- Aircraft History, Specification and Information -
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 Series
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10F - TAB Cargo - CP-2489 - Transportes Aereos Bolivianos
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10F
CP-2489 (sn 46903)
Transportes Aereos Bolivianos - TAB Cargo
Photo taken November 08, 2010
Miami International Airport, FL - USA (MIA / KMIA)
Photo © Marcel Siegenthaler

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a three-engine widebody airliner, with two engines mounted on underwing pylons and a third engine at the base of the vertical stabilizer. The DC-10 has range for medium to long haul flights. The model was a successor to the company's DC-8 for long-range operations, and competed in the same markets as the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, which has a similar layout to the DC-10.

Production of the DC-10 ended in 1989 with 386 delivered to airlines and 60 to the U.S. Air Force as air-to-air refueling tankers, designated the KC-10 Extender. The DC-10 was succeeded by the related McDonnell Douglas MD-11.


Following an unsuccessful proposal for the US Air Force's CX-HLS (Heavy Logistics System) in 1965, Douglas Aircraft began design studies based on its CX-HLS design. In 1966, American Airlines offered a specification to manufacturers for a widebody aircraft smaller than the Boeing 747 but capable of flying similar long-range routes from airports with shorter runways. The DC-10 became McDonnell Douglas's first commercial airliner after the merger between McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and Douglas Aircraft Company in 1967.

The DC-10 was first ordered by launch customers American Airlines with 25 orders, and United Airlines with 30 orders and 30 options in 1968. The DC-10, a series 10 model, made its first flight on August 29, 1970. Following a flight test program with 929 flights covering 1,551 hours, the DC-10 was awarded a type certificate from the FAA on July 29, 1971. It entered commercial service with American Airlines on August 5, 1971 on a round trip flight between Los Angeles and Chicago. United Airlines began DC-10 service on August 16, 1971. The DC-10's similarity to the L-1011 in terms of passenger capacity and launch in the same timeframe resulted in a head to head sales competition which affected profitability of the aircraft.

The first DC-10 version was the "domestic" series 10 with a range of 3,800 miles (3,300 nmi, 6,110 km) with a typical passenger load and a range of 2,710 miles (2,350 nmi, 4,360 km) with maximum payload. The series 15 had a typical load range of 4,350 miles (3,780 nmi, 7,000 km). The series 20 was powered by Pratt & Whitney JT9D turbofan engines, whereas the series 10 and 30 engines were General Electric CF6. Before delivery of its aircraft, Northwest's president asked that the "series 20" aircraft be redesignated "series 40" because the aircraft was much improved over the original design. The FAA issued the series 40 certificate on October 27, 1972.

The series 30 and 40 were the longer range "international" versions. One of the main visible differences between the models is that the series 10 has three sets of landing gear (one front and two main) while the series 30 and 40 have four gear (one front, three main). The center main two-wheel landing gear (which extends from the center of the fuselage) was added to accommodate the extra weight by distributing the weight and providing additional braking. The series 30 had a typical load range of 6,220 mi (10,010 km) and a maximum payload range of 4,604 mi (7,410 km). The series 40 had a typical load range of 5,750 miles (9,265 km) and a maximum payload range of 4,030 miles (3,500 nmi, 6,490 km).

Eventually, the DC-10 was able to distinguish itself from its competitors with two engine options, as well as earlier introduction of longer range variants than the L-1011. The 446th and final DC-10 rolled off the production line in December 1988 and was delivered to Nigeria Airways in July 1989. The DC-10 was assembled at McDonnell Douglas's Douglas Products Division in Long Beach, California. As the final few DC-10 deliveries were occurring, McDonnell Douglas had already started production of the DC-10's successor, the MD-11.


The DC-10 is a low-wing cantilever monoplane, powered by three turbofan engines. Two engines are mounted on pylons that attach to the bottom of the wings, while the third engine is encased in a protective banjo-shaped structure, that is mounted on the top of the rear fuselage. The vertical stabilizer, with its two-segment rudder, is mounted on top of the tail engine banjo. The horizontal stabilizer and its four-segment elevator, is attached to the sides of the rear fuselage in the conventional manner. The airliner has a retractable tricycle landing gear. To enable higher gross weights, the later -30 and -40 series have an additional two-wheel main landing gear, which retracts into the center of the fuselage.

It was designed for medium to long-range flights that can accommodate 250 to 380 passengers, and is operated by a cockpit flight crew of three. The fuselage has underfloor stowage for cargo and baggage.


The DC-10 was manufactured in five main variants with two other variants proposed.

Original variants

The DC-10-10 was the original passenger version, produced from 1970. The DC-10-10 was equipped with GE CF6-6 engines, which was the first civil engine from the successful CF6-family. A total of 122 were built.

