How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation: The DC-10 Story

How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation: The DC-10 Story


Thanks to Squarespace for making this
video possible, more on that after this video. In just a few short years it would
go from being the pride of Airlines to a plane that some thought twice about
flying. [Television] The cargo door was found to have a basic fault in design. Before you got on the DC-10, were you worried about it? After the Chicago disaster though it’s the engine mountings that have come under the closest scrutiny. After a series of accidents, McDonnell Douglas is newest
jet was engulfed in an extraordinary wave of controversy. And while the DC-10
ultimately went on to be safe reliable even pioneering, the company that built
it never fully recovered from its missteps. the DC-10’s story begins in the early
1970s, at a pivotal time, when air travel was undergoing a revolution.
Long-distance flying, once reserved for the wealthy, opened up to the middle
class. And some of this had to do with aircraft design. A 1960s era airliner
like a long-range Boeing 707 had a single aisle, accommodating at most six
seats across. But a new generation of planes introduced for the 1970s added
another aisle allowing for many more seats. These new generation of airliners
were called wide-bodies and their increased capacity and new efficient fan
jet engines helped make air travel more affordable. Leading the way was Boeing’s
revolutionary 747. Introduced in 1970, the world’s first wide-body was doubled the
size of earlier airliners, and the jumbo jet quickly became an icon of the jet age. But
rival manufacturers raced to unveil wide-bodies of their own. In 1971
McDonnell Douglas introduced the DC-10. With a striking trijet configuration, it
promised improved fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs. The medium to long range airliner could be configured to carry anywhere from 255 to
380 passengers. And with larger windows and a quiet spacious cabin, the DC-10 set
a new benchmark for passenger comfort. This was an entirely new kind of
airliner and McDonnell Douglas anticipated huge demand. But so did rival
Lockheed, a company also introducing a new trijet wide-body aimed at largely
the same market as the DC-10. The two companies were building pretty much the
same plane, but the L-1011 was Lockheed’s first ever jet airliner. McDonnell
Douglas on the other hand, had been building them since the late 1950s, so
they knew a thing or two about slinging jets. The DC-10’s wide-body design
incorporated many existing narrow-body technologies from earlier DC-8 and DC-9s.
Focusing on simplicity and reliability, McDonnell Douglas took a technologically
cautious in an era of rapid technological change.
And this helped accelerate the DC-10s development. On the other hand the L-1011s more ambitious and technically advanced design threw Lockheed’s
program into a tailspin of cost overruns and delays. The DC-10 beat the L-1011 to
the market, and it was less expensive. So McDonnell Douglas was soon out selling
its rival. [Television] the DC-10 is probably the quietest jetliner you’ve ever flown in. The
United DC-10 Friendship, a plane designed to please everybody. From a wide-body
Continental Airlines DC-10… but the DC-10 would quickly lose its shine. In just a
few short years the new jet would go from being the pride of Airlines, to a
plane that some people thought twice about flying. A series of accidents
during the 1970s, some of which were attributed to the plane’s design, engulfed
the DC-10 in an extraordinary wave of controversy. McDonnell Douglas found
itself facing accusations that it had rushed the planes development, leading to inadequate, even negligent design decisions. In 1979 an American Airlines
DC-10 was involved in America’s worst air disaster, but it’s the events after
the crash that really damaged the plane’s reputation. In an unprecedented
move, the Federal Aviation Administration suspended the DC-10 Type Certificate.
For five weeks U.S. registered DC-10s sat grounded on tarmacs, and foreign
DC-10s were banned from flying into U.S. airspace. The investigation focused on a
suspected flaw with the airplane’s engine mountings, but the sudden grounding
caused chaos at airports. [Television] How are you going to get there now? I have no idea, I just picked up my luggage downstairs in the mess, I don’t know where I’m going to go form here. Before you got on the DC-10, were you worried about it? Well, in Los Angeles where it was every news report had a big write-up of it–about the incident of the DC-10s
so it makes it is very much on edge. This delay is due to DC-10 operating restrictions. And passengers are requested to await further calls concerning this flight. A spokesman for the FAA and the United
States declared there was a distinct possibility that the model might never fly again operators and passengers around the
world are wondering whether the sight of a climbing DC-10 will be as common in
the future, or whether it will ever be seen again. Damage to the DC-10s
reputation was immediate and severe. Airlines stopped featuring the plane in
their advertisements, some quietly removed DC-10s from their mainline
routes and new orders for McDonnell Douglas wide-body dried up. But the 1979
American Airlines crash was ultimately attributed to improper maintenance
procedures and not directly to a design flaw in the DC-10. But that did little to
vindicate the plane’s reputation in the eyes of the public. Because memories were still fresh from an even deadlier incident five years earlier. In 1974 a
Turkish Airlines DC-10 crashed outside of Paris when an improperly locked cargo
door blew open. The explosive depressurization triggered a
catastrophic chain of events which ultimately severed critical hydraulic
lines needed to control the jet. This was one of the world’s worst air disasters,
and it might have been avoidable because two years earlier the same catastrophic
chain of events almost brought down an American Airlines DC-10 just outside of
Detroit. Only the pilot’s skill and sheer luck that some hydraulic lines still
remained intact prevented disaster. But remarkably McDonnell Douglas knew about issues with the cargo door even before the plane entered service the company
had witnessed the cargo door blow up during its own ground testing. Not
surprisingly, McDonnell Douglas was criticized for how it handled the issue,
which involved negotiating their way out of an FAA issued air
worthiness directive. Instead McDonnell Douglas was allowed to handle the cargo
door flaw by issuing a Service Bulletin. But it was ultimately ignored by some
airlines. After the Turkish Airlines disaster McDonnell Douglas was hit with
multiple lawsuits from families of the victims, including up to that point the
largest lawsuit in history. And when it became clear they’d likely be held
liable, the cases were settled. But while the Turkish Airlines disaster was a PR
nightmare for McDonnell Douglas, it’s the 1979 Chicago disaster that really seemed
to crystallize the DC-10s reputation. The ensuing media frenzy, much of it driven
by speculation, was truly unprecedented. But there were other more pointed
criticisms, like accusations that the DC-10 s design had been compromised in a deliberate rush to beat the L-1011 to the market, resulting in an overall less
sophisticated plane. But what is certain is that it would take years for the
DC-10 s reputation to recover. And by the 1980s,McDonnell Douglas was facing even bigger challenges. The market had really only been big enough for one trijet and that ensured that neither would become a true commercial success Airlines now wanted more efficient twin-engine wide-bodies from Airbus and Boeing.
McDonnell Douglas was running out of cash to innovate, but that didn’t stop
the company from trying. [Television] With a new MD-11, McDonnell Douglas once again sets a
standard for commercial transport excellence and technological innovation.
McDonnell Douglas’s efforts to sell an improved version of its trijet in an era
when twin-engine jets were clearly the future signaled the beginning of the end
for the once legendary aircraft builder. But despite its troubled start the DC-10
would fly for over 40 years, serving with some of the world’s largest airlines. In
spite of tragic early accidents, including an infamous later incident in
Sioux City, statistically the DC-10 safety record would go on to be
comparable to other wide-bodies of the era, and much safer than earlier
generations of airliners. Noted for their strength, reliability, and ease of
maintenance, these iconic jets were workhorses for reputable airlines, and in
no small part the DC-10 helped open up air travel to the masses, forever
changing the modern airline industry. Ladies and gentlemen at this time we’d
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100 thoughts on “How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation: The DC-10 Story

