On July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232 departed Denver, bound for Chicago. An hour later, the flawed fan disk of the tail-mounted #2 engine failed catastrophically. Uncontained by the engine nacelle, shrapnel ripped through the tail, puncturing the lines of three presumably independent hydraulic systems. Within seconds, Captain Al Haynes realized that he and his crew were at 37,000 feet in a DC-10 with almost 300 people on board and no functioning controls. The crew used differential power from the remaining two engines – the only control they had – to return the plane and its' passengers to the ground. Miraculously, 184 survived.

Born in Paris, Texas, Al attended Texas A&M College before joining the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1952. He was released from the service in 1956 after serving as a Marine aviator and joined United Airlines that year. He flew the DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, Boeing 727, and DC-10. Al was promoted to captain in 1985 and flew until his retirement in August 1991, accumulating more than 27,000 hours of flight time.