The DC-10-10CF is a convertible passenger/cargo transport version of the -10. Nine were built for Continental Airlines (8) and United Airlines (1).

The DC-10-15 variant was designed for use at hot high-altitude airports. The series 15 was basically a -10 fitted with higher-thrust GE CF6-50C2F (derated DC-10-30 engines) powerplants. Built for only Mexican carriers Aeroméxico and Mexicana. Seven were built between 1979 and 1982.

The DC-10-20 was a proposed version of the DC-10-10 powered by Pratt & Whitney JT9D turbofans. With minimal airline interest for the original -20, the name was initially recycled to cover the Pratt-powered version of the intercontinental-range DC-10-30. Northwest, one of the launch customers for this longer-range JT9D-powered DC-10 requested the name change to DC-10-40 (see -40 entry below).

Longer range variants

The DC-10-30 is a long-range model and was the most common model produced. It was built with General Electric CF6-50 turbofan engines and larger fuel tanks to increase range and fuel efficiency, as well as a set of rear center landing gear to support the increased weight. It was very popular with European flag carriers. A total of 163 were built from 1972 to 1988 and delivered to 38 different customers.

The DC-10-30CF is the convertible cargo/passenger transport version of the -30. A total of 26 were built with deliveries to Martinair Holland (4), Overseas National Airways (5), Sabena (5), Trans International Airlines (3) and World Airways (9). Sabena was the only commercial operator to fly both cargo and passengers at the same time with its DC-10-30CF.

The DC-10-30ER is the extended range version of the -30. The first aircraft was delivered to Finnair in 1981, followed by Swissair with two aircraft in 1982 and finally Thai Airways International with two in 1987 and one in 1988. The -30ER aircraft have a higher Maximum Take Off Weight of 580,000 lb (263,160 kg), are powered by three GE CF6-50C2B engines each producing 54,000 lbf (240 kN) of thrust and are equipped with an additional fuel tank in the rear cargo hold providing an additional 700 mi (6,600 mi/5,730 nmi/10,620 km) of range. A total of six were built and five -30s were later converted to -30ERs.

The DC-10-30AF or DC-10-30F was the all freight version of the -30. Production was to start in 1979, but Alitalia did not confirm its order then. But production began in May 1984 after the first aircraft order from FedEx. A total of 10 were built.

The DC-10-40 is the first long-range version fitted with Pratt & Whitney JT9D engines. Originally designated DC-10-20, this model was renamed DC-10-40 after a special request from Northwest Orient Airlines as the aircraft was much improved compared to its original design, with a higher MTOW (on par with the Series 30) and more powerful engines, the airline's president wanted to advertise he had the latest version. The company also wanted the aircraft to be equipped with the same engine as that on their Boeing 747s for commonality. Northwest Orient Airlines and Japan Airlines were the only airlines to order the series 40 with 22 and 20 aircraft respectively. The DC-10-40s delivered to Northwest were first equipped with three Pratt & Whitney JT9D-15 producing 45,700 lbf (203.3 kN) of take off thrust, before the introduction of the JT9D-25W, generating 50,000 lbf (222.4 kN) of thrust through water injection), and had a MTOW of 555,000 lb (251,815 kg), while those produced for Japan Airlines were equipped with P&W JT9D-49A that produced a maximum thrust of 53,000 lbf (235.8 kN) and had a MTOW of 565,000 lb (256,350 kg). 42 were built from 1973 to 1983.

The DC-10-50 was a proposed version with Rolls-Royce RB211-524 engines for British Airways. Such an order never came and the plans for the DC-10-50 were abandoned.

Tanker versions

The KC-10 Extender is a military version of the DC-10-30CF for aerial refueling. The aircraft was ordered by the U.S. Air Force. Delivered from 1981 to 1988. A total of 60 were built.

The KDC-10 is an aerial refueling tanker for the Royal Netherlands Air Force. These were converted from civil airliners (DC-10-30CF) to a similar standard as the KC-10. Also, commercial refueling companies Omega Air and Global Airtanker Service operate two KDC-10 tanker for lease. Four have been built.

The 10 Tanker Air Carrier is a DC-10-10 converted into a firefighting tanker aircraft, using modified water tanks from Erickson Air-Crane.

MD-10 upgrade

The MD-10 is retrofit cockpit upgrade to the DC-10 and a re-designation to MD-10. The upgrade included an Advanced Common Flightdeck (ACF) used on the MD-11. The new cockpit eliminated the need for the flight engineer position and allowed common type rating with the MD-11. This allows companies such as FedEx Express, which operate both the MD-10 and MD-11, to have a common pilot pool for both aircraft. The MD-10 conversion now falls under the Boeing Converted Freighter program where Boeing's international affiliate companies perform the conversions.


