When he heard the explosion, Fitch went to the back of the plane to see what had happened, and then made his way to the cockpit to offer his help. It was needed and it was accepted and what happened for the next quarter of an hour made aviation history.
First, the four pilots stabilized the plane by adjusting the thrust on the two remaining engines – giving first one of them the gas, so to speak, and then the other — thereby creating a makeshift steering system. Fitch took the throttles, but soon realized he could only control the speed so much, and wouldn’t be able to get the plane to less than 250 miles per hour.
This is too fast to land a DC-10, but it was going to have to suffice.
Overseeing all this activity, and communicating with air traffic controllers on the ground, was Captain Haynes. To say he kept his head is an understatement.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ll have a beer when this is all done,” Fitch told him, according to cockpit records.
“Well, I don’t drink,” Haynes replied, “but I’ll sure as hell have one.”