 2
In follow up....there's a small memorial located here near in Des Plaines, IL.
I placed some flowers and a US flag there last year. All of their names are posted there as well. RIP
bbabis
Bill Babis 1
Why in Des Plains?
preacher1
preacher1 1
I guess Gene will have to give a for sure answer, but Des Plaines is just North of ORD and United based up that way. Probably close to home for all involved.
immermannjoseph
A microscopic crack in the fan blade of the engine mounted on the tail gave way causing the whole turbine blade assembly to break apart. The aircraft remained essentially intact and flying but the failure tore through all three hydraulic lines in the one spot on the aircraft where they converge draining out all fluid and making the flight controls almost completely useless. The flight crew, assisted by another pilot who had been riding along used differential thrust of the outboard engines on the wing to try to steer the aircraft. They were headed to Chicago if I remember correctly, but the nearest airstrip long enough to where the incident occurred (they were at cruise or just descending from cruise when the failure occurred)was Sioux City, IA. They did a remarkable job and got lined up pretty well on final but one wing dipped and caught the ground at the last second and cartwheeled them. One of the most remarkable displays of Crew Resource Management, piloting skill and sheer bravery I know of. I listened to the cockpit recorder and radio transmissions throughout and they are remarkable.
bbabis
Bill Babis 1
Pretty good overview Joseph. While all the superlatives are well deserved, the sheer bravery part might be a misstatement. Bravery usually means that there was an option not to go into harms way. This crew had no choice in the matter since give up and die is not a valid choice. What they did do is use their training, experience, CRM, and piloting skill to the best of their ability to play the hand they were dealt to the best outcome possible.
immermannjoseph
That is true and well put Bill, and I have to admit, I get a little uncomfortable with some of the hero rhetoric referring to emergency responders - it gets a little overused and overboard - funny to get carried away with it myself! It is very moving to hear the interaction inside the cockpit and with ATC.
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
Would you settle for 'rose to the occasion'?
preacher1
preacher1 1
Good Description. LOL, but if they hadn't had that experience, training and all, they wouldn't have had much to rise to.
preacher1
preacher1 1
well said, my friend
immermannjoseph
A little trivial side story - I was a medic in La Crosse, WI at the time of the crash and found out years later that they had wanted to try to get UAL232 to KLSE (La Crosse) if possible, but decided that was too far away under the circumstances. Kind of strange to think about.
VisApp
Dave Mills 2
I'm speechless James. Thanks for the link.
preacher1
preacher1 2
I never will forget the 1st car wreck I rolled up on that had fatalaties and I was a flight medic while in service but I cannot imagine a scene such as that with 150+ dead or injured. I can see preparing but after reading this, all I can say is that you'll not know exactly how you'll react until you get there.
Bernie20910
14 years as an EMT in NYC... yeah, nothing prepares you for it, and not all first responders survive it, mentally. If you're lucky, like me, you realize what it's done to you and you get out, you do some other kind of work, before it kills you inside and you still have some of your humanity left.
immermannjoseph
Well said my friend. It is not always individual memories, though those can be a burden - it is the cumulative effect of seeing what we see, waking up to the pager, working ridiculously long shifts. I've been off the helicopter and ambulance since 2005 and I still have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. It's not bad dreams or anything like that, it's just that I worked 24 hour shifts for 15 years and I've taught my body to wake up quickly and completely at the slightest input.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Don't know how it happens but I have a Son that belongs to a Volunteer Fire Dept. here in our community. He could sleep thru an A bomb going off close by, but you let that VFD pager tone out and he is up, fully awake and rolling before the wife can wipe the sleep out of her eyes. He still remembers the first car crash with fatality that he rolled up on. He said the other day that is something he will never forget.
immermannjoseph
It's just good old fashioned conditioning - you teach your body to respond in a specific way to a specific input. I was starting to think I was waking up before the pager went off at night and could not explain it at first. I was awake when the tones actually started and I am not psychic. I figured it out after a while. When the pager activated it would make a faint click when the microphone opened up a fraction of a second before the tones actually sounded. I was hearing the microphone of the pager open and waking up before the tones sounded!
preacher1
preacher1 1
Yeah, that's about right I guess. He has been on there about 10 years now and it started in less than a year after he joined.
immermannjoseph
My regards to you and your son. Volunteer Firefighters and First Responders are amazing. I owe them so much for helping me do my job all those years, and people who live in rural areas owe them so much for the quick response time they provide. Sounds like you were a flight medic - where did you work?
preacher1
preacher1 0
That was back in my USAF days, 68-early 72, Tucson, ABQ and overseas in S.Korea
hiflier32
ric lang 1
Korea??? Wow, you must be an old guy! I was at Anderson flying sideways in 29s in 1954 with the 96th (SAC)
preacher1
preacher1 0
Sounds like you got a few on me. I was at Kunsan in 71-72, with a monthly TDY down over 'Nam and back on a tanker. I had been with 314AD SAC at Tucson, went up to the weapons lab at ABQ, and was with 3rdTFW over there, and yeah, the spitting committee was at SeaTac when we got back. All the services had authorized civvies for travel, but they saw a bunch of us get off the bus and let us have it. I heard that later, they started taking the buses around on the tarmac and escorting the guys up thru ops. Some friends of mine got it at SFO too. You have to remember that 'Nam split this country in two and there wasn't anything else until desert storm in the early 90's. Most celebrating that weren't even born when 'Nam ended so patriotism made a brief comeback.
immermannjoseph
Copy that - thanks for your service!
hiflier32
ric lang 0
OH....I forgot to ask you this.....Did the civilians spit on you when you got back?? I find it interesting that the civilians now are just short of kissing the asses of the GIs coming back from wherever, and lo and behold, they're all GD HEROS as well! Just saying.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 2
I think the difference is that people today are more informed and even though it's not a well-respected expression on this forum, they're more politically correct. Just more aware of what's right and what's not. Whether they agree with the government's involving America, they realize the soldiers aren't responsible for that, but are putting themselves in harm's way to protect our beliefs. My son came home from Iraq and since his SeaBea unit wasn't slated to go, he tranferred units to go. He's my idea of a hero. People today have returned to the realization that our troops are to be respected for what they do.