On January 8, 2007, Northwest Airlines retired its last remaining DC-10 being used for scheduled passenger service, replacing it with an Airbus A330 for a route between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Honolulu, thus ending the aircraft operations with all major airlines. Regarding the retirement of Northwest's DC-10 fleet, Wade Blaufuss, spokesman for the Northwest chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said, "The DC-10 is a reliable airplane, fun to fly, roomy and quiet, kind of like flying an old Cadillac Fleetwood. We're sad to see an old friend go". "The DC-10 is going to be remembered as a better cargo plane than passenger plane," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. In November 2006, ATA Airlines announced it had purchased seven of Northwest's remaining DC-10s, to replace ATA's L-1011 airplanes. Omni Air International purchased six of Northwest's DC-10 aircraft.

The aging models are now largely being used as dedicated freight aircraft. American Airlines and United Airlines have sold their large DC-10-10 fleets to cargo carrier FedEx. Many have been modernized to MD-10s by adding a glass cockpit, which eliminates the need for a flight engineer. Other DC-10 aircraft continue in charter and cargo services with their three-person flight deck configuration. Omni Air International and World Airways, continue to operate the DC-10 on charter passenger services as well as for the Air Mobility Command. Biman Bangladesh Airlines operates five DC-10-30s as one of their primary passenger aircraft as of 2009.

Non-airline operators include the Royal Netherlands Air Force with three DC-10-30CFs converted to KDC-10 flying tankers, the USAF with its 59 KC-10, and the 10 Tanker Air Carrier with its modified DC-10-10 used for fighting wildfires. Orbis International uses a single DC-10-10 converted into a flying eye hospital. Surgery is performed on the ground (not in flight) and the operating room is located between the wings for maximum stability. Orbis has chosen to replace their aging DC-10 with a MD-10. The project began in 2008, finally materialized when FedEx and United Airlines jointly donated a DC-10 for conversion. The MD-10 eye hospital is expected to be flying in 2010. Additionally, one former American Airlines DC-10-10 is operated by the Missile Defense Agency as the Widebody Airborne Sensor Platform (WASP).

As of July 2009, there were 150 DC-10s in service with commercial operators, including FedEx Express (85), Omni Air International (12), World Airways (12), Arrow Cargo (7), Cielos Airlines (5), Avient Aviation (4), Biman Bangladesh Airlines (4) and others with fewer aircraft.

