MIAMI — As the last passenger DC-10 made its final trek toward retirement from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Airchive readers pause to remember time spent aboard the giant triholer.
R. D. Sussmann:
In the early 1980s, my family relocated from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. We would frequent the trip back to DC, and at the time NW had a sizable number of flights from BOS to DC – both DCA and IAD. In the summer of 1983, I had my first up-close meeting with the DC-10.
I had already flown the Airbus 300 (EA, from BWI to YOW) and had my encounters with the 727, the DC-9, and the BAC-1-11. At the time, IAD was still a few years from becoming the nightmare that it would morph into, and the observation deck above the restaurant was still active -though in that year IAD was still pretty much a ghost town. You would have the occasional flights roaming in/out of the airport, but nothing like it has become since. After lunch, I headed up to the deck, and looked out – and saw her come into view for the first time. After she landed & rolled out, turning to face east on the distant parking apron was my first DC-10 clad in red, white, blue, and silver waiting for me on that hot July afternoon.
The anticipation was tremendous – again, in 1983 no jetways – so we boarded the old mobile lounges (there were two used for our flight) and bounced our way across the apron and ramp out to the side of the aircraft.
What amazed me most about the DC-10 was the height – those jack screw driven lifts seemed to growl forever as they lifted us to the side of the plane. The operator of the mobile lounge popped out of his cab, and rolled the gantry sleeve up to the door, then knocked on it (I thought this was quite amusing…) A ‘pop’ and the 2L door slid in and disappeared up into the ceiling, with two NW F/As standing inside, greeting the (few) passengers boarding.
I was awed by the size of the interior – so broad and big, the large windows down the sides of the cabin – which itself seemed to sprawl out in front of me forever. I recall the colors of the cabin vividly: Turquoise carpet with matching yellow and turquoise seats in the familiar 2x5x2 configuration. I also recall not seeing the center-line overhead lockers, which I thought was very odd.
It took less than 20 minutes for everybody to be loaded into their seats. Since this was the continuation of Flt 78 (SEA-IAD-BOS), we were only about half full – it seemed like a ton of empty seats around the airplane. The flight attendants did their standard safety demo – and another interesting feature (to me at least) was the oxygen masks popping out of the seat in front of you – something else that was new to me.
As IAD wasn’t busy, we taxied out to the runway almost immediately, and held at the end for about a minute. Seated in the very back of the plane, I had a great view of the ginormous wing out my window, followed by the buzz-saw sounds of the engines spooling up, and a thunderous roar as we hurtled down the runway.
You really got an impression of size in the DC-10, something I’d not felt on many other planes before. Climb out was rapid, and in-flight service on the 90 minute flight was NW’s peanuts, a Sprite in a plastic cup… and something that was odd to me – a ham sandwich in saran wrap for a ‘snack’ on the flight.
After ‘snack service’ I explored the back end of the plane; the lavatories and the rear galley. My thoughts on the aft lavs were that they were larger than what I recall seeing on the 727 & DC-9, and they were an odd shape. The 70’s were in full bloom there- turquoise & yellow featured in the lavs as well.
The short flight was over too fast for my liking – and we made a very firm landing at BOS, as I recall the plane being rather heavy.
I would have all of my remaining encounters with the DC-10 on that same route – BOS-IAD-BOS over the next two years. We were regulars flying back and forth (About six times per year) and I got to know the DC-10 very well over those years, through the interior change to the ‘browns & reds’ of NW’s mid-80s refurbs, to finally seeing them return to long-haul service after the 757s arrived in 1985. I have very fond memories of NW 78/79 and the DC-10 that called it home for so many years. I will miss the big and beautiful DC-10, and she will always fly on forever in my memories!
My DC-10 story begins back on June 14th, 1994. My family and I were flying on American Airlines flight 283, with nonstop service from Nashville (BNA) to London Gatwick (LGW). This was back when American had its BNA hub in full swing, boasting daily flights to Europe. This was my first time on a DC-10, and I sat in row 24 of the bird. I was lucky enough to switch to a window seat after a nice lady offered it to me. We took off Nashville’s runway 20L, and off we went!
The flight was very smooth. I remember watching ”Gone With The Wind” in-flight and enjoyed an elegant meal in economy class. I slept for a few hours, and I woke up just about one hour prior to descent. When we landed in Gatwick, I remember seeing other wide bodies. I even went up to the cockpit after the flight. Great crew and a great flight!
So, stories, eh? My first DC-10 flight was on American, flying DFW-LAX on a spring break trip, probably 1986. I clearly remember the group “A-Ha” with their song “The Sun Always Shines on TV” on the old vacuum tube audio system. On the return LAX-DFW segment I stayed with my sister and uncle too long in the airport bar and nearly missed the flight.
I got on just as they were closing the door, but lost my non-smoking seat and had to sit in the middle of the notorious five-seat section in smoking. The lady next to me was a nervous flyer who’d brought a decent stock of her own booze on board, which she shared with me. I believe the planes on both these flights had the flight deck cameras which projected on the main cabin entertainment screens.
My next DC-10 flight would have been DFW-HNL, also on American – my honeymoon! At some point during the flight I was playing with my new wedding ring, and it flipped off my finger. The flight attendants cleared two rows (middle section) so I could look for it somewhere over the Pacific, and happily it turned up.
And the time on an SFO-ORD-BDL routing on AA, I switched flights at the airport (big fight with the gate agent over this one) so I could go SFO-JFK-BDL on the DC-10 I saw sitting at an adjacent gate (Shorts 360 on the JFK-BDL segment), got an upgrade: all the better. Other DC-10 flights I bagged include Continental NRT-GUM, Continental HNL-EWR, United ORD-PDX, and Northwest DTW-LAX. And I loaded FedEx freighters nightly for a summer in Memphis.
My first DC-10 flight was in March, 1984. I was in kindergarten and my dad took me from Houston (IAH) to Washington DC (IAD) on Continental Airlines. It was my first time on a wide-body jet, and I was awestruck! As the son of a Southwest Airlines employee, I was used to the much smaller 737-200s.
This was early in the lifespan of the Continental DC-10, and it had been delivered with a walk-up “pub” where passengers could get snacks and drinks. I thought that was pretty cool – and it opened my eyes to the existence of onboard amenities. The plane went out with less than 50 people on board, so we had a free roam of the cabin.
That trip helped cement my love of aviation (including the neat “People Movers” at IAD) and I’ll always cherish that trip with my dad. I owe a trip like that to my daughters.