United Flight 232 - 25 Years Later - Part 2

(SIOUX CITY, IA) Flight 232 changed the way airplanes are made today. The crash was caused by a small defect in the DC-10's rear engines fan disk. Not only did the hairline crack cause the engine to blow but it caused all three hydraulic lines to malfunction and rapidly lose fluid.

It may have been prevented if detected during maintenance checks. Which is why Flight 232 also changed the way airplanes are inspected.

But not every tragic event of that day has changed the way things are today. Siouxland News Reporter Heather Leigh explains.

"Sioux City, I've got an emergency for you."


"I've got an aircraft coming in with a lost number two engine, having a hard time controlling the aircraft right now. He's headed 29 South right now, descending to Sioux City right now."

"He wants the equipment standing by right now."

July 19th, 1989 - Sioux City was about to find itself in the middle of a major disaster.

"We have no hydraulic fluid which means we have no elevator control, almost none and very little aileron control. I have serious doubts about making the airport."

No one at the time, not even the pilots knew what caused the tail engine to explode. All they knew was that this giant aircraft was in trouble.

"This crash changed something fundamental in airline travel and that was how titanium is made," said Laurence Gonzales, Author of United Flight 232.

During the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into the crash it pin-pointed the cause - a hairline fracture in a fan disk.

In the report released in November of 1990 it states,"The disk contained two principal fracture areas, resulting in about one-third of the rim separating from the remainder of the disk."

"It could have been so much as a small hair that got into the molding, an air bubble that would have caused a weak spot that just gradually affected the integrity of the whole disk," said Larry Finley, the Director of the Mid America Air Museum.

"Ever since that crash there have been advances and changes in the way titanium is made that are pretty significant for aircraft today," said Gonzales.

It also changed the way the parts are inspected.

The NTSB report notes these fan blades showed the presence of a fluorescent dye used to see cracks during maintenance which means the cracks were there prior to the crash and should have been found and fixed.

"It was a very deeply history events and of course it changed thousands of lives," said Gonzales.

One thing that hasn't changed are the rules for lap babies. You can still bring an infant on board for free without a car seat.

However, the emergency landing recommendations have changed since flight 232.

25 years ago, Susan Callender, a flight attendant on United 232 was instructed to tell passengers to put their babies on the ground.

According to the NTSB report, there were three toddlers and one infant on the plane that were considered "lap babies."

Callender also told a man traveling to put his child on the ground.

According to Laurence Gonzales, that child was 3-years-old without a seat, traveling as a lap baby.

"There was a man that had a baby on his lap and he had a blanket over top. He was strapped in with the baby and I explained to him that that would crush the baby and that FAA regulations said the safest way was to wrap babies and blankets in pillows and put them on the floor in front of the parent," recalled Callender.

The NTSB report says all four unsecured children flew out of their parents' arms.

Three survived, one died. The 3-year-old also died.

Since the crash the FAA strongly urges parents to use a car seat to secure the child. That means you'll have to pay for the extra seat but the FAA says it's the safest place for babies.

One thing that will remain the same is the tragedy of the crash.

Runway 22 is where United 232 was trying to land that fateful afternoon according to Air Museum Director Larry Finley.

You can still see the area where the right wing tilted down and scraped along the runway.

Finley says they haven't covered up these markings because they want to preserve the memory of what happened that day.

While the facts and the details about the crash will live on for years, there are fewer people alive who experienced it, to tell the story and this year may be the last time those people gather to share their experiences.

"Gosh, there's so many people that volunteered their time that were so generous and thoughtful and I just want to come back and embrace them and thank them and connect with them again," said Callender.

Sioux City will be holding a 3 day reflection on the crash to remember how Siouxland responded and to share their learnings, educate others and reflect on spiritual blessings.

Friday, July 18th: 5 PM -8:30 PMEmergency units from the tr-state area will park along Pierce between 5th and 6th street. A reception will be held at 7 PM with presentations and a video from George Linblade.

Saturday, July 19th: There will be several open houses at different area responders, agencies and institutions.

9 AM - 1 PM : Security Research Institute, Sioux City Fire Station (Number TBD), Briar Cliff University.

12 PM- 3 PM: 185th Air National Gaurd, Memorial @ Riverfront, Mid America Museum of Aviation and Transportation.

3 PM - 4:30 PM: Reelection and Dedication Ceremony: MC Rev. Greg Clapper with Capt. Al Haynes: Dedicate new permanent displays @ Mid America Museum of Aviation and Transportation. Reflection Ceremony - with U.A. 232 Capt. Al Haynes, crew members, survivors and responders.

Sunday, July 20th:

Remembrance Service - Pastor Darrin Vick, Rev. Greg Clapper, Sister Mary Margaret, Hospital $ College Chaplains.

11:00 AM: Anderson Dance Pavilion and Flight 232 Memorial

If you are interested in coming to the memorial and you are from out of town, you can book a room at the Marina Inn and Stoney Creek Inn.