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.