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
I got it at LAX after finishing MCS in San Antonio in 70.
immermannjoseph
I know what you mean - I never did get in on a mass casualty situation, but I sure know how crappy it feels to be on a scene with not enough resources on location yet for what you have. Mass casualty must be that lousy feeling x 100!
preacher1
preacher1 1
VKSheridan
VKSheridan 1
Sadly, the things we want to remember, we forget and the things we'd like to forget, we remember.
JoeBaxter08
Joe Baxter 1
What had happened on United Airlines flight UA232? Could someone explain it to me.
bbabis
Bill Babis 2
Easier to google it Joe. You will find plenty. This article is about the resulting crash landing that was a remarkable effort by all involved.
smoki
smoki 1
Some years ago, circa 1990, I witnessed a high speed low pass crash of a single engine jet, the model used by the Canadian Red Arrows, in which the pilot at the controls knew just enough to be dangerous, who had purchased the airplane with his father's money (a wealthy oil family). He was performing for the benefit of a film crew at the far end of the runway whose intent was presumably to use the footage for a TV commercial which never aired. Such things were common at the Mojave airport, CA. He had done several high speed low passes but on this, his last and fatal pass, he attempted to roll the airplane from what appeared to be no more than 15 feet above the runway but without benefit of raising the nose sufficiently to begin the roll. Predictably the left wing hit the surface and instantly resulted in disintegration of the airplane in a fireball. My son and I were in the landing pattern doing T&Gs on the crossing runway as part of his instruction in pursuit of his PP license. We landed immediately and were among the first to get to the scene along with the crash crew. Body parts were as scattered as the wreckage. I noticed a single yellow legal pad sheet of paper being blown along with the wind, picked it up and realized it was the pilot's listing of maneuvers he had written down with the fateful roll shown as one of the planned maneuvers.
immermannjoseph
That is a powerful experience smoki! I found that coming up on scenes as a responder is not the same as witnessing the event actually occur. Until I saw one for myself I did not fully appreciate what the people on scene were feeling.
ADXbear
ADXbear 1
wow..
outward
This is a very sobering article. I don't know that I would be able to go in and help and not break down at the loss of life and the suffering.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
Don't know if it's a typical reaction, but my personal experience is I switch into autopilot, just do what has to be done, then when it's over and I pack up to go home it hits me - and that's when the emotional breakdown happens. Something releases and I let go.

Years ago, I was good friends with some paramedics on our local fire department. When they'd return to the firehouse after an especially serious incident, particularly involving children, they'd laugh and make jokes. I was shocked and disgusted at what I considered callous behavior - until they explained to me it was just their way of getting through it cuz otherwise they couldn't do it again.
preacher1
preacher1 2
Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
Exactly.
joelwiley
joel wiley 1
You just do what you can on the scene. I found myself becoming more callous periodically. Finally left the medical field.
donhun1313
donhun1313 1
WOW!!!!!
preacher1
preacher1 1
Seems like most of us on here have had some kind of EMT/first responder experience of some kind. The two main themes running thru all these posts of those that have had it is 1. It is not as much fun or as glamorous as it looks to some and 2. That it takes it toll on you personally after a time. It is something you never forget but once away from it you don't necessarily want to go back thru it.
immermannjoseph
Very well put preacher1. Another thing I am only just starting to appreciate is what my children involuntarily gave up, what with me on the ambulance full time and my wife working the ER...countless birthdays and holidays lost or partially celebrated. Missed school and sporting events, and even more days when I was home but mentally and physically beat. On a brighter note I do remember a fellow medic, mentor, and great friend coming to the ER to see me after I ran my first serious accident scene. He was smiling because he saw the glow I had from doing what I was trained and born to do. That was a cool moment. His name was Dave and his father flew Skyraiders off of the USS Wasp in Korea. Never got to meet his Dad, though - he died many years before I knew Dave.
jkudlick
Thanks for the link. This is now on my must-read list.
thompson36532
It's hard to make any sort of comment after reading that.
AWAAlum
AWAAlum 1
I've often heard the phrase, but never experienced it - that is, until I read this article... " I was covered in goose bumps!" Even now, my body feels tense. That writing - was so real - and I hope and pray that's as real as it ever gets. Wow!
immermannjoseph
It is a bit of a challenge just circling for an accurate practice emergency approach to a farm field from 3-5000 feet in a single engine light plane, but those guys maneuvered a multi-ton heavy airliner with no hydraulic assist and no direction from their emergency manuals (this had never occurred before)onto the airport property. They could not get lined up on a runway, too difficult. In fact when they were on final ATC said something to the effect that they were clear for a particular runway and Captain Al Haines called back and joked "So you're going to be specific and make it a runway, huh?" Absolutely amazing job. Unfortunately if memory serves they also had to approach at a higher rate of speed than normal which would add unwanted kinetic energy to the crash impact.
preacher1
preacher1 0
That's TUFF STUFF

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