Past operators

  • Aerocancun DC-10-15 (1), -30 (1)
  • Aeroflot DC-10-30F (1), -40F (4)
  • AeroPeru DC-10-15 (3), -30 (1)
  • AeroLyon DC-10-30 (3)
  • Aeromexico DC-10-15 (2), -30 (4)
  • Aerowings DC-10-15 (1)
  • Africa One DC-10-30 (1)
  • African Safari Airways DC-10-30 (2)
  • Air Afrique DC-10-15 (1), -30 (3)
  • Air Algérie DC-10-10 (2)
  • Air Europe Italy DC-10-30 (1)
  • Air Florida DC-10-30CF (5)
  • Air France DC-10-30 (5)
  • Air Gulf Falcon DC-10-15 (1)
  • Air Hawaii DC-10-10 (2)
  • Air Liberté DC-10-30 (5)
  • Air Mali DC-10-15 (1)
  • Air Martinique DC-10-30 (1)
  • Air New Zealand DC-10-30 (8)
  • Air Outre Mer DC-10-30 (3)
  • Air Panama DC-10-10 (1), -40 (2)
  • Air Pacific DC-10-30 (1)
  • Air Siam DC-10-30 (1)
  • Air Tchad DC-10-30 (2)
  • Air Zaïre DC-10-30 (2)
  • AirLib DC-10-30 (12)
  • Airtours International Airways DC-10-10 (4), -30 (2)
  • Alitalia DC-10-30 (8)
  • Aloha Airlines DC-10-30 (1)
  • American Airlines DC-10-10 (55), -30 (11)
  • American Trans Air DC-10-10 (1), -40 (1), -30 (4)
  • AOM French Airlines DC-10-30 (15)
  • Ariana Afghan Airlines DC-10-30(1)
  • Astra Airlines DC-10-15 (1)
  • AvCom Commercial Aviation DC-10-30CF (1)
  • Avensa DC-10-30 (3)
  • Balair DC-10-30 (1)
  • Birgenair DC-10-30 (1)
  • Bogazici DC-10-10 (2)
  • BrasMex Cargo DC-10-30F (1)
  • British Airways DC-10-30 (8)
  • British Caledonian DC-10-30 (10)
  • British Caledonian Charter DC-10-10 (2)
  • Cal-Air DC-10-10 (3)
  • Caledonian Airways DC-10-30 (8)
  • Cameroon Airlines DC-10-15 (1)
  • Canadian Airlines International DC-10-10 (3), -30 (9), -30ER (5)
  • Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-10-10 (4), DC-10-30 (10)
  • Capitol Air DC-10-10 (5)
  • Cargoitalia DC-10-30F (1)
  • CargoLion DC-10-30F (1)
  • ChallengAir DC-10-30 (2), -30CF (1)
  • Condor DC-10-30 (5)
  • Continental Airlines DC-10-10 (8), -10CF (8), -30 (31)
  • Continental Micronesia DC-10-10 (5), -30 (1)
  • Corsair DC-10-30 (2)
  • DAS Air Cargo DC-10-30F (9)
  • Delta Air Lines DC-10-10 (15)
  • Dominicana DC-10-10 (1), -30 (1), -40 (1)
  • Eastern Air Lines DC-10-30 (3)
  • Ecuatoriana DC-10-30 (1)
  • Electra Airlines DC-10-15 (2), -30F (1)
  • Emery Worldwide DC-10-10F (3), -30F (3)
  • Ethiopian Airlines DC-10-30F (2)
  • European Airlift DC-10-10 (1), -30 (1)
  • Excalibur Airways DC-10-30 (1)
  • Express One International DC-10-30 (3)
  • Finnair DC-10-30 (4), -30ER (1)
  • Garuda Indonesia DC-10-10 (1), -30 (21), -30CF (6)
  • Gemini Air Cargo DC-10-30F (12)
  • Ghana Airways DC-10-30 (7)
  • Harlequin Air DC-10-30 (2)
  • Hawaiian Airlines DC-10-10 (20), -30 (5)
  • Hughes Aircraft Company DC-10-10 (1)
  • Iberia Airlines DC-10-30 (12)
  • Icelandair DC-10-30CF (1)
  • International Red Cross DC-10-30CF (2)
  • JAT Jugoslovenski Aero Transport DC-10-30 (6), -30CF (1)
  • JALways DC-10-40 (3)
  • Japan Airlines DC-10-40 (20)
  • Japan Air Charter DC-10-40 (4)
  • Japan Air System DC-10-30 (2)
  • Japan Asia Airways DC-10-40 (8)
  • Jet Charter Service DC-10-40 (2)
  • JMC Airlines DC-10-30 (2)
  • Kenya Airways DC-10-30 (1)
  • Key Airlines DC-10-10 (1)
  • KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines DC-10-30 (10), -30CF (1)
  • Korean Air DC-10-30 (5), -30CF (1)
  • Kras Air DC-10-30 (2)
  • Kuwait Airways DC-10-30 (1)
  • Laker Airways DC-10-10 (6), -30 (5)
  • Laker Airways (USA) DC-10-10 (1), -30 (3)
  • LAN Chile DC-10-30 (5)
  • Leisure Air DC-10-10 (2), -30 (3)
  • Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas DC-10-30 (3)
  • Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique DC-10-30 (1)
  • LOT - Polish Airlines DC-10-30 (3)
  • Lufthansa DC-10-30 (12), -30CF (1)
  • Malaysia Airlines DC-10-10 (3), -30 (14), -30CF (7)
  • Mandala Airlines DC-10-30CF (1)
  • Martinair Holland DC-10-30 (1), -30CF (4)
  • Mexicana DC-10-10 (2), -15 (5)
  • Minerve DC-10-30 (3)
  • Monarch Airlines DC-10-30 (1)
  • MyTravel Airways DC-10-10 (3), -30 (1)
  • National Airlines (NA) DC-10-10 (11), -30 (5)
  • Nigeria Airways DC-10-10 (1), -15 (1), -30 (5), -30CF (1)
  • NMB Air Operations (private) -30CF (1)
  • Northwest Airlines DC-10-30 (24), -40 (22)
  • Novair International Airways DC-10-10 (3)
  • Okada Air DC-10-10 (1), -30 (1)
  • Overseas National Airways DC-10-30CF (5)
  • Pacific East Air DC-10-10 (1)
  • Pakistan International Airlines DC-10-30 (5)
  • Pan American World Airways DC-10-10 (11), -30 (5)
  • Philippine Airlines DC-10-30 (5), -30CF (1)
  • PLUNA DC-10-30 (1)
  • Premiair DC-10-10 (4), DC-10-30 (1)
  • Qantas DC-10-30CF (1)
  • Raytheon Company DC-10-10 (1)
  • Royal Air Force DC-10-30CF (1)
  • Sabena DC-10-30 (7), -30CF (6)
  • Santa Barbara Airlines DC-10-30 (2)
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines DC-10-15 (3)
  • Scanair DC-10-10 (6), DC-10-30 (1)
  • Scandinavian Airlines System DC-10-30 (12)
  • Scibe Airlift Zaire DC-10-10 (1), -30 (1)
  • Shabair DC-10-10 (1), -30 (2)
  • Servicios de Transportes Aéreos Fueguinos DC-10-30CF (1)
  • Singapore Airlines DC-10-30 (6), DC-10-30CF (1)
  • Skyjet DC-10-15 (3), -30 (3)
  • Skyjet Brasil DC-10-30 (1)
  • Skyservice USA DC-10-10 (2)
  • Sobelair DC-10-30 (1)
  • Spantax DC-10-10 (2), -30 (1), -30CF (2)
  • Sudan Airways DC-10-30 (1)
  • Sun Country Airlines DC-10-10 (6), -15 (4), -30F (4), -40 (1)
  • Swissair DC-10-30 (10), -30ER (4)
  • TAESA DC-10-30 (2), -30CF (1)
  • Taino Airways DC-10-30 (1)
  • TAROM DC-10-30 (1)
  • Thai Airways International DC-10-30 (6), -30ER (3)
  • The Hawaii Express DC-10-10 (2)
  • Transaero DC-10-30 (3)
  • Trans International Airlines DC-10-30CF (3)
  • Transmile Air Services DC-10-30 (2)
  • TranStar Airlines DC-10-10 (1)
  • Tunisair DC-10-30 (1), -30CF (1)
  • Turkish Airlines DC-10-10 (3), -30 (1)
  • United Airlines DC-10-10 (38), -10CF (1), -30 (4), -30CF (4), -30ER (3)
  • Union des Transports Aériens DC-10-30 (7)
  • Varig DC-10-30 (15), -30F (3)
  • VASP DC-10-30 (6), -30CF (1)
  • VIASA DC-10-30 (8), -30CF (1)
  • Virgin Express DC-10-30 (1)
  • Wardair DC-10-30 (3)
  • Western Airlines DC-10-10 (13), -30 (1)
  • Zambia Airways DC-10-30 (1), -30CF (1)

