Topic of the Week: Your DC-10 Memories

It’s getting harder and harder to hitch a ride on a Douglas Commercial aircraft. The last passenger operator of the DC-10, Biman Bangladesh, has sent it off into the sunset. Douglas knew how to build airplanes to last forever. The DC-10 was a tank that could soldier on for many years, but the economics simply don’t work in the age of twin engine widebodies. I’m amazed the aircraft kept flying commercially for this long.

Of course, the DC-10 had a checkered early history with cargo door problems and a high profile accident in Chicago (though that was really a maintenance issue). Let’s not forget United 232 which cartwheeled on the Sioux City runway.

But the airplane became a reliable workhorse which provided me with many happy memories. My first intercontinental flight was on an SAS DC-10 from LAX to Copenhagen. It took me to Hawai’i on more airlines than I can count. In fact, my last DC-10 ride was on Hawaiian Air. Now it’s your turn. Let’s hear your DC-10 memories.

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82 Comments on "Topic of the Week: Your DC-10 Memories"

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ANCJason
Guest

First aircraft I was ever on – Northwest Orient ORD-MSP in 1982.

ANCJason
Guest

NRT-FUK Japan Airlines 1993; FUK-HNL-LAX-DTW Northwest Airlines 1996; SFO-KOA-SFO United Airlines 1996

MD11: NGO-PDX Delta Airlines 1993

BigSix
Guest

I flew on the DC-10 a total of 23 times, beginning on American (ORD-LAX) in 1981 and ending on Northwest (MSP-SEA) in 1997. Common routes were ORD-LAX, ORD-SFO, ORD-EWR and ORD-BDL mostly on United. One of my favorite A/C.

TimH
Member

If it makes you feel any better, you can still get passenger service on a DC-3 (in North America):

http://www.buffaloairways.com/index.php?page=passenger-service

They really built those things to last…

Red
Member

Speaking of Buffalo Airways Cranky you should go up and do a trip report!

Oliver B.
Guest

When i was 5 years old, my mother won a prize from a cookie brand. My dad decided to visit my uncle in Minneapolis. I’m spanish, and we bought 3 tickets from Madrid to Mineapollis with NWA via AMS. We flew on a DC-10-30, with the NWA new livery, and it was the best flight of my life. This is how I discovered my passion for aviation

Ben in DC
Guest
I flew on United’s DC-10s a few times over the year, but the one trip that really stands out is one from ORD-BDL in 1989. I remember vividly that it was within a week of the Sioux City crash, because as a young kid, I was a tad nervous. Anyway, right before pushing back, the flight crew realized they were having a problem with one of the rear doors. While they were messing with it, the slide deployed. We ended up sitting there for a couple of hours on the plane (they didn’t let us off) while crews changed that.… Read more »
Dr. Jordan
Guest

Hmm…The DC10 was an interesting aircraft, its no denying it was an inferior aircraft to the L 10th in regards to engineering and robustness, but I never had any issues flying them – even though I never got on one without thinking about UA232. My total DC10 flights: UA DEN-SFO, ORD-IAD DC10-10. CO MAD-EWR DC10-30, and my last DC10 flight was 1996 on IAH-LAS- IAH on Sun Country, the return was on N152SY, a DC10-15. I like the TriStar more, but I miss the DC10.

