On July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, was en route from Denver's Stapleton International Airport to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport when its number two tail engine suffered a catastrophic failure over the cornfields of Iowa. Only through the heroic actions of the flight deck crew led by Captain Al Haynes with the assistance of United check pilot Denny Fitch, who happened to be on board as a passenger that fateful afternoon, did 185 people survive the resulting crash at Sioux City's Sioux Gateway Airport. Unlike most airline disasters, indelible images of the final moments of Flight 232 were captured by a local news crew in a video that no one who remembers that day can forget.
In Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival, Laurence Gonzales provides an in-depth look at the tragedy, highlighting the triumph and heroism of those that on-board that survived and as well as those on the ground that were deeply impacted by the crash. Gonzales takes us onto the stricken airliner and tells us the stories of various people as well as chronicling the pilots' fight to get the plane to Sioux City. The narrative is gripping and has you tense and on the edge of your seat as you imagine what those terrifying 45 minutes must have been like for those on Flight 232. Gonzales recreates in words the sights, sounds and smell of the crash itself and later the post-crash experiences of survivors as well as emergency and medical personnel who had to retrieve and identify the remains of those killed. Finally, we follow the steps of the investigation that led to the identification of the tiny defect that ultimately brought down the jumbo jet.
This was such a fantastic book. Granted, I am a commercial aviation geek, so this book would naturally hold strong appeal for me. The great human stories as well as the many technical details of the accident are absolutely riveting. If you have any interest in commercial aviation or disasters, put this book on your reading list.