The DC-10 was McDonnell Douglas’s first commercial airliner project since the merger between McDonnell Aircraft Corporation and the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1967. It started life on the drawing boards as a 4 engined, double decked, wide body airliner that could carry 550 passengers but morphed into single deck, three engined aircraft that could carry one passenger short of 400!  In what was expected to be a knockout blow to the competing Lockheed L-1011, the President of American Airlines and James McDonnell of McDonnell Douglas announced American Airlines’ intention to acquire the DC-10. Flight 96 was en route between Detroit and Buffalo when, above the city of Windsor in Ontario whilst climbing through 11,750 ft the flight crew heard a distinct thud and dirt and debris flew up from the cockpit floor into their faces. On inspection it was obvious that the rear cargo door had detached from the aircraft.  This is the story of the DC-10 cargo door issue and the engineer who tried to warn the company of the dire problem.

The 4 Engined Douglas Proposal


The DC-10


The Cargo Door


The Cargo Door of Flight 96

The Accident Report of Turkish Airlines Flight 981


Images under Creative Commons licence with thanks to the SDASM archives, the Douglas Aircraft Corp, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the FAA and the DOT AIB.