Eric A.
Member
Worked countless DC-10 trips during my NWA days. AMS (seemingly hundreds of times),CDG,FRA,MXP,FCO,LGW,KIX,HNL,SEA,LAX,SFO,BOS,BOM,DEL and the dreaded Ten Hub Hop (MSP-MEM-DTW-MSP day trips). The ten gave me an opportunity to touch Iranian soil for about 8 hours in the mid 00’s when we made a precautionary (yellow emergency) dx to THR of the BOM-AMS leg of a 6 day trip in the 3R position. ‘We do not hate you…we hate your government” was the mantra of our gracious an very helpful hosts. I will miss the roar JT9Ds. I will not miss those (^$@! centerline overhead bins that were a pain… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
I’ve flown L10’s countless times and never thought anything of it, but my one (early) 90’s AA LAX-HNL-LAX DC10 had me jittery the whole time because of thinking of all the accidents it had in the past. But to be fair, so did an AA 757 LAX-OGG-LAX, but only because it was my first long over water flight on a plane with 2-engines. I will say during the DC10 hey day years, I did not want to fly one because of the accidents it had. Odd since I know all planes have had accidents and DC10’s were flying all over… Read more »
MeanMeosh
Guest
I recall flying a DC-10 only once, in 1998, on a NW DC-10 going DTW-AMS-DTW as part of a trip to India (I guess that’s technically twice). I don’t really remember all that much about the flights themselves, except that on the flight from AMS to DTW, an Indian lady sitting in the row in front of me started pitching a fit because they didn’t have a vegetarian meal option for breakfast. What was even better was the NW FA’s response – that she could have the eggs because they were “powdered eggs” and therefore weren’t meat! While I suppose… Read more »
David
Guest

Perhaps I’m being a little cynical but I don’t think the demise of passenger DC10s is that big a deal. It didn’t sell in large numbers and as far as I can tell wasn’t that big an innovation as aircraft go, unlike maybe a 707, 747, 737 or A380. Sure it did its job, but was it really that groundbreaking ? Times move on…

Donald
Guest

“As far as I can tell wasn’t that big an innovation as aircraft go,”
The 10 was the first wide body designed for domestic service, from the start.
Also was the first civil use of the GE CF-6 engines.

David
Guest

Donald – with the greatest respect, neither of your 2 points really sound that significant in the bigger scheme of things…

Evan
Guest

One of my first flight memories is on a UA DC-10 EWR-ORD. We lost an engine shortly after take-off and had to turn back to EWR. It must have been 1987 or thereabouts. I can still remember the noise and shaking when the engine failed. I was pretty young and with my mom and sister, heading to meet my dad on a business trip in Chicago. Back at EWR, they asked us if we wanted to continue on another flight. The answer, of course, was yes. We made it safely to Chicago a few hours late.

Brandon
Guest
I ALMOST flew on a DC-10 once with AA ORD to LAX in 1991. I boarded the flight but then they announced a several hour delay due to no crew – so they moved us to another flight to LAX on a 767. The good news was this was my first flight in business class. It was quite a treat for an 18 year old kid flying home from military training. Another distinct DC-10 memory I have is seeing one from UA land in KOA back in 1990 – was pretty surprised to see one at such a small airport.… Read more »
Brandon
Guest

Just recalled another memory – who remembers AA DC-10 service to the old AUS Mueller airport? Big plane for a small airport!

John G
Guest

I flew on that from AUS to DFW, just to fly the thing out of Austin!

Brandon
Guest

The boarding process was probably longer than the flight.

DesertGhost
Guest

When I moved to Phoenix in 1976, I flew out here on an American Airlines DC-10. At that time, before deregulation, American and TWA were the only carriers that flew non-stop between Chicago and Phoenix. Since then, I often flew on DC-10s between Phoenix and Minneapolis / St. Paul on Northwest (since most of my family lived or lives in Wisconsin). I always had a good experience.

James
Guest

Flew ’em a lot in college on AA (#72/73) in the mid-late 80s (HNL-ORD-SYR and vv). Loved how spacious they felt, even in economy. They used to rent these video game consoles in the back of the plane that were about the size of a trade paperback. Also, the back of economy was one big smoking section, with passengers sitting in FA jumpseats and using beverage cups as ashtrays.

Andrew mondt
Member

When I worked for AA in the early ’90s we were never happy to work a DC10 departure as the aircraft went tech so often!

Neil S.
Guest

I’m going to say it was an Eastern flight to Florida. Though might have been an L1011. I wasn’t the plane nerd then that I am now.

