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Pilot who helped saved 184 lives dies

PUBLISHED: 12:42 14 May 2012 | UPDATED: 14:14 10 October 2012

Denny Fitch – the airline pilot who helped to fly a stricken DC-10 that crash - landed in Sioux City, Iowa, during 1989 – has passed away at the age of 69.

Denny Fitch – the airline pilot who helped to fly a stricken DC-10 that crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa, during 1989 – has passed away at the age of 69.

Fitch was hitching a ride home on the aircraft when he heard an explosion at the back of the jet and made his way up to the cockpit to try and help the crew.

The engine in the DC-10’s tail had exploded and chunks of metal had flown into all three hydraulic systems. As a result, the primary flight controls had failed.

Fitch helped to operate the wing engines in order to try and land the aircraft, which was carrying 296 people.

By varying the amount of thrust on each side they stabilised the aircraft in a right turn, and flew in circles for more than 40 minutes while aiming for Sioux City Airport.

The right wing struck the ground just above the runway and the aircraft’s fuselage was broken into three pieces. However, just over half of those on board survived.

After the incident DC-10 operators ran simulations in which pilots tried to land aeroplanes with similar problems, but none were able to make a survivable landing.

In the crash Fitch suffered injuries that required nine operations. He later became a motivational speaker.

Fitch died at his home in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles on 7 May after suffering from brain cancer.

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