The Story Of The DC-10

The DC-10 is an iconic aircraft manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. This three engine, wide-body jet first came into service in the summer of 1971 with American Airlines. The jet could seat up to 380 passengers and was usually used for medium and long-haul routes. The DC-10 had many different variants, with shorter range and long range models.


Unfortunately, the beginning of the aircraft's operations didn't go too well. They had a major problem with the cargo doors. Unlike most planes at the time, the DC-10s cargo doors opened outward. This design choice was made so that the holds could be filled to maximum capacity. These doors required special locking mechanisms to make sure that they did not open during flight. The issue with the doors was first brought up after American Airlines flight 96 which, after taking off from Detroit (DTW), lost its rear cargo door and had to make an emergency landing due to the collapse of the cabin floor. 

Photo by Pedro Aragao

A similar situation happened on a Turkish Airlines flight, however on this occasion all 346 people on board were killed. After this catastrophic event, all DC-10s had to have door modifications upon the orders of the FAA.


A couple of years later, in the spring of 1979, an American Airlines DC-10 lost control after its left engine detached from the wing and hydraulic pressure was lost. The aircraft crashed, subsequently killing all 271 passengers on board and even killing 2 people on the ground.


To this day flight 191 remains the deadliest aviation accident in U.S. history. The DC-10 was then grounded in the U.S. (much like the 737 MAX) for 5 weeks until the correct modifications had been made.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Dylan Ashe

Following this incident, the reputation of the DC-10 was hurt significantly and sales were low. However, their safety record improved over the course of the years that came. In total the model was involved in 55 accidents and had over 1,260 fatalities to its name. 


The last commercial flight with passengers took off in February of 2014 and was on a Biman Bangladesh DC-10. Some farewell flights also took place soon after. Today, only freighter versions of this aircraft still operate, with the majority of the flights taking place in the United States of America.

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