Ron
Guest

I loved the Western Airlines DC-10s that flew into Anchorage from Seattle. Their famous “3 feet for your two legs” seat pitch is sorely missed on today’s planes. Flew them on a short-lived London-Anchorage-Honolulu route as well,

Ron
Guest
I believe all my DC-10 flights were on Northwest. This includes EWR-AMS and AMS-EWR in 1998, LAX-DTW in 2001, and LGW-DTW-LGW in 2005, shortly before the route converted to A330. I didn’t really like the plane, the seating was too crammed. Two months ago I had the opportunity to save a few bucks and fly the MD-11 for the first time by returning from Amsterdam with a connection in SFO, but I chose the (more expensive) nonstop to LAX on a 747. Of course, the DC-10 is not dead, I see them every day at LAX flying for FedEx. If… Read more »
Sanjeev M
Guest

I think cargo by pure volume is more profitable (i.e. replace one passenger with cargo and you make a lot more) but it is more volatile and variable than passenger demand. You can also make many stops and pick up more cargo along the way, and you don’t have to feed cargo. Cargo is also unidirectional while most passengers come back to the origin in a short timeframe.

jeffo777
Member
I took a Flight Engineer course at Long Beach City College in 1989. It was taught by a DC-10 engineer from across the street at the Douglas factory. The students decided that we wanted to go through his DC-10 Flight Engineer course instead of the LBCC syllabus. One if the best college classes ever! I became a First Officer for Continental on the DC-10 in 2001, about 6 months before they were retired after 9/11. I have to say, it was one of the best flying airplanes I have ever flown. And 6 of the best months of flying: Rome,… Read more »
shawn perry
Guest

my last DC-10 flight was on Western airlines a week before they became Delta and we flew LAX-HNL and spent 4 glorious days on the beach….then the last leg was HNL – ANC…I remember the champagne flowing and when the engines started hearing them spool up was amazing and it was a true powerhouse……i so miss them

VC745D
Guest

Many DC10 trips–an early one was National MSY-LAX; there were three classes, including “K”, which I was in. No cabin separation; the difference was lack of food. Mainly I remember being almost the only one in the entire YK cabin—sitting in the middle rear of the nearly empty plane was a memorable experience. Flying is not only now much more crowded–the lack of widebodies on even transcons is a real loss of comfort.

LT_DT
Guest

My first trans-Atlantic flight, which I don’t remember since I was under the age of 2, was on a Martinair DC-10. I think that was my only DC-10 flight ever. During the rest of the DC-10 era, all of my trans-Atlantic crossings were on 747s or L1011s, and I’ve never flown on domestically.

MikeGun
Guest

I flew the DC-10 many times, but one round trip ORD-LAX-ORD on Continental was especially memorable with the pub in coach. I spent most of the flight playing “pong” in the pub from ORD to LAX.

heuchling
Member
My first DC-10 flight was (believe it or not) CLE-ORD on NW. This was in the days of pre-deregulation, when UA and NW served the market. The Y price was $47 OW. My most memorable trip was when I was working for AA, and flew D2 (Space available) LGW-DFW, Thanksgiving 1986, in the middle seat of the 2-5-2 configuration. In the smoking section, watching the movie way up at the front of the cabin through a cloud of carcinogens. It took a couple of days to get de-fumigated from that trip. As much as I hate flying coach now, nothing… Read more »
centrum.matt
Member

I was a teenager in Queens who spent my weekends at JFK. About 1974: a National Airlines open house celebration at the Sundome…a 747 and DC 10 were open to the public! It was an exciting event for a 14 year old kid with his eyes in the sky!

Roneill000
Member
In ’79 or ’80 I often flew from EWR to the Midwest. A business colleague and I were returning early one evening from ORD, the equipment being a UA DC-10. When we got to the departure gate I noticed that our aircraft had the cowling on the center engine removed and mechanics working on it. I figured that wasn’t good as this was soon after several of the “incidents”. We left hours late and found on arrival that our limo to take us back to our cars at our company’s north NJ office was no where to be found. We… Read more »
Row ZZ-99
Guest

I’d rather sit in a 10 with a bad jug than bounce around in a 318 that seems to be always falling apart regardless the carrier. I still talk to some of the Non Revs that took 232 that came in to SUX..they all got on 10s for years.

dingbats39
Member
As a TWA Purser, I was partial to the L1011. If I remember correctly the DC10 had triple redundant hydraulic systems (unflyable without hydraulics). The problem: all three were routed next to one another. Not ideal. The American ORD crash resulted from the departing engine disabling all hydraulics and the leading edge slats retracted on the left side. With UA in Iowa, when the #2 engine exploded, it took out all hydraulics. The L1011 had four redundant systems…two down the left; two down the right. Good thinking (our mechanics used to say, “Look to Lockheed for leadership; Boeing for airplanes).… Read more »
Gary
Guest

I’ll always remember my BCAL flight LAXLGW in seat letter “E”, which was the middle seat in the middle section of five.
Seriously – besides the BAC-111, the DC10 was the workhorse at BR. Well done, Douglas!

