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.

82 Responses to Topic of the Week: Your DC-10 Memories

  1. Jack P says:

    My most memorable DC 10 riide was from Hilo to LAX. The plane was at the gate; but here was 20 minutes before scheduled departure so I was on the phone and some United employee asked me if I was going to LA and I said yes — so he says “The Captain would like to take off early”.
    So I ambled down the open- top ramp and as I passed the cockpit– The Captain opened the window and said “Hurry Up” I ended up getting a fee drink!!! The Friendly Skies!!

    The worst was Northwest from Honlulu to LAX. Plane was late and they served old overcooked potroast with boild cabbage.

  2. I Miss EA says:

    KLM operates daily flights 671/672 between Amsterdam and Montreal with an MD11. Not exactly a DC10 but I think it is a variant ? Any thoughts ?

  3. The Dude says:

    I have mixed feelings about the DC-10. The Turkish Airlines disaster at Emmonsville due to the door blowout was a bad start for the plane. I did fly on the Western Airlines DC-10 “spaceliner” in the mid seventies which seemed very nice and still had that new plane smell. But then the tragic American 191 crash put the plane on ice for me. I’d get on, but always with the thought that this could be the last ride. By comparison, the graceful and lovely L-1011 still remains my favorite from the glory days. So comfortable, so quiet, with seats that reclined way back. But in the end, I’ll take the 707, baby… 07 forever!!!

  4. Bill K says:

    ? what about Omni Air out of OKC, think still plowing the sky!

  5. npq99 says:

    My last flight on a DC10 was mostly good, then terrible. It was the return leg of a Northwest flight from Detroit to Gatwick. I remember hitting the British coast in lovely early morning sunshine, and the lovely English countryside being hit by those early Autumn rays. I was looking forward to a great end to a terrific trip to see my brother in Ann Arbor.

    But Gatwick, in its little bit of Sussex, was shrouded in fog, and after a couple of circles we were told we didn’t have the equipment to land. We circled some more, watching tiny little A320s enter the incredibly localised bit of fog above Gatwick far below us without any problem.

    After an hour or more of fruitless circling we headed north to Stansted, thanks to the fuel gauges going down. We landed, and parked next to the runway. Another two and a half hours passed, and the air crew hid away behind curtains, declining and ignoring all requests for water or information. No one was allowed off – they said they couldn’t separate passengers from luggage, although I cornered one member of the crew who admitted that NW couldn’t afford the charges of disembarking at Stansted, and that’s why nobody was allowed the option.

    Another hour passed, and eventually they allowed disembarkation, an hour north of London rather than an hour south. Horrible.

    My conclusion was that US airlines are a mess compared to the big European ones (I’ve since grown to hate KLM, Air France, and especially Iberia – Alitalia is nowhere near the list), and in the five percent of cases when it really matters, the extra bells and whistles of a 777 will always beat a DC10. They make me nostalgic, but like flying a Dakota in Tanzania a year or two ago, they’re a one off and not a regular option!

  6. Daren S says:

    My first journey on a DC 10 was on a BA (but former BCal) from LGW to ATL. Flying in the first incarnation of BA’s Club class I was sitting right next to those engines that provided so much thrust. I used to love the sound of those whirring engines when descending and circling, with the feel of the surge of power. It was a great plane, despite the rather unfortunate early history, though I suspect that there will be much greater nostalgia for the 747 when those finally retire in about 10 years or so.

  7. Dan says:

    How ’bout that Ford Tri-Motor, eh? Wicker seats rule!

  8. Sanjeev M says:

    IAD-AMS-DEL, BOM-AMS-IAD all on Northwest DC-10′s around 2000. You could tell the plane was old, but maintained fine. Was a very light load and everyone could spread out on the seats and sleep.

  9. Old Westerner says:

    Could not beat the Western DC-10 for my money. Had 8 across seating in coach, “Volcano” punch bowl service, free champagne and the “half-way” contest to Hawaii. Flying was fun then and I sure do miss that! Also memorable was AA transcon on a DC-10 when they served hand carved chateaubriand from a cart in F/C!

  10. Rafi Syed says:

    My uncle was a captain with Biman and would upgrade us on our twice a year flights between Kuwait City and Dhaka (and bring back Scotch from London for my dad). My sister and I got to see the cockpit once during flight (in the 80′s), and I remember my dad always sat in the aft section so he could smoke.

  11. Spearkat says:

    When the DC10s first started flying Continental (The Proud Bird with the Golden Tail) was in heavy competition on the Chicago to Denver/LA/SF routes. The center section of the cabin was a bar/lounge. To increase business the flights would feature Baseball Players/Magicians/Playboy Bunnies on board to mingle with the passengers. Seems like I remember the $99 RT ticket price. One day, with a Bunny sitting in the seat next to me, as we were roaring down the runway, the one engine went KA-BOOOOM (didn’t explode). The pilot ground the plane to a halt at the end of the runway and informed us we were not going to be going anywhere that day (really??). I think I still have the scars from the nail marks made by the Bunny on my arm.

