Leaving the Earth

“The Impossible Landing”. United Airlines Denver to Chicago flight. July 19, 1989.

They lose all 3 engines and hydraulics (a “one in a billion” likelihood, the experts later say).

They Crash-land in Sioux City.

296 on board. 112 die (United’s deadliest). Yet, 184 survive –a beacon of crew skill.

This doc is all about the unlikely here: Denny Fitch, 46. Not a crew member — just a passenger with piloting experience.

Denny knew of a similar 1985 crash in Japan. Trained for it.

He lands this one purely with throttles. An aviation marvel.

After the flight, no other pilot using simulators could replicate the landing.

That’s why they call it “The Impossible Landing.”

Trailer for “Leaving Earth (First Person)”

Where to Watch “Leaving Earth (First Person)”

You can watch the doc for free on YouTube here:

…or at this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf33RDu_D6M


  • Genre: Aviation, Airline Disasters, Survival
  • Release Date: 2001
  • Director: Errol Morris)
  • Runtime: 55 min.
  • IMDB Score: 8.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: na

My Favorite Parts (includes Spoiler Alerts)

  •  In the last 25 years there has never been a survivable “loss of controls” accident.
  • Losing all hydraulics on this airplane is a 1 billion chance…but it happens.
  • The DC 10 is coming in for landing at 250mph, a 100 mph faster than normal (the higher speed is needed. For better control). They have no brakes.
  • After the crash, McDonnell Douglas simulates the crash and no pilot can survive in 28 simulations.

The Aftermath (after the Doc)

Survivors include Jerry Schemmel (former radio broadcaster of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Rockies) and Pete Wernick (banjo player for bluegrass ensemble Hot Rize). Pete performs 2 days after the crash.

Thank you for reading!

-Rob Kelly