Release #12.33
August 7, 2012

United Airlines Crew to Receive ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Award
Pilots Honored for Safely Landing Aircraft with Faulty Landing Gear

WASHINGTON―United Airlines pilots Capt. Dale Nordhausen and First Officer John Eskuri will be honored by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), for safely landing after their aircraft’s landing gear door failed to fully open and blocked the right main landing gear from extending and locking into position. The pilots will receive the Association’s Superior Airmanship Award on August 9 at ALPA’s 58th Air Safety Forum Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C.

“Capt. Nordhausen and First Officer Eskuri are a testament to the skills and training that define a United Airlines pilot,” said United MEC chairman Capt. Jay Heppner. “With each flight, United pilots enter the cockpit prepared and equipped to handle such situations as these two faced. We earn our reputation of being among the world’s safest aviators, and Capt. Nordhausen and First Officer Eskuri represent the best of the best among superior airmen.

“We don’t hear much about heroes in aviation these days. Capt. Nordhausen and First Officer Eskuri join Al Haynes, Denny Fitch, and Chesley Sullenberger among the ranks of aviation heroes. The 51 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 634 on January 10, 2010, remember Capt. Nordhausen and First Officer Eskuri in that way.”

Capt. Nordhausen was in command of United Flight 634 on January 10, 2010, assisted by First Officer Eskuri, flying from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport with 48 passengers and three flight attendants aboard. The aircraft was operating normally until First Officer Eskuri asked Capt. Nordhausen to extend the landing gear on final approach.

When Capt. Nordhausen tried to deploy the landing gear, the aircraft’s monitoring systems indicated that one or more landing gear doors were not down and locked. After cycling the landing gear to try to correct the problem, Capt. Nordhausen then took control of the airplane and followed procedures to try to extend the landing gear using gravity. Despite these efforts, the right main landing gear light remained red, indicating the landing gear had not been deployed and locked properly.

During the next eight minutes, Capt. Nordhausen flew the airplane and coordinated with air traffic control for delaying and positioning vectors, while also coordinating with the flight attendants to prepare the passengers for a gear-up landing. Taking additional time to ensure that the flight attendants, passengers, and airport rescue and firefighting crews were prepared before attempting to land, Capt. Nordhausen touched down on the runway on the left main landing gear and held the right wing off the ground for about 300 feet before the right engine nacelle settled to the runway.

After the airplane came to rest, the purser activated the evacuation alarm, and the flight attendants instructed the passengers to evacuate the cabin. All passengers and crew were safely evacuated without serious injury and the airplane suffered only minor damage. The incident led to United making changes to its checklists, the Federal Aviation Administration requiring inspections throughout the airline industry, and a redesign of the door actuator, which had blocked the landing gear from deploying properly.

“A tribute to their professional training and expert skills, Capt. Nordhausen and First Officer Eskuri’s decisive action under pressure allowed them to safely land a damaged aircraft and protect the lives of the 48 passengers and three flight attendants aboard,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “Both pilots deserve tremendous credit and serve as a model of professionalism for all airline pilots.”

Capt. Nordhausen resides in Elgin, Ill., and First Officer Eskuri lives in Spring Grove, Ill.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing more than 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada.


CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703/481-4440, or