Yesterday’s landing on the Hudson River was amazing, meriting the pilot not just a ticker tape parade but also all the thanks we can muster. However, there have been other pilots just as amazing who were also in the right place at the right time.
Meet Denny Fitch, a training captain for the DC-10 who happened to be riding on one when the plane suffered an engine failure that managed to kill all three hydraulics systems used to operate flight controls.
Any modern plane has quite a few “control surfaces” that are used to manipulate how the plane behaves in the air. Flaps control the drag and lift of the wing, the rudder helps to turn the plane, etc.
The massive, catastrophic hydraulics failure on Fitch’s flight left him with only two controls that still worked: the power levers for the two engines. With only that control over the plane, he managed to keep it in the air, fly it to a nearby runway, and crash-land it in such a way to ensure that some passengers survived.
It’s not the type of flawless, miraculous feat that has the media all ga-ga over yesterday’ pilot, but it’s in many ways a more impressive one.
Academy Award-winner Errol Morris’ First Person TV series produced a one-hour episode recounting his dramatic tale, which is embedded above in its totality. Please enjoy.