Incidents and accidents

As of August 2009, the DC-10 was involved in 55 incidents, including 30 hull-loss accidents, with 1,261 fatalities.

Despite its troubled beginnings in the 1970s, which gave it an unfavorable reputation, the DC-10 has proved a reliable aircraft. The original DC-10-10's bad safety record continuously improved as design flaws were rectified and fleet hours increased. The DC-10's lifetime safety record is comparable to similar second-generation passenger jets as of 2008.

Cargo door problem
The DC-10 was designed with cargo doors that opened outward instead of conventional inward-opening "plug-type" doors which, due to their being larger than the door frame, make opening the door impossible once the plane is pressurized. Using outward-opening doors allowed the DC-10's cargo area to be completely filled since the door was not occupying usable space. To secure the door against the outward force caused by the pressurization of the fuselage at high altitudes, outward-opening doors must rely on heavy locking mechanisms. And in the event of a door lock malfunction, there is great potential for explosive decompression.

American Airlines Flight 96
A problem with the outward-opening cargo door was first publicly exposed on June 12, 1972, when American Airlines Flight 96 lost its aft cargo door shortly after takeoff from Detroit, Michigan. Before Flight 96 took off, an airport employee had forced the door shut, which, due to the cargo door's design, gave an outward appearance of being securely locked despite the internal locking mechanism not being fully engaged. Subsequently, when the plane reached approximately 11,750 feet (3,580 m) in altitude, the cargo door blew out, causing an explosive decompression which partially collapsed the cabin floor at the rear of the plane. This collapsed section of the floor cut or impeded many of the control cables to the empennage control systems necessary to fly the plane. The crew was able to accomplish an emergency landing by using the ailerons, right elevator, some limited rudder trim and asymmetrical thrust of the wing engines.

During the investigation of the near-crash of Flight 96, NTSB investigators found that the DC-10's cargo door design was dangerously flawed. The door relied on a set of heavy steel hooks to secure it against the door frame. When the hooks were fully engaged, an outside lever on the cargo door could be depressed, which drives a set of locking pins through the hooks, holding them in place. The NTSB investigation found that it was possible to close the outside lever without the hooks being fully engaged, and there would be no outward signs that the locking mechanism was not engaged. Even though the hooks and locking pins were not in the closed position, the cargo door indicator in the cockpit would still register the door as being secured. This combination of factors caused Flight 96 to take off without its aft cargo door being fully locked. And when the door blew out at altitude, the sudden decompression of the airplane caused a large pressure difference to build up between the cabin above and the cargo bay below. This depressurization loading is what caused the cabin floor to collapse. And because the DC-10 was designed with its hydraulics and control wires routed through the floor beams, the collapse of the cabin floor caused a loss of vital flight controls.

