The Curse of the DC-10
At the very end of the 60′s, the entry of the Jumbo Jet, the Boeing 747, into the airliner world, heralded a new age of aircraft development, the wide-body airliner, and following the success of this behemoth of the skies, the world-renowned american company Douglas Commercial, legendary for planes such as the DC-3, DC-4 and DC-8, quickly entered in this new market with a brand-new aircraft of their own, the DC-10
Little would they, and really, anyone else know, that this plane seemed to be hopelessly cursed in her early years:
November 3, 1973, National Airlines Flight 27: An uncontained engine failure in the N°3 engine due to vibrations of unknown origin, launched debris at the fuselage of the plane, penetrating it and causing rapid decompression of the cabin area, alongside damage to electrical and hydraulic systems. A passenger was ejected from the hole in the fuselage, and the rest survived as the pilots managed to safely land the plane.
March 3, 1974, Turkish Airliners flight 981: A design flaw in the cargo door resulted in a catastrophic in-flight failure that lead to an explosive decompression of the fuselage, critically damaging the control surfaces and leading to a crash that killed all 346 on board.
May 25, 1979, American Airlines Flight 191: Improper maintenance led to the loss of the N°1 engine during take-off, which took with it most of the left wing’s leading edge, effectively destroying its lift ability, which led to a stall and subsequent crash that killed all 271 on board plus 2 on the ground.
October 31, 1979, Western Airlines Flight 2605: Pilot error led to the collision with construction equipment after landing on a closed runway at Mexico City International Airport, killing 72 of the 88 people on board and one person on the ground.
November 28, 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901: During a sightseeing flight into the Antarctic, lack of visibility and a dire navigational error by Air New Zealand’s management let the aircraft to fly into Mount Erebus on Ross Island, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.
1979 would be the worst year of the model, and while safety improved and therefore, crashes heavily diminished after that fateful year, the ugly head of this curse would still show up in the form of two of aviation’s most bizarre accidents:
July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232: Uncontained engine failure on the N°2 (tail) engine due to a manufacturing defect of the titanium used in the engine’s fan assembly, lead to the destruction of the hydraulic systems, rendering the aircraft almost uncontrollable, where the excellent crew on board managed to control her enough with the remaining wing engines via the throttles, leading to a failed landing attempt that nonetheless managed to save 185 of the 296 people on board.
July 25, 2000, Air France Flight 4590: Curiously, the last fatalities brought by a DC-10 wouldn’t happen in the plane itself, but rather, in Concorde’s only crash, as the aircraft was lost after striking an engine thrust reverser fragment that fell from a DC-10 that belonged to Continental Airlines.