  1. Last year we covered the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkFYD7R_Xig)…. this year we take a look at the DC-10!

  2. Never liked the DC 10, the centre engine looked like an after thought. The L1011 was the aircraft the DC10 should have been.

  3. McDonnel Douglas knew about the cargo door for years and did the minimum to resolve for cost reasons with evident consequences. Companies that behave in this way should die just like MD has.

  4. Bottom line the DC-10 was a death trap. Thank God it was grounded before it killed anymore people.

  5. Um excuse me did he just say the word “tarmac”… sorry man but “tarmac” is not ever used in flight training or aviation at all. What you call a “tarmac” is more correctly referred to as a “ramp” or “apron”.

  6. ♪ Spanish bombs rock the province

    ♫ I'm hearing music from another time

    ♪ Spanish bombs on the Costa Brava

    ♫ I'm flying in on a DC 10 tonight

  7. My first flight ever was a Continental Airlines DC-10. We were in the middle row, couldn't see shit, but I liked it. No bumps at all.

  8. Thanks for the video. My only complaint was that you could have gone into more details for the accidents. It leaves a huge gap by not giving more background.

  9. I recently saw a comparison between this and the 737 Max in being unsafe and avoided by passengers
    Made me curious

  10. The death cruiser 10
    The death caravan 10
    The deadly creamer 10
    The deathly certified 10
    The deadly certificate 10
    The death carnation 10
    The Douglas crashplane 10
    The double crasher 10
    The dangerous cruiser 10

  11. People forget that the dc-10 is now so dangerous the usaf went and made an airborne tanker version called kc-10 extender.

  12. If the cargo door problem never happened I can assure you that this plane would be still being produced and used today, and we would even be in like version 5 of the thing

  13. For me, the saddest thing is that it brought down a Concorde, it is a pity that we can no longer fly on that

  14. The same thing is happening with the B737MAX but even worse. The MAX grounding is going to be a turning point for Boeing. They need something big to turn themselves around. They overplayed their and with the B737MAX.