Following the Windsor incident investigation, the NTSB made several recommendations, including fixing the faulty cargo door design to make it impossible for baggage handlers to close the cargo door lever without the locking pins being fully engaged. It was also recommended that vents be installed in the cabin floor so that, in case of an explosive decompression, the pressure difference between the cabin and cargo bay could quickly be equalized without collapsing the cabin floor and damaging critical control systems. Although many carriers voluntarily modified the cargo doors, there was not an airworthiness directive issued to require rework of the system due to a gentlemen's agreement between the head of the FAA and McDonnell Douglas. McDonnell Douglas did make modifications to the cargo door, but the basic design remained unchanged and severe problems still persisted.

Turkish Airlines Flight 981
On March 3, 1974, an almost identical cargo door blow-out caused Turkish Airlines Flight 981 to crash into a forest near the town of Ermenonville, France shortly after leaving Paris. 346 people were killed in one of the deadliest air crashes of all time. Circumstances of this crash were nearly identical to the previous accident. Again, the cargo door had not been fully locked, though it appeared so to both cockpit crew and ground personnel. The Turkish aircraft had a different seating configuration that exacerbated the effects of decompression, which caused the aircraft's floor to collapse into the cargo bay. Control cables running through the floor of the plane were severed when the floor collapsed and this rendered the aircraft uncontrollable. Crash investigators found that the DC-10's relief vents were not large enough to equalize the pressure between the passenger and cargo compartments during explosive decompression. Following this crash, a special subcommittee of the House of Representatives investigated the cargo door issue and the FAA's certification of the original design. An airworthiness directive was issued, and all DC-10s underwent mandatory door modifications. The DC-10 experienced no more major incidents related to its cargo door after FAA-approved changes were made.

American Airlines Flight 191
The DC-10 experienced another major accident with the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979. Flight 191 lost its number one (left wing) engine after taking off from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, USA. As the engine separated upwards, it ripped through the leading edge of the wing, rupturing hydraulic lines. Without hydraulic pressure, the left wing leading edge slats retracted due to the force of the air moving over the wings. That, in turn, increased the stall speed of the left wing above the engine failure climb out speed being used by the pilots. When the left wing stalled, the plane rapidly rolled to the left and crashed before the flight crew could recover. All 271 people on board, plus two on the ground, were killed; the worst single plane crash in America.

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials discovered that a maintenance procedure was the culprit. American Airlines mechanics removed the engine and its pylon together, rather than removing the engine from the pylon then the pylon from the wing, as recommended by McDonnell Douglas. This was done using a forklift and the pylon was inadvertently cracked in the process. The short-cut procedure, believed to save many man hours on maintenance, was used by three major airlines, although McDonnell Douglas advised against it. In November 1979, the FAA fined American Airlines $500,000 for using this faulty maintenance procedure. Continental Airlines was fined $100,000 on a similar charge.

The Chicago accident also highlighted a major deficiency in the DC-10 design—its lack of a locking mechanism to maintain the position of the leading-edge slats in the event of a hydraulic or pneumatic failure. Other wide-body aircraft of the day carried such a feature. Another deficiency highlighted in the NTSB report was the vulnerable placement of wiring at the leading edge (front) of the wing. When the engine pulled up and over the wing, it tore out these lines, thus rendering vital warning instruments in the cockpit inoperable. Following the Chicago crash, the type certificate of the DC-10 was withdrawn by the FAA, grounding the aircraft on June 6, 1979. The aircraft resumed service after modifications were made to the slat actuation systems and position systems along with stall warning and power supplies changes were made.

United Airlines Flight 232
Another major DC-10 crash was Flight 232 disaster at Sioux City, Iowa, USA, on July 19, 1989. The #2 (tail) engine suffered an uncontained fan disk failure in flight, which damaged all three hydraulic systems and rendered the hydraulic flight controls inoperable. The flight crew, led by Captain Al Haynes and assisted by a senior pilot flying as a passenger (Dennis E. "Denny" Fitch), performed an emergency landing by constantly adjusting the thrust of the remaining two engines. The crew managed to fly the aircraft onto the runway in a partially controlled manner, and 185 of the 296 people on board survived in spite of the destruction of the plane during that landing.

The DC-10 included no cable backup for the hydraulic powered flight controls because it was considered nearly impossible for three hydraulic systems to fail during one flight. However, all three hydraulic systems were in close proximity, directly beneath the tail engine. The #2 engine explosion hurled shrapnel that ruptured all three lines, resulting in total loss of control to the elevators, ailerons, spoilers, horizontal stabilizer, rudder, flaps and slats.

Following the UAL 232 accident, hydraulic fuses were installed in the #3 hydraulic system in the area below the #2 engine, on all DC-10 aircraft, to ensure that sufficient control capability remained, if all three hydraulic system lines should be damaged in that area of the plane again. However, those fuses would only be effective in preserving hydraulic integrity if the damage occurs in the tail section. It is still possible to lose all three hydraulic systems. That happened to a cargo airline in 2002 during takeoff due to exploding main gear tire in the wheel well area. The damage in the left wing area caused total fluid loss from the #1 and the #2 hydraulic systems. Fortunately, the #3 system was not penetrated, though it was severely dented.

