Captain Cronin (of United 811) passes away at age 81

Captain David Cronin unfortunately passed away on Monday in his home in Nevada. Now, I don’t typically do obituaries, but as a pilot there are certain stories that never get old and deserve to live on. And the story of United 811 back in 1989 from Honolulu to Auckland is one of them. For all the times you have accidents that are due to pilot error, you have some that are almost guaranteed for doom, yet great piloting gets them to the ground safely. As you may remember, the cargo door blew off the aircraft while climbing out, yet Captain Cronin managed to get the plane down in (just about) one piece.

And what’s even more impressive, United couldn’t recreate the situation in a simulator and land it safely, even with several tries. So this guy truly is a hero.

If you haven’t seen it, check out the Air Crash Investigation episode of United 811:

Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting next to United’s former chief captain on the 747 on a flight to Los Angeles, and Captain Cronin came up in the conversation, as the former chief captain said what an amazing guy he was.

Filed Under: United
  1. Thanks for posting this notice. I had all but forgotten this accident and now recall what heros Captain Cronin and his crew proved to be in saving the lives of so many!

  2. I think we use the term ‘hero’ too loosely these days; regardless, what the crew of United 811 did that morning was nothing short of inspirational. If anyone wonders what teamwork is, they should read the cockpit transcript of those three gentlemen working together.

  3. it is truely heroic,amazing whatever word you want to call it. i put this flight, and united 232 in sioux city, as the most underated and forgotten “heroic” momments of aviation…..RIP CAPT

  4. currently sitting at home watching aircrash investigation, this episode is showing the very flight of the united 747 rest in peace captain Cronin

  5. Knew David (Mr. Cronin) some, but knew his family well during my high school years. Nevertheless, David was always kind to me. I last spoke to David sometime in the middle 80s due to a happenstance meeting along a roadway… we pulled over to chat. I never forgot how he inspired me to stay the course in my career direction… offering ideas and “always” it was wrapped in discipline. Always felt honored… totally touched, this great man… this hero, found time to share with this kid who was trying to find his way in life. Not sure why it took me so long to send this, but I’m glad I did. BTW… David… I made it!

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