When the Wright brothers achieved the first human flight back in 1903, they only managed to reach an altitude of about 10 feet. When the airplane technology improved, a variety of airplanes were made and the next few decades saw air travel becoming publically common. Unfortunately, not all of the aircraft were good enough to fly.
One of the most controversial aircraft was the McDonnell Douglas DC10. The craft had its first flight in 1970 and was put into service in 1971. It was finally retired as a passenger plane as late as 2014. In the 43 years of the aircraft’s service, it caused a total of 61 accidents. Fortunately, not all of them were fatal!
The DC 10 has been a popular cargo plane, but its three-engine design is expensive that makes it quite impractical for a passenger aircraft. The last major company to use the airplane was USA’s Northwest Airlines, and they ditched the aircraft as soon as 2007.
While the DC 10 was found involved in a rather large number of accidents, Chris Yates, the aviation expert, thinks that it may have been slandered unfairly tarnishing its image, mainly due to the few high-profile crashes. The fact that these accidents caused a total of over 1200 deaths is quite a factor.
Here are some of the worst accidents that the craft saw in nearly half a century of its service:
1. 12 June 1972: Flight 96 of the American Airlines flew from Detroit and reached an altitude of 11,750. It was flying over Windsor, Ontario when a loud thud was heard, and the crew had dust and dirt right on their faces. As it turned out, a cargo door had separated that caused a rapid decompression. The cabin floor over the cargo compartment was destroyed. An emergency was declared, and the craft returned to Detroit. The plane was carrying 67 people, and most of them landed safely, leaving 11 injured. The failure of cargo door was attributed to a design flaw.
2. 3rd March 1974: The flight 981 of Turkish Airlines carried 346 people from Istanbul, aiming for London Heathrow via Paris Orly Airport. Then again, the cargo door decided to latch off, leaving a hole in the plane. The plane lost control and ended up crashing in a forest in Ermenoville, France. It was the worst air disaster of the time as all 346 passengers along with the entire crew lost their lives.
3. 25th May 1979: Aboard the American Airlines flight 191, 273 passengers were heading from Chicago to Los Angeles. Soon after the takeoff, the craft’s engine separated and its control column failed. The DC-10 crashed in a Trailer Park in Chicago and killed all 273 passengers plus two people on the ground. The Federal Aviation Agency then grounded all the DC 10s flying in the US.
4. 19th July 1989: 296 people boarded the United Airlines flight 232 at the Denver airport that was destined to reach Philadelphia via Chicago. However, the aircraft’s engine failed over Iowa State. While the crew was preparing for an emergency landing at Sioux City, Iowa, the DC 10 crashed, resulting in the death of 111 people. The cause of this crash was found to be the faulty forging of the titanium alloy used in a fan disk. It ended up in the loss of flight controls from ruptured hydraulic systems.
The incidents mentioned above are the most significant of the plane’s accidents, but not the only ones. In another occasion that took place on 3rd November 1973, there was a failure in one of the wing-mounted engines of National Airlines DC 10 that was headed to New Mexico. A piece of its engine broke a passenger window, and the rapid decompression caused a passenger to be sucked right out. On 1st March 1978, Continental Airlines DC 10 had the take-off aborted due to ruptured tires, but the plane ran off the runway and caught fire while stopping. This killed two of the passengers on board.
There were dozens of other accidents that claimed the lives of over 1200 people in total. This DC 10 may not have been the worst aircraft of all times, but it sure caused more damage than any other. One cannot deny that many of these accidents were caused by human error and maintenance flaws rather than design flaws.
Maintenance is as important as the design itself! Don’t you agree?