  12. David T says:

    My memory is on what was probably one of the shortest DC-10 routes ever, DFW to Austin on American, a flight of an hour or less. I took that flight one spring evening, which is likely to be thunderstorm time in Texas, and it remains as one of the most turbulent flights I have ever been on. Because of the short duration of the flight, the pilot couldn’t get high enough to fly above the turbulence, and that huge plane jumped around the entire trip. I remember watching a pregnant flight attendant facing me in the jump seat–she was NOT enjoying herself!

  13. DFT says:

    My DC-10 memory is from what must have been one of the shortest routes they ever flew, from DFW to Austin, on American, a flight of about 45 minutes. I took one of those flights one evening in the spring, which is often thunderstorm time in Texas. I still remember that flight as being one of the roughest I’ve ever taken–because of the short duration of the flight, the pilot could never get above the storms, and that huge plane rocked around the entire flight. I remember watching a pregnant flight attendant across from me in her jumpseat–she was NOT enjoying herself!

  14. Jeff Mills says:

    I always liked the DC 10.Most of my trips were on United’s.Also flew on a lot of TWA’s L1011′s

  15. Paul G says:

    The last DC-10 flight I was on, I upgraded to first class from LAX to DEN with United. Flight was good and the company in first class was cool….Little Richard was across the aisle from me.

  16. Stewart Smith says:

    Continental Airlines used to fly DC10′s from LAX to Sydney and Melbourne, but had to stop in HNL due to limited range, and do Customs & Immigration there at ungodly times in the middle of the night, in the middle of the flight. The CO flights were heavily discounted due to that awful stop, with the result that Economy class was always about 100% full of down-market travellers, with hordes of crying children. Flights from hell, but as a young person with limited money, I’d put up with it for 30 hours to save up to $500 per seat. The last time however cured me of that when one of the limited number of toilets overflowed into the cabin and made a stench. A few months later, CO quit the route. Poor reputation, no equipment available to do the Pacific non-stop, and poor yield despite high load factors.

  17. Mike says:

    My first experience was back in 1979..first flight EVER and its was on a United DC-10 SEA-ORD. A a 16 year old, I was in awe..(but the connecting flight was a United DC-8 ORD-BOS and the number 4 engine caught fire as we were landing in BOS…NOT fun)…after I joined the Army in 1983 there were many trips on DC-10s on NW and UA..mostly domestic but a couple from FRA-DTW (NW) or CPH-SEA (SAS). Worst one was a AMC flight BWI-FRA (Rhein Main AB Germany) on a World Airways cramped DC-10. Flew on one DL MD-11 but I would rather take any Boeing airplane (biased opinion..I am originally from Seattle and had family who worked for Boeing!) Thanks

  18. Mark says:

    I seem to recall flying on a Northwest DC-10 on a military charter at back in the 1990s. It was a more comfortable flight than I expected (I was an L-1011 bigot, and was pleasantly surprised). Unfortunately, the DC-10 flights I remember best were military charters about ten years ago on Omni Air International. On one, the plane was full, and it was miserable to be in a 10-abreast charter arrangement. The cabin crews of Omni were awesome. I later flew a World Airways MD-11 military charter, an ex-DL bird that still had the DL seating (9-abreast). It was more comfortable, but the World crews were not as good as the Omni crews.

  19. Frank says:

    LAX-HNL-BIK-DPS-HNK-LAX Garuda Indonesia – 1992. Had to refuel & replace a fuel pump in HNL on the outbound. 4 hour delay in a transit lounge from hell. Biak Airport was fascinating though. The terminal had a thatched roof – and they hired a local dance troupe to put on a cultural performance for us while we refueled.

    This was the days when smoking was still allowed on international flights. We lit up after take off from LAX.The flight attendants told us technically it wasn’t an international flight until we left HNL and to put out the smokes. The Indonesian passengers ignored the instructions so I did too. There were two men in the row ahead of me smoking clove cigarettes non-stop all the way to Bali. The only thing I could do was keep a Marlboro lit and my glass full of gin and tonic until I passed out. I think it was 10 abreast but I don’t recall. :-) The plane was pretty beat up but I didn’t care. I was going to Bali! The elapsed time LAX-DPS – 24 hours.

    Later on that trip we flew a brand new MD-11 from DPS to CGK. Beautiful aircraft. I was a travel agent in those days and had a client who taught engineering at UCLA. He refused to fly the DC-10 saying it was poorly engineered.

    The flight back was not memorable in anyway. Barely remember it – maybe it was the G&T!

  20. Flew the Diesel 10 many times from LAX, SFO, DFW, HNL. Mostly AA. All series 10. Never did fly international on AA series 30 planes. Not much remarkable about the flights as they were uneventful and seldom delayed. All flights felt safe and secure. More unusual was spending many afternoons near LGB photographing arrivals and departures. Many were new production from Douglas Aircraft. Interesting to watch production as it changed from mostly series 10 U.S.A. airlines to mostly foreign carriers and all series 30. Later saw the KC-10 and MD-11. Last MD-11 Saudia and Lufthansa. The DC-10 and MD-11 made it to my camera as did many MD 80′s. I do not think there was any scheduled passenger DC-10 to LGB. One of the most unusual sights was watching a not yet finished DC-10 being pulled across Lakewood Blvd from the paint shop to another part of the factory.

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