The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a large widebody aircraft with three engines, one of just two widebody passenger aircraft with this configuration. First flying on 29 August 1970, it entered revenue service with American Airlines on 5 August 1971.

Designed for medium to long range flights, the penultimate McDonnell Douglas widebody is still in service. FedEx continue to operate over 30 aircraft as freighters. Its last flight as a passenger aircraft was in 2014 with Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Video

Last week it was a video about Britain’s Bristol Britannia and this week we’re going across the Atlantic to the USA to look at the DC-10. While relatively successful, the aircraft does have a somewhat unfortunate history.

A design flaw in the cargo hold resulted in an incident with American Airlines flight 96 in 1972 and the loss of Turkish Airlines flight 981 in 1974. The crash of American Airlines flight 191 in 1979 resulted in a worldwide grounding of the fleet for about a month.


Air New Zealand lost flight 901 in Antarctica, however this was not a fault with the aircraft. United Airlines flight 232 is the last one where the design contributed, as all hydraulic lines were severed after an uncontained failure of the number two engine.

Despite all of these issues, the aircraft performed well for the airlines that operated it. Both domestically and internationally it was a work horse for airlines not requiring the capacity of a Boeing 747.

A Look Around An Air New Zealand Cabin

Air New Zealand operated the DC-10 in the 1970s into the early 1980s. A passenger on a flight between Sydney and Auckland on 16 June 1980 took these snaps of the economy class cabin.


It is interesting to note the aircraft had no overhead bins in the centre of the cabin. The competing Lockheed L-1011 Tristar (a video of which you can see here) had a similar configuration.

Overall Thoughts

Considering the DC-10 was in passenger service for 43 years and continues to work as a freighter is testament to the usefulness of the aircraft. Despite the widely publicised accidents, it provided excellent service for many airlines.

I had the pleasure of flying on this aircraft with United Airlines back in 1991. Nothing particularly stands out for me about the flights, apart from the fact I felt unwell on them both times. Weird!

Have you flown on the DC-10 before? What do you remember? Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image via Infinite Flight.
Air New Zealand cabin shots by Wolodymir Nelowkin on Airliners.net and Jetphotos.net.