"The Safety Board notes, however, that these hydraulic fuses are only effective in preserving hydraulic system integrity if damage occurs in the tail area. No hydraulic fuses are installed in any other area of the aircraft.... As the April 27, 2002, accident in El Salvador demonstrates, the DC-10’s hydraulic system lines are not adequately protected in the wing area in the event of a tire rupture."

Other notable accidents and incidents

Other notable incidents and accidents involving the DC-10 are listed below.

  • November 3, 1973 - National Airlines Flight 27, a DC-10-10 experienced an uncontained failure of the right (#3) engine. The cabin was penetrated by engine shrapnel from the engine and lost pressure. One passenger was killed. The crew initiated an emergency descent, and landed the aircraft safely.
  • December 17, 1973Iberia DC-10-30 EC-CBN crashed in bad weather at Boston after having hit landing lights on approach.
  • November 12, 1975Overseas National Airways DC-10-30CF N1032F was taking off at New York JFK Airport when it encountered a flock of birds. Take-off was rejected, but the aircraft could not be stopped on the runway. The pilot steered it on a taxiway Z at a speed of 40 knots. The main undercarriage collapsed and the DC-10 came to a halt on the taxiway’s shoulder where it burned out.
  • January 2, 1976Overseas National Airways DC-10-30CF N1031F was operating a Hajj on behalf of Saudia. While the aircraft was on approach to Ankara, Turkey it reportedly suffered engine troubles. The DC-10 made a heavy landing and came off the runway. The trijet was then damaged beyond economical repair.
  • March 1, 1978Continental Airlines DC-10-10 N68045 was destroyed by fire following an aborted take-off at Los Angeles Airport and the collapse of its left main landing gear.
  • October 31, 1979Western Air Lines DC-10-10 N903WA was destroyed by fire at Mexico City after attempting to land on the wrong runway and having crashed into a building.
  • November 28, 1979 - An Air New Zealand DC-10-30 flew into Mount Erebus in Antarctica during a sight-seeing trip. All 257 on board Air New Zealand Flight 901 were killed. The accident was caused by complex factors not related to the airworthiness of the aircraft.
  • February 2, 1981Pakistan International Airlines DC-10-30 AP-AXE was destroyed in a hangar fire at Karachi, Pakistan.
  • January 23, 1982World Airways Flight 30 DC-10-30CF N113WA was damaged beyond economical repair after touching down late and overrunning the icy runway into Boston harbor. Two people were killed.
  • September 13, 1982Spantax Flight BX 995, DC-10-30CF EC-DEG was destroyed by fire after an aborted take-off at Málaga, Spain. 50 passengers were killed and 110 passengers were injured due to the flames.
  • December 23, 1983Korean Air Cargo Flight 084, DC-10-30CF HL7339 was destroyed after colliding head-on with a Piper PA-31 while taxiing at Anchorage, Alaska. All on board both aircraft survived.
  • August 10, 1986American Trans Air DC-10-40 N184AT was destroyed by fire while parked at Chicago O'Hare with no injuries or loss of life.
  • January 10, 1987Nigeria Airways DC-10-30 5N-ANR caught fire after overshooting the runway at Ilorin International Airport, Nigeria during training flights.
  • May 21, 1988American Airlines DC-10-30 N136AA was damaged beyond repair after overrunning the runway during an aborted take-off at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
  • July 27, 1989Korean Air Flight 803, DC-10-30, registration HL7328 crashed short of the runway in bad weather while trying to land at Tripoli, Libya. A total of 75 of the 199 on board were killed.
  • September 19, 1989UTA - Union des Transports Aériens Flight 772, DC-10-30 N54629, crashed in Ténéré Desert following an in-flight bomb explosion, claiming the lives of all on board.
  • December 21, 1992Martinair Flight 495 DC-10-30CF PH-MBN crashed while landing in bad weather at Faro, Portugal.
  • April 14, 1993American Airlines DC-10-30 N139AA was damaged beyond repair at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport during a landing with crosswind. After the aircraft touched down, it drifted off to the runway's right.
  • November 26, 1993Viasa DC-10-30 YV-135C was damaged beyond repair at Buenos Aires / Ezeiza-Ministro Pistarini Airport. Flight 940 approached Ezeiza runway 35 in poor weather (800 feet cloud base, rain showers and a crosswind component). The plane touched down and began to aquaplane. The DC-10 could not be stopped on the 2800m long runway and overran onto soft ground by 180m. The nosegear leg collapsed rearward, causing engines no. 1 and 3 to strike the ground.
  • April 7, 1994 - FedEx Flight 705, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 N306FE suffered from attempted hijacking. Forty-two year-old FedEx employee Auburn Calloway tried to hijack the plane, but the crew fought him off and returned back to Memphis.
  • June 13, 1996Garuda Indonesia Flight 865, DC-10-30 PK-GIE had just taken off from Fukuoka Airport, Japan when a high-pressure blade from engine n°3 separated. The aircraft was just a few feet above the runway and the pilot decided to abort the take-off. Consequently, the DC-10 skidded off the runway and came to a halt 1,600 ft (490 m) past it, having lost one of its engines and its landing gear.
  • September 5, 1996FedEx DC-10-10F N68055 was destroyed by fire at Stewart International Airport, Newburgh, NY, following an emergency landing caused by smoke warnings in the maindeck cargo hold.
  • December 21, 1999AOM French Airlines DC-10-30 F-GTDI overran the wet runway at Guatemala City while landing. At the time of the accident, the trijet was operating for Cubana.
  • April 30, 2000DAS Air Cargo DC-10-30F N800WR was damaged beyond repair after overrunning into Lake Victoria while landing at Kampala, Uganda.
  • January 31, 2001: Japan Airlines Flight 958, bound for Narita International Airport from Gimhae International Airport, nearly collided with another Japan Airlines aircraft. The other aircraft, a Boeing 747, suddenly dived and avoided the Narita-bound DC-10.
  • December 18, 2003FedEx MD-10-10F N365FE was destroyed by fire during landing at Memphis, Tennessee.
  • April 28, 2004Centurion Air Cargo DC-10-30F N189AX hit a pot hole and overran the runway at Bogotá, Colombia. During the overran, n°1 and 3 engines broke off and the aircraft's belly was damaged beyond repair.
  • July 1, 2005Biman Bangladesh Airlines DC-10-30 S2-ADN was damaged beyond repair after the aircraft ran off the runway during landing at Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • June 4, 2006Arrow Air DC-10-10F N68047 overran the runway while landing at Managua, Nicaragua. The aircraft's front lower fuselage was substantially damaged following the nose landing gear collapse.
  • March 26, 2009 - an Arrow Air DC-10 en route from Manaus, Brazil to Bogotá, Colombia sustained an engine failure during flight. Large pieces from the engine fell onto the town of Manaus damaging 12 houses, but causing no injuries. The aircraft managed to land safely in Colombia.