A
Guest
My last flight on a DC10 was in 2001, just a couple days after flights reopened post 9/11. It was (I believe) a Ryan International charter from MSP-LAS. That flight then continued on to Hawaii, and given how crammed in the seats were in charter configuration I was happy to stay in Vegas. It must’ve been an old Lufthansa aircraft as it still had German language signs in the cabin. I remember my friend commenting on the size saying, “my truck could fit it here – sideways. This plane is huge.” In the 90’s I flew an NWA 10 out… Read more »
Gantt
Guest

National DC10 LAS-IAH-MSY Late 70s
British Caledonian DC10 ATL-LGW Early 80s
Being in ATL, we were always L1011 folks with DL and EA so cannot remember ever flying on one other than those two times.

Gantt
Guest

And CO DC10 Paris-Newark! Forgot that one!

Anthony
Guest

I will always remember returning home to SJC on an AA DC-10 from DFW in the late 80s and parking at the interim gates (trailers) at the north end of Terminal C and deplaning via air stairs. The image of such a big airplane at such a small airport was just awesome.

Ben C
Guest

In the 80s and early 90s, AA flew the DC10 into Austin Mueller. Unless you were familiar with AUS, approaches from the north were awesome. The runway was only 7000 or 8000 feet and the threshhold was inches from Interstate 35. The DC-10 needed every inch of runway and looked to the uninitiated as if the plane would land on the interstate. My first DC-10 was a morning AUS-DFW and had the added bonus of a cancelled DL flight…so packed and the F/As still did a beverage service for a 45 min leg.

stan
Guest

i think my last DC-10 flight was on NWA DTW-AMS in late 1999.

i only recently started being a geek about logging my flights, but i know i had many trips in the 90s on NWA DC-10s

DClapp
Member

I think it was the Continental DC10s that collected a bunch of eastbound red eyes in Denver and then made the cross country to Newark. They took out one section of seats and made a bar/lounge area. They had snacks, drinks and conversation. If you wanted to sleep the 3-6-3 seating in back made ideal beds when the arms were flipped up.

austinflyguy
Member
Ahhh, the DC-10 memories. I always referred to it as a death ship. The most amazing thing was how, after every DC-10 incident, a month or so later there would be a small article that would tell that if it had been a Boeing airplane, especially the 747, the accident would probably have been prevented. The first incident, on a Turkish freighter, I believe, occurred when a cargo door opened by accident and the resulting decompression crushed the control lines in the floor. Boeing has a second set of controls that run above the ceiling as a backup to protect… Read more »
Yo
Guest

Great plane, lets see, CO LAX-EWR, NW PHX-HNL (wetlease) HA (LAX-HNL/OGG), Sure there are more, if I could only remember. Only did one flight on the MD-11, LAX-ZHR, after getting bumped on AF to CDG/PRG, we pushed back and right into the hangar for 2 hours of maint…got to ZHR so late I just slept there (after taking a shower).

My nephew flew on one of World’s MD11’s, they had an engine shutdown..no fun.

bobsmith
Guest
I was on a Jet Airways flight (737) from Kathmandu to New Delhi in January of 2012 and we were taxiing towards the runway at Kathmandu. I believe it is a single runway airport and we waited for the incoming aircraft to arrive and luckily I had a window seat. The plane arriving was a Biman Bangladesh Airlines DC-10. I was definitely surprised to see an operating DC-10 passenger jet and the plane definitely look like it was a throwback (livery, exterior appearance). It was pretty cool to see. I checked Wikipedia and found that Biman Bangladesh were one of… Read more »
davidrosen
Member

