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McDonnell Douglas DC-10

By Patrick Mondout

The DC-10 was McDonnell Douglas' bid to capture the new market defined in the mid-to-late 60s did beat the Tri-Star to the finish line by almost a year. You can read more about the battle between Lockheed and Douglas here.


First DC-10 in flight.


Image courtesy of McDonnell Douglas


Despite being bigger, faster, and having a longer range than either the Boeing 727 or the DC-9, the DC-10 was quieter. However, it suffered from a spotty safety record that included cargo door problems and incorrect maintenance procedures.

MCDonnell-Douglas DC-10

The first test flight of the DC-10 took place near the McDonnell Douglas assembly building near Long Beach, California on August 29, 1970.

Image courtesy NASA/Dryden

Designed and built in Long Beach, California by the Douglas Aircraft Company, the first DC-10s entered service with American Airlines and United Airlines in 1971. McDonnell Douglas continued to manufacture the giants until the 446th and last was delivered to Nigerian Airlines in 1989. The similar MD-11 succeeded the DC-10 and was produced until shortly after the McDonnell Douglas merger into Boeing.

McDonnell Douglas DC-10 at a Glance
Engines3 GE CF6-50A/-50C/-50C1/-50C2/-50C2B turbofans
Cruising Speed565
Passengers380 (300 standard)
Span165ft 4in
Length182ft 1in
Height58ft 1in
Final Production1989
Mesurements refer to DC-10-30


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about the McDonnell Douglas DC-10? Were you a member of the flight crew on one? Have you any interesting stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I remember watching the last DC-10 lift off from Long Beach airport in 1989 as we were walking to Building 84 to study the new MD-11. It was a sad sight, especially as the McDonnell Douglas Company had failed to capitalize on the strengths of the design. Rejecting the opportunity to build a twin-engined DC-10 in the early 1970s allowed Boeing to take the lead with the development of the 767 in the late 1970s."

--Fly DC Jets

"I can clearly remember back in the 1970's when American Airlines flew the DC-10 into Buffalo International. Compared to the 707's, 727's, and DC-9's that were common in BUF, the "10" was absolutely enormous. AA would fly the DC-10 between BUF and ORD and DTW.
I flew the DC-10 quite frequently into the 1980's and early 1990's. Too bad AA retired their DC-10 fleet. The three man crew is a thing of the past. AA recently retired their last Boeing 727 in April of this year. Sad."


"From what I remember of those air disasters involving the DC-10, the ones involved were the series 10 models. After reading a book called Destination Disaster which covered the accident in Paris in 1974, I refused to fly on a DC-10. In the book, there were comments about how Douglas had cut corners to get the plane out before the L-1011. How true that is, I don't know but after the accident in Chicago in May of '79 and the suspected causes, I was convinced that the DC-10 was just a bad plane that Douglas produced out of the great ones they built in years gone by.
I have heard that the series 40 DC-10 was the best model built by Douglas and for the first time ever, I flew one that Northwest Airlines had on a flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis.
I guess we remember the earlier crashes of the DC-10 because so many lives were lost in a single crash that was unheard of in those days."


"My father worked on the DC-10 program. I have several pictures of the planes and the crew working on it. Maybe some of you remember the roadrunner and coyote crews? A great time and a great plane."


"The DC-10 was plagued by a series of fatal crashes during the 1970s. One outside of Paris in 1974 led to the redesign of a cargo door. Another crash near Chicago in 1979 led to all United States DC-10s being grounded for at least a month; it was blamed on an engine falling off and the plane going out of control and crashing.
Nonetheless, the DC-10 has been successfully marketed as a cargo/tanker for use by the U. S. Air Force, the KC-10 Extender. It can carry more fuel than the KC-135 Stratotanker (the military version of the Boeing 707). The KC-10 has served in the 1991 Gulf War and in other conflicts, from what I understand.
The DC-10 was replaced by the MD-11, but that was phased out after McDonnell Douglas was bought out by Boeing during the late 1990s.
I remember seeing the first of the DC10s joining Air New Zealand in the mid 1970s, to much fanfare (a small nation suddenly got a big air-craft.) Unfortunately, I also remember our DC-10 flying smack into Mt Erebus, Antarctica, killing everyone on board. Oh dear. We bought 747s after that. [Editor's note: To be fair, the Erebus crash was not due to any fault of the DC-10.]"


"A legendary aircraft. As an aircraft mechanic I grew to know the aircraft and its systems quite intimatly. I worked on the Dc10's at Continental Airlines (LAX and GUM), with Dynair (LAX),with Leisure Air (LAX, SFO, HNL: Flight Mechanic) and with Northwest Airlines (MSP, DC10-30 and DC10-40). I'd fly it any day."


"In June 1979 I flew from Gatwick to New York with Skytrain. The flight and service was superb. I knew there was a problem with the DC10 so I was aware of the whole flight. While in New York the fleet was grounded, we flew back on a 747, but I can honestly say beeing to the US many times since it was the best flight I have ever been on. Recently I had the plesure of attending a dinner dance in Manchester with past flight crews of the DC10. I was the entertainment for the night but believe me I was the one being entertained with the many stories of the DC10."

--Lewis Middleton

"I have flown the DC-10-30/40 about fifteen times in the past twenty years with Northwest Airlines, over both oceans. I remember my first flights- graceful, with quiet touchdowns and comfortable traveling. As the DC-10 aged, my flights soon became uncomfortable, overcrowded, and often times scary, with lights flickering and bins opening in turbulence. On a flight last summer there was a burning smell coming from the back of the plane and the pilot had to go investigate- quite scary! The worst time to fly the DC-10 is on hot summer afternoons, when the legendary bird uses up the whole runway and struggles to take off. "




Image courtesy of McDonnell Douglas

Model: DC-10

Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas

Country: US

First Flight: August 29, 1970

First Passenger Flight: August 5, 1971

Launch CustomerAmerican Airlines

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