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  • 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.

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

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/29
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