First trip to Europe in 1981 on Western Airlines from DEN to LGW. And of course the frequent rides on United to Hawaii in First Class. Big, open, a place to toss a fresh salad and mix mai tais.

bigjetbuyer
Member
The first time I saw a DC-10 was early summer 1971, McDonnell Douglas was doing high altitude take-off proving flights at COS using an aircraft in AA livery. I was 15 and in love. In mid-August, 1971 my brother was returning home on leave from Ft. Ord, CA and flying on military stand-by, he got the last seat on a UA flight SFO-DEN. It was the inaugural revenue flight of the DC-10. There was a band and the mayor of Denver at the gate on the B concourse at the old Stapleton airport to greet the flight. I was both… Read more »
broadcreek48
Member

I flew the DC-10 once and the L-10 once. Dr Jordan got it right when he said the DC-10 lacked the smoothness and robustness of the L-10. What a ride that was…

letstry2
Member

United LAX-SEA,LAX-DEN several times in the 70’s Always a nice trip. World Airways charter McGuire to Mildenhall. in 78. Very comfortable, but I always did like the look of the L1011 better. Only got to fly one once from LAX to PIT on TWA. Very smooth even crossing the edge of the mountains where there was enough turbulence that the F/A’s were told to buckle in.

drybean
Member

I went out of my way to avoid the DC-10. My favorite aircraft of that era was the L1011 and of course the 747…Now I try just as hard to avoid MD80s…

AAlumnus
Guest

My first DC-10 trip was National Airlines IAH-MSY-TPA when I was 12 yrs old. While working for AA 1989-2001, I had the opportunity to fly them numerous times, and my favorite ride was always in FC on the DC-10-10 with the 34/256 config. I’ll never forget landing at LGA (form DFW) in the early 90s, late at night, in a horrendous thunderstorm. I still can’t believe we landed safely that night.

Peter G
Guest
I remember a great book. ” The Rise and Fall of the DC10″ … Some still around, but, very expensive now. I did a number of flights on THAI Airlines MD11 from Bangkok to Australia. Once, they couldn’t get the plane to start in Bangkok, and we were all off loaded. One time, coming into Melbourne, Australia , the pilot ” floated ” the plane in and touched down rather late on the short cross runway. Full reverse thrust, and I looked out the window as we stopped in the turn around area. Those engines were just shaking from the… Read more »
Joanne
Member

My dad worked at McDonnell Douglas/DAC in Long Beach as a scheduler for the DC-10. I only remember one time flying one and that was from LAX to BOS. The toilets broke so we had to wait 4 hrs for them to be repaired. I recall adults standing in the galley getting free drinks as we waited – alas I had just graduated from high school so I couldn’t enjoy that part of the wait.

malbarda
Member
All the three engine planes seem to be nearing the end of their passenger life cycle days. KLM is retiring its last flying MD11 in October of this year. There is a crowd movement going on to get KLM to do something special for that. I have flown both the DC10, the Lockheed TriStar and MD11 and have liked them all. Those TriStars flew Atlanta – Tokyo for a while and I remember they were so full of (cooled) kerosine (so as to pack more in their tanks) they would literally pull up just about at the end of the… Read more »
Nelson
Guest

Not particularly great memories from DC-10
The one I remember most was a flight on Continental Airlines in 1990 from HNL-SYD and I was stuck in the smoking section for 10 hrs b/c some very large person was sitting next to me on the aisle and I chose to move to another row where I could have better access to the aisle. And I may have done a few transcon flights– but that’s about it. I won’t miss it at all– same way I won’t miss MD-80s or DC -9s.

PF
Guest
CO IAHDEN, coach, with the pub. Hot meals in each direction. I think the back was 2 4 2 or 2 5 2, CO had excellent service all the way around (res, ground, inflight) -they were my favorite airline at the time. WA into JFK, coach. WA ACALAX, first class, the flight attendant had a bottle of salad dressing on the cart – looked tacky with the rest of the deluxe service. UA BOSDEN, first class, a friend and I had the entire cabin. Hot tea was served from a china tea pot with the UA logo on it. AA… Read more »
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