Lifesaving United Captain Dennis Fitch Dies at 69

Dennis “Denny” Fitch, a United pilot and training check airman who was credited with helping save the lives of 184 people as United Flight 232 crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989, has died at the age of 69. Fitch was a passenger on the ill-fated United flight, scheduled to fly from Denver to Chicago. He offered his assistance to the flight crew after realizing there was a major problem with the airplane. The DC-10 had suffered a complete hydraulic failure — an event Fitch later claimed has a one in a billion chance of happening.

A few years ago, Fitch participated in a one-hour documentary about the event. Fitch thoroughly explains the decision-making process he and the pilots of United 232 went through to complete a semi-controlled crash landing, which saved more than half of the passengers in the airplane. The documentary clearly shows his incredible compassion for the passengers who lost their lives and those who survived.

At the end of the documentary, Fitch makes a plea to all pilots, one we should each consider seriously. “I imbue strongly on any pilot that I can: make sure that the airplane is the way you want it, make sure the fuel is the way you want it, make sure that the weather conditions are the way you need it. Just take it up another notch.”

Fitch died of cancer.

You can watch the first segment of the documentary below.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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