The DC-10’s story begins in the early 1970’s, at a pivotal time when air travel was undergoing a revolution. A new generation of wide-body airliners like the Boeing 747 introduced for 1970’s increased passenger capacity at a time when air travel was becoming more affordable.

In 1971, McDonnell Douglas introduced their first airliner wide-body airliner, the DC-10. But few months later, rival aircraft builder Lockheed introduced their new wide body airliner, the L-1011. The DC-10 and L-1011 were similar aircraft aimed at similar segments of the market. The DC-10 incorporated many existing narrow body technologies from earlier DC-8 and DC-9’s. Focusing on simplicity and reliability, McDonnell Douglas took a technologically cautious approach in an era of rapid technological change, and this helped accelerate the DC-10’s development. This design approach, in part, helped McDonnell Douglas beat rival Lockheed to the market and the DC-10 was soon outselling the L1011.

But after just a few years in service, the DC-10 would go from being pride of airlines, to a plane some people thought twice about flying. A series of accidents during the 1970’s, some of which were attributed to the plane’s design, shrouded the DC-10 in controversy. McDonnell Douglas found itself facing extraordinary accusations that it had rushed the plane’s development, leading to inadequate, even negligent design decisions. Damage to the DC-10’s reputation would peak in 1975, after the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily suspended the DC-10’s Type certificate.

It would take years for the DC-10’s reputation to recover, and by the 1980s, McDonnell Douglas was facing even bigger challenges. The market had really only been big enough for one tri-jet and that ensured that neither would become a true commercial success.

Despite its troubled start, the DC-10 would fly for over 40 years serving with some of the world’s largest airlines. In spite of tragic early accidents statically the DC-10’s safety record would go on to be comparable to other wide bodies of the era

Source: YouTube

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