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Tri Jet Tuesday - DC10

This is the penultimate instalment of mini features about three engined jet airliners. I hope you enjoy!


First Flight August 29, 1970


The DC10 was intended as a replacement for Douglas’ successful DC8 on long haul routes. The design was intended to meet an American Airlines requirement which interestingly also led to the Lockheed Tristar. Seating up to 380 passengers this three engined jet was launched in February 1968 when American and United Airlines placed orders for the original DC10-10. The series 10 was intended for Domestic or US transcontinental use and flew for the first time on August 29, 1970 and received its certification on July 29, 1971 with American Airlines the first to put it into service on August 5, 1971.

There were three other versions offered by the manufacturer with the -15 being the ‘Hot and High’ version with more powerful engines and a greater range which was ordered by Aeromexico and making its first flight in January 1981. Later operated by Sun Country.


The -30 and -40 were even longer range international versions. The -30 was powered by General Electric engines and making its first flight in June 1972 with KLM and Swissair taking early deliveries.



The -40 by Pratt and Whitney version was ordered only by Northwest and JAL and making its first flight in February 1972 with the first delivery being to Northwest.

The DC10-30 was by far the most produced model and had variations itself being produced as a convertible freighter version (-30CF), full freighter (-30F) and an extended range version (-30ER). The only visible difference between these later versions and the initial -10 was the addition of a central main undercarriage bogie.

The programme suffered a number of early setbacks which damaged the reputation of the aircraft as there were several accidents in the 1970s initially in respect of difficulties with the cargo doors which had been designed as outward opening rather than the norm of inward.The most notable being Turkish Airlines Flight 981 which crashed on departure from Paris after a rear cargo door was not secured correctly and subsequently blew out causing internal decompression which led to the severing of control cables rendering the aircraft uncontrollable with the loss of all 346 on board.

Further into the decade and American Airlines Flight 191 from Chicago to Los Angeles crashed immediately after take off. The cause was eventually found to be incorrect maintenance procedure. However at the time this accident led to the FAA withdrawing the types certificate on June 6, 1979 which immediately grounded all US registered DC10s and the majority of DC10 flying within the USA.

Despite these and other incidents McDonnell Douglas sold 386 of all commercial versions as well as 60 of the KC10 Extender Aerial refuelling tanker. As well as other tanker conversions.

There are still a considerable number of aircraft still in service although solely as freighters with FedEx being the largest operator. Many of which have undergone an MD10 conversion which has equipped the aircraft with an advanced two crew EFIS flight deck.

If you are interested in a brief history of different aircraft types including first flights then take a look at my book called ‘Flying Firsts', information available by clicking the image below.



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