  15. UPS purchase all the rest of a DC-10 and DC 11 and 12. Has been frying them for years never had an accident with one yet.

  16. I paid for YT Premium so I wouldn't have to listen to ads. I don't want to hear about squarespace!

  17. There are 2 other giants that need to be mentioned: the succesfull Airbus A300 and the unsuccesfully Soviet Jumbo Jet: the Ilyushin Il-86

  18. Then there was the turbine exploding out of engine 2, causing the Sioux City crash…. and then it left a piece on the runway putting the final nail in the coffin (there were other factors) for the cause of the Concorde crash…the DC-10 was a disaster, to the point it took out another plane! ..and the [email protected] CONCORD at that!! 🤮☹

  19. I once read that freddie mercury refused to bored a DC 10 in Tokyo back in the 70s and waited 15 hours for another flight bad times when even mr Mercury a man who lived on the wild side doesn’t even want to step foot on that aircraft

  20. The DC-10 sure had some probs from the get-go. The design of the rear cargo hatch in itself was one big prob, even despite being helped, in one incodent, by one groundcrew member shaving down one DC-10's rear hatch latching pins to make it operate smoother. Aside from that, the 191 helped matters none with the broken engine mount debacle, which was discovered later to be yet another stupid expedient by groundcrews: to expedite engine changes, the engine & pylon (in American & continental's cases) were removed as one unit by forklift (United used an overhead hoist, which seemed to cause less damage) and then reattachment was not done carefully, resulting in damage to the rear mount . After 191's engine broke free, swung & sailed over the left wing and crashed into a thankfully sparsely-populated area of Chicago (only 2 on the ground killed, could've been far, far worse), other DC-10s were inspected…and many were found to have the same rear engine-mount cracks.. One had it so bad, the entire engine could be manipulated side-to-side by hand! It was then that this sin of expediency was gradually revealed. But too late…the damage was done.

  21. I remember when a DC-10 ran off the run way at Leeds & Bradford Airport years ago when i was a kid. The pilot landed to far down the runway and didnt have enough to stop so the plane ended up on the golf course!

  22. If you're wondering what that "infamous later incident in Sioux City" is, look up United Airlines Flight 232. That one, was one of the deadliest aviation accidents in US history, only eclipsed by American 191 and a couple others.

    (The September 11th attacks don't count because the planes themselves were working perfectly fine, and the airline pilots followed all the rules — only Middle Eastern terrorists changed the fate of the planes and passengers of that terrible day).

  23. Interesting how everybody calls the DC-10 a dangerous aircraft due to a rash of early accidents when it has one of the best safety records of all time. Not only that, but nearly every single incident involving a DC-10 can be attributed to poor/improper maintenance or pilot error as the root cause.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the MAX 8 ends up following a similar path once they've worked out the software bugs.
    That is if the media and public opinion don't kill it first.

  24. Would you guys agree that mustard should make a video about the A380 the story of this plane is interesting

  25. I never flew a DC10, but I did fly on an L1011 a fantastic plane! I use to work across from MD at the Long Beach airport at HP. I loved watching them tested. Sadly, they are no more.

  26. The people in charge of the DC-10 now work for Boeing in Chicago. Their business plan puts profits before safety and rushing of designs, not to mention hiring foreign computer firms who do not possess aviation knowledge to design aircraft control software. Sooooo! Boeing is going to go the way of McDonald Douglas eventually, that is out of business or bought out by Airbus. Why they adopted McDonald Douglas business plans after it failed horrendously is beyond logic. I think I'll be flying on Airbus aircraft from now on or older Boeing products built when quality counted for something.

  27. That piece of "metal" theory is totally bull. flat piece, similar to a venetian blind, on the runway, cutting a tire? Total, B.S.!

  28. Good summary of the DC-10. Without a doubt the L-1011 was a meticulously engineered jet. The L-1011 had more redundancy which did add to the cost but it had a great safety record. The L-1011 was faster than the DC-10 too. Lockheed made the mistake of designing a jet that would work with only the Rolls Royce engine. RR was behind schedule and went bankrupt. The UK bailed them out but by the time the L-1011's were delivered many Lockheed customers cancelled their orders and kept their DC-10's. L-1011 customers were flying DC-10's provided by Lockheed to meet needs while they waited on the TriStar. Crews were trained and comfortable as were the maintenance and other workers. I've flown Lockheed and Douglas but never the DC-10 or L1011. I have jump-seated on both numerous times and the TriStar was miles ahead!

  29. I rode a Dc10 once (Finnair) and it was scary. The wings were wobbling so badly that it looked like it was gonna break apart.

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