The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was one of several "tri-engine" jet-powered airliners developed into the 1970s. The aircraft marked the first airliner product following the merger of aviation concerns McDonnell and Douglas. Design work began in February of 1968 in respond to a long-range wide body airliner requirement from American Airlines. The design would compete with the range provided by Boeing's 747 line with smaller payload capabilities though what began as a twin-jet airframe - later evolved to include a third powerplant to meet performance requirements. A prototype DC-10 achieved first flight on August 28th, 1970 (at Long Beach, California) and the line was formally introduced on August 5th, 1971 through American Airlines (United States) as the initial launch customer. The type went on to see service with Biman Bangladesh Airlines (Bangladesh), FedEx Express (United States), Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter (Canada) , Transportes Aereos Bolivianos (Bolivia) and Turkish Airlines (Turkey) (among others). Production spanned from 1968 to 1988 to which 446 airframes were completed - 60 of these earmarked for the United States Air Force (USAF) in its modified KC-10 "Extender" aerial refueling aircraft. Deliveries of all marks spanned from 1971 into 1989 with peak year being 1973 with 57 aircraft delivered. McDonnell Douglas now exists as a subsidiary of powerhouse Boeing.
The MD-10 was developed as a long-ranged, wide-body airliner. Its fuselage could accommodate typical three-class seating or cargo pallets as required by the customer. Its outward design was conventional for the period with a tubular fuselage, low-mounted, swept-back wings and a single-vertical tail fin. The most unique aspect of the configuration was its three engine arrangement - two in underslung nacelles at each wing leading edge and the third over the fuselage spine at the base of the vertical tail fin. The cockpit flightdeck was at the extreme forward end of the aircraft and aft of a short nose cone assembly. Horizontal planes partnered with the tail fin at the rear and sported slight dihedral. The undercarriage was wholly retractable and featured a pair of four-wheeled main landing gear legs at center and a two-wheeled nose leg at front.
The DC-10 was produced across four major "body" versions beginning with the DC-10-10 and followed by the DC-10-15, the DC-10-30 and the DC-10-40. All early versions utilized a cockpit crew of three and, depending on the internal class configuration, could support seating for nearly 400 persons while freighters could house up to 22 pallets in the hold. Overall length was 170.5 feet with a height of 58 feet. The -10 and -15 models sported wingspans of 155.3 feet while -30 and -40 forms were given wider wingspans of 165.3 feet. Weights varied expectedly across the four production types with the -10 and -15 versions fielded at 240,170lbs when empty while the -30 and -40 marks tipped the scales at 266,200lbs and 270,200lbs respectively. Maximum Take-Off Weights (MTOWs) were equally different across all four versions - 430,000lbs, 455,000lbs, 572,000lbs and 555,000lbs respectively.
Beyond the four major body forms, DC-10s were produced in several variants. Part of the original release were the DC-10-10, DC-10-10CF and DC-10-15. The -10 was the early base passenger variant of which 122 examples were produced. The -10CF was a passenger/cargo conversion model though only nine were produced. The -15 represented seven "hot and high" variants with special performing engines. The long-range forms began with the DC-10-30 (bypassing the proposed DC-10-20). Its conversion (passenger/cargo hauler) form was the DC-10-30CF. The DC-10-30ER was an "extended range" model with different engines for the longer-range role. The DC-10-30AF/F was the dedicated cargo hauler of the group. Military KC-10 Extenders were born from the DC-10-30 line (DC-10-30CF) and delivered from 1981 to 1988 across 60 examples. The USAF selection of the DC-10 occurred in December of 1977 through the Advanced Tanker Cargo Aircraft (ATCA) program. The KFC-10 was of similar form and function, destined for the Royal Netherlands Air Force though based on conversions of civilian DC-10-30CF models and not new-build airframes. The RNAF took delivery of their aircraft in 1995. The DC-10-40 was the first DC-10 to be outfitted with Pratt & Whitney engines (previous forms all used GE engines). The DC-10-50 and DC-10 "Twin" were ultimately abandoned endeavors.
Operational service of the DC-10 line was not without issue. Its type was centered across some 50+ situations which went on to stain the aircraft's reputation time. Despite this, the aircraft managed a useful service life only recently retired in December of 2013 with Bangladesh. Comparatively, the DC-10's service life was not much worse than other competing types seeing issues in heavy aviation operation. Some notable events included American Airlines Flight 96 and its "near-crash" incident while Turkish Airlines Flight 981 crashed and killed all 346 onboard. American Airlines Flight 191 resulted in the loss of 271 lives when its Number One engine detached on take-off, severing hydraulic lines in the wing. United Airlines Flight 232's tail engine unit failed due to a detached fan disk, again severing hydraulic control. This aircraft managed a partially-controlled landing under duress (pilots were forced to work the remaining engines to stabilize the aircraft) with 111 killed at a Sioux City, Iowa airport in July of 1989. It was a DC-10's piece found on the runway that ended the flight of an Air France Concorde in 2000, the Concorde crashing shortly after take-off with all lives lost.
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McDonnell Douglas - USA Manufacturer(s)
Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Bolivia; Canada; Indonesia; Japan; Netherlands; New Zealand; Niger; South Korea; Spain; Switzerland; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States Operators
DC-10 - Base Series Designation
DC-10-10 - Standard passenger model; GE CF6-6 turbofan engines; 122 examples completed.
DC-10-10CF - Passenger/Cargo Convertible Model; eight produced
DC-10-15 - Hot-and-High Operations Version; GE CF6-50C2F engines
DC-10-20 - Proposed longer-range model; becoming the DC-10-40
DC-10-30 - Long-range variant; GE CF6-50 engines; increased fuel storage/endurance
DC-10-30CF - Passenger/Cargo Convertible Model of DC-10-30 line
DC-10-30ER - Extended-Range Variant; GE CF6-50C2B engines
DC-10-30AF (DC-10-30F) - Dedicated freighter model; 10 produced
DC-10-40 - Long-range variant with Pratt & Whitney JT9D turbofan engines
DC-10-50 - Proposed long-range model with Rolls-Royce RB211-524 engines; never adopted.
DC-10 "Twin" - Proposed two-engine design with GE FC-6 engines; never adopted.
KC-10 "Extender" - Militarized DC-10-30CF for aerial refueling with the US Air Force; 60 examples.
KDC-10 - Royal Netherlands Air Force aerial refueler; converted from existing DC-10-30CF airframes.
MD-10 - Modernized MD-10 kit upgrade offer; advanced cockpit flight deck as used on the MD-11 series.
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Image courtesy the United States Department of Defense.
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Image courtesy the United States Department of Defense.
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