Re: UA/SFO Reliability?

From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works
Date:         05 May 93 14:14:55 PDT
References:   1 2 3
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Gary Benson writes:
>>despite having the largest DC-10 fleet at the time (15 of the 39 in
>>service), United was nearly done before anyone else started -- a
>>single National DC-10 was completed just one week before the last of

>It seems that many factors could account for this. Perhaps as the larger
>airline, United has more direct access to mods, update packages, parts.
>Maybe in fact, they were automatically sent them in accord with a prior
>agreement, while little National had to first learn of it, order the parts,

Actually I omitted a few details -- American and Continental, both
large airlines (and American was the DC-10 launch customer) also were
operating the DC-10 at the time, and National got started before
either of them.  McDonnell Douglas issued S.B. 52-37 on July 3, 1972,
"which called for the addition of the addition of a support plate for
the lock mechanism."  (Attribution below.)  Perhaps someone more in
the know would like to confirm this but I believe Service Bulletins
are sent promptly to all operators of a specific type, and it is the
responsibility of the manufacturer (perhaps mandated by regulations)
to make sure that it gets out to every operator.

By the end of 1972, United had completed modifications to all 15 of
the DC-10s, National had completed 4 of 5, American only 1 of 14, and
Continental hadn't started on their 5.  I'd expect at least American
to be on the same grounds as United, even if the smaller carriers did
have some excuse.

(My personal feeling, only loosly substantiated, is that I don't quite
trust American.  Improper, short-cut maintenance procedures started
the chain of events that took AA 191 down in Chicago.  The loss of the
#3 engine somewhere over the AZ/NM border by an AA 727 -- which safely
completed its DFW-SAN flight -- was found to be the result of inadequate
maintenance.  A few other minor incidents, I believe.  No real stinkers
in the grand scheme of things, but with Crandall in charge I wouldn't
quite put anything past them if it made 'em a buck, considering *all*
of the various factors involved.)

>Does anyone have any particulars?

My numbers came from an internal memo of the U.S. House of Representa-
tives Special Subcommittee on Investigations, reproduced in a book
entitled "The DC-10 Case," edited by John H. Fielder and Douglas
Birsch.  The quotation a few lines up is from the same source.  Robert
Dorsett posted a review of this book a while back, which can be found
in the group archives, and I'd really encourage anyone interested in
the DC-10 to get ahold of this book and study it before debating the

>Or is United really swell and National just so-so when it comes to
>these matters?

Considering the gravity of the consequences of *not* making this
modification (346 people died near Paris on another DC-10 that for
other reasons had not had this modification applied) I'd consider
even United's response only so-so.  Only one-third of their fleet
had been modified within 90 days.  Whether the blame should go to
McDonnell Douglas, for not adequately