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Old 11-22-2006, 04:49 PM   #1
Mitch Cronin
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DC-10's fading into the sunset....

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{copied from elsewhere}

DC-10 about to fly off into sunset

By Dan Reed, USA TODAY
Even good comeback stories eventually have an end.

For the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, the story of its improbable return to public acceptance after a series of crashes and even a temporary grounding is nearing its conclusion.

Northwest Airlines, the last U.S. operator of the DC-10 in scheduled passenger service, is transitioning to the Airbus A330, a newer, more efficient plane packed with the latest in passenger comfort and entertainment features. It flew its last DC-10 in international service on Oct. 29 and will fly its last domestic flight on Jan. 8.

And with that, the era of scheduled passenger service aboard three-engine jumbo jets will close.

More than three decades ago, the DC-10 helped introduce travelers to the era of twin-aisle, wide-body jets. It was introduced about the same time as its less-successful look-alike, the three-engine Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, and the larger, more successful Boeing 747. The three big airplanes provided passengers with more comfort and stability and also expanded international air service by giving carriers the ability to fly longer distances.

The 747, with its distinctive bump nose that houses a second seating deck and the cockpit, got most of the attention when the wide-body jet era began. But the smaller, more versatile and more fuel-efficient DC-10 was, in some regards, better suited to the air travel market in its heyday.

The DC-10 made its debut in August 1971. It was typically configured for about 250 passengers. The 747 typically was configured for about 370 passengers, making it so large that it served only the biggest cities.

Because of its smaller capacity, says Bob van der Linden, air transport curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, "The DC-10 introduced wide-body service to a lot more markets than did the 747."

As a consequence, many frequent travelers have fond memories of the DC-10. Karl-Heinz Beulke Moreno is among them. The son of a German father and Venezuelan mother, he flew frequently on DC-10s as a child between the two countries, visiting relatives.

"I noticed that the aircraft ... looked different from the others," because of the unique location of the No. 2 engine in the plane's tail, above the fuselage. Other airplanes "looked really boring," he said in an e-mail interview from his home in Germany. Play airplanes, especially little DC-10s, became his favorite toys and commercial aviation his passion. Today, at 28, he is an aircraft ground manager at Hamburg Airport. In his spare time, he runs a website devoted to his favorite plane, www.taxiways.de/DC-10

Comeback jet

The story of the DC-10 includes a comeback element that other iconic planes such as the 747 lack.

In its early days, the "10," as it is known in aviation shorthand, seemed cursed. In the 1970s, it was involved in six deadly accidents in which 948 people died. (Over its entire history, it has been involved in 15 fatal accidents, with 1,430 dead.)

Four early accidents were caused by one of three factors unrelated to aircraft design: pilot error, a blown engine or a blown tire. The plane's maker and operators staunchly defended it.

But one deadly crash and one near-tragedy were tied to a design issue. In March 1974, a Turkish Airlines DC-10 climbing out of Paris had its rear cargo door blow out.

The plane crashed, killing all 345 people onboard. A design flaw in the cargo-door latching system had been discovered, and a voluntary modification program launched, after an American Airlines crew wrestled a DC-10 to the ground safely in 1972 after a similar failure. The Turkish jet had not been modified.

The crash most devastating to the public's perception of its safety occurred on May 25, 1979. The left-wing engine of American Flight 191 came off just before lifting off from Chicago's O'Hare airport, ripping away the wing's control surfaces. Airborne for only seconds, the plane flipped onto its back in the air and hit the ground nose first at nearly 200 mph, killing 273.

Officials quickly determined the fault to be American's shortcut method for replacing wing engines, a method most other airlines had adopted as well.

Still, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Langhorne Bond grounded all DC-10s in the USA for 37 days, effectively removing 12% of the nation's commercial fleet from the market.

The grounding threatened to put carriers with lots of DC-10s, such as American and United, into bankruptcy. And there were suggestions that consumers never again would be willing to fly on the DC-10 once it returned to service.

But those predictions proved overblown. Its comfort, economics and versatility won out once the safety issues were diagnosed and explained, Van der Linden says. "It was a great plane for domestic service: 250 people, transcontinental range, three engines instead of four."

