The Last Scheduled Commercial DC-10 flight

Welcome BBC WM 95.6 Listeners – and to all the regular readers at This is an expansion of the interview I gave this morning on BBC WM, and adds more details to the mix.

Today, Flight Biman Bangladesh flight BG1015 has begun its journey from Dhaka to Kuwait and finally to Birmingham UK, and in doing so is closing a chapter in aviation history as the use of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 will be coming to an end as a scheduled passenger aircraft.

The DC-10 was first built in 1970, and first flew in 1971 with American Airlines, with other carriers joining as airlines sought to have the capacity of the (then new) Boeing 747, without the cost of running the plane. As Extended range Twin (engine) Operations – where you can fly a plane over a distance with two engines safely if one engine fails – was in its infancy, airlines needed a 3rd engine installed on a plane to go the long distances over water (such as the Atlantic or Pacific).

The DC-10 did suffer during its early years with major incidents including:

  • Issues with the cargo door that lead to the emergency landing of AA96, landing safely in June 1972
  • The cargo door failing leading to the loss of Turkish Airlines Flight 981  with the loss of all aboard in March 1974
  • The crash of American Airlines flight 191 in Chicago, leading to the loss of all aboard in May 1979, forcing the type to be grounded for six weeks whilst changes to the plane were made

There have been other incidents too, with varying degrees of success.

Manufacturing of the DC-10 concluded in 1989 at Long Beach, California as McDonnell Douglas looked to move to the MD-11 (which in passenger eyes is in service with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines).

In terms of passenger service however, the DC-10 has soldered on, with 43 years of passenger service under its belt, with a list of carriers who used it as long as anything (including… Air New Zealand, Alitalia, British Caledonian, Continental, Delta, Air France, Airtours, American Airlines, Gaurda Indonesia, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Laker SkyTrain/Laker Airways, Monarch, Singapore Airlines Swissair, and the last major retiree of the type – Northwest Airlines – to name but a few operators).

Today’s flight is operated by S2-ACR, which (fittingly) is the 2nd to last DC-10 built. It was delivered to Biman fresh from the production line in December 1988, making it around 26 years old or so, fitted with 314 economy seats.

So why are we seeing less and less DC-10s? Simple – they’re expensive to maintain as passenger aircraft, and the fuel to power three engine is expensive. This is where modern aircraft like the Airbus A330, Boeing 777 series and the Boeing 787 come in with better economics, and yet can carry the same loads as the DC-10.

That’s not to say you’ll not see them around. FedEx have the majority of the active fleet of 62 aircraft, and there are some innovative uses of this aircraft including the KC-10 Extender (The aerial refueller), Tanker 910 (a firefighting aircraft) and the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital (and it’s a great charity too)

The aircraft up till recently has been operating in Asia and the Middle East, before coming to Birmingham today. After today’s last “Commercial” flight, it will run a series of “Pleasure” flights from Birmingham on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (22nd, 23rd, 24th).  After concluding its flights it was due to go to museum, but currently it is  now due to go back to Dhaka pending a further decision I it’s future.

Sadly, I won’t be meeting the flight at Birmingham Airport – as I’m stuck in the office! :( But I will be catching up with the Wandering Aramean later who is aboard for a quick interview later today.

But as to a leisure flight… hmm. I have some spare  cash. Could be time to write more later 😉

For those interested in the history of the DC-10, head to Wikipeida 

But today marks a closing chapter in aviation history – lets not make any bones about it – if you want three engines to take you long haul, you’ll either need a private jet, or an MD-11, flying with KLM…

Thanks DC-10 :)

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  1. GeogProf says

    Canadian Airlines/Air Canada also flew them from the 80’s to 2001.

  2. NYBanker says

    I do not understand the love for this plane. The DC10/MD11 fleet has the worst safety record (on a passenger-mile basis) of any major airliner.

  3. A little knowledge says

    Statistics can be bent.
    Worst safety record based on 2 major incidents. At least one of these incidents was established to be directly caused by short cuts in maintenence that went directly against warnings in the manual. This caused undue stress on the engine pylon.