The Air France Concorde crash of 2000 was attributed to a fragment of titanium that fell from the thrust reverser of a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off some four minutes earlier. This fragment was traced to a third party parts replacement which had not been approved by the FAA. A similar incident occurred in the following months when a Northwest Airlines DC-10 lost part of a thrust reverser after departure from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, also blamed on non-FAA approved parts.


DC-10-10 DC-10-15 DC-10-30 DC-10-40
Cockpit crew Three
Passengers 380 (1 class), 250 (2 class)
Cargo (freighter variant) 22 LD7 pallets 23 LD7 pallets
Fuselage length 170 ft 6 in (51.97 m)
Height 58 ft 1 in (17.7 m)
Wingspan 155 ft 4 in (47.34 m) 165 ft 4 in (50.4 m)
Fuselage width 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)
Fuselage height 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)
Max interior width 18 ft 2 in (5.54 m)
Operating empty weight 240,171 lb (108,940 kg) 266,191 lb (120,742 kg) 270,213 lb (122,567 kg)
Maximum take-off weight 430,000 lb
(195,045 kg)
455,000 lb
(206,385 kg)
572,000 lb
(259,459 kg)
555,000 lb
(251,701 kg)
Typical cruise speed Mach 0.82
(564 mph, 908 km/h, 490 kt)
Max cruise speed Mach 0.88
(610 mph, 982 km/h, 530 kt)
Max range, loaded 3,800 miles (6,114 km) 4,350 mi (7,000 km) 6,220 mi (10,010 km) 5,750 mi (9,252 km)
Maximum fuel capacity 21,700 US gal
(82,134 L)
26,647 US gal
(100,859 L)
36,650 US gal
(138,720 L)
36,650 US gal
(138,720 L)
Takeoff run on MTOW 8,612 ft (2,625 m) 7,257 ft (2,212 m) 9,341 ft (2,847 m) 9,242 ft (2,817 m)
Service ceiling 42,000 ft (12,802 m)
Engine model (x 3) GE CF6-6D GE CF6-50C2F GE CF6-50C PW JT9D-59A
Engine thrust (x 3) 40,000 lbf (177.9 kN) 46,500 lbf (206.8 kN) 51,000 lbf (226.9 kN) 53,000 lbf (235.8 kN)


1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 Total
13 52 57 48 42 19 14 18 36 40 25 11 12 10 11 17 10 10 1 446
Last updated November 28, 2010
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "McDonnell Douglas DC-10".
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