Pilot William Records, ’63, helps save dozens in plane crash

The flaming, cart­wheeling landing of United Airlines Flight 232 at the Sioux City, Iowa, airport last July 19 left First Officer William Records and his three fellow crew members pinned in a debris-filled cockpit so badly damaged that even rescue workers were slow to recognize what it was. “I think they (the rescue workers) passed it by for quite a while, not thinking anyone could be in it,” recalls Records, the flight’s co-pilot. “It was hard to identify it as anything but a piece of debris.”

Records, who received a UW business degree in 1963, was among 184 passengers and crew who miraculously survived the crash. The accident fractured Records’ pelvis, both hips and eight ribs. He remained conscious through the entire ordeal, however. “I was lying there, looking out sideways, with my face in the dirt, pinned in the wreckage,” he recalls. “The others were on top of me.” He spent a month recovering in a Sioux City hospital and another two weeks convalescing at his Woodinville, Wash., home. Without any hesitation, the 49-year-old Records returned to flying Nov. 24. “Back on the DC- 10,” he said. “There have been no psychological problems. It’s going real well.”

It was going anything but well on July 19 when Co-Pilot Records, Captain Al Haynes, Second Officer Dudley Dvorak and Captain Dennis Fitch (a United pilot who happened a passenger) struggled for 45 minutes to keep the crippled aircraft aloft without its hydraulic system. “We were so preoccupied with the whole job there was no time to get excited or scared,” he recalls. Records and his fellow crew members recently received the Superior Airmanship Award from the Air Line Pilots Association for their heroic efforts.