In fact, the public became so comfortable with the DC-10 that it effectively ignored what, thanks to TV footage, arguably is the most famous jetliner crash. On July 19, 1989, United Flight 232, a DC-10, crash-landed at the Sioux City, Iowa, airport. A defect in a critical engine part was blamed.

Most of the credit for the survival of 111 of the 296 people onboard that plane went to the inventive and heroic flight crew. But some safety experts also credited McDonnell Douglas' sturdy design. The DC-10 is so sturdy, in fact, that it will continue to fly for years, just not in passenger service.

Of the 446 DC-10s including 60 sold as KC-10 Extender air-to-air refueling planes to the U.S. Air Force built by McDonnell Douglas at its Long Beach, Calif., plant, more than 170 are still in use, most as freight haulers.

"There's an old saying in the airline business that (McDonnell) Douglas builds ... a strong airplane," says Ken Burnham, a former chief pilot at United. "I can see them being around another 20 years."

In fact, he's betting heavily on it. Burnham today is the volunteer chief pilot for Project Orbis, a non-profit group that flies a specially outfitted DC-10 flying hospital delivering eye care to Third World destinations.
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Old 11-22-2006, 04:57 PM   #2
Mitch Cronin
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.....sigh.... She's an airplane to be loved and hated all at once... Admired and despised.... longed for and loathed.... Confused, am I? No., that's the diesel allright!
A beautiful piece of machinery, but a hell of a lot of work to keep fit.

Honest to god, those who broke their bubbles on A310's, 767's or 737's just hated the death cruisers! Way too much work, and way too dirty.... More complex than any of those airplanes as well... at least it could seem so, mechanically speaking.... .... truth is their simplicity was the artwork that, when added to the brute strength of the beast, made her a truly loveable example of human creation.

Me?.... I "broke my bubble" on the 747 classic.... after that, the dear old Diesel diXie seemed a darlin' little, docile critter....

I know..... in truth, it's alll a matter of what you get used to, what your preferences are, and where your loyalties go.... but as something of a die hard lover of simple technology and brilliance in machinery, I can't help but imagine all who understand that would have a sincere soft spot for the DC-10.
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Old 11-22-2006, 05:06 PM   #3
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Agreed Mitch, DC10s were and are very well comforted airplanes, I once travelled on PIA's DC10 and i still remember it was very plasent flight, too bad that tri jet age was reduced a decade and half ago by new airbus aircraft, i do have soft spot for DC10 and L1011s, both were well designed aircrafts and i bet ya no airbus can come close to DC10 and L1011s.
Do sign the petiton. www.canadiansuperconnie.org We could Save our Connie CF-TGE, We still have chance, Once gone we will lose our History and Heritage forever....
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Old 11-22-2006, 07:46 PM   #4
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I got a couple of trips in 10's on the flightdeck. The jumpseat behind the captain is right beside that giant picture window, and talk about having a view of the world!!!!!! It was incredible!!
There aren't enough days in the weekend. -- Steven Wright
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Old 11-23-2006, 04:54 AM   #5
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Yes, the Douglas Battle Cruiser; memories; I'll share one with you. Picture repairing a wonky oil pressure relief valve on #2 engine in sunny Winterpeg -30 and a 35 MPH breeze to go with it. That sure was a lot of fun. Nice ride to New Zealand tho.
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Old 11-23-2006, 06:59 AM   #6
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Ah but you haven't lived until you and your pal change out a generator on #2 on the ramp in a blizzard scrabbling around for a footing on the oil slicked patio (add in your PJ's here). Of coarse there wasn't a lift truck so you had to hump the generator up through the hole. Every gust of wind brought a new curse to the english language and an oath to make sure your children never entertained a career in aviation as the tail bounced around in the wind.

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Old 11-23-2006, 05:13 PM   #7
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I made the mistake of bad mouthing them to an old DC-10 captain once.

Boy did I pay for that.

He loved the thing, dropped engines and all. He claimed that if you don't use a mack-truck, D-9 Cat and sledge hammer to wedge in new engines they're tough as nails and will always get you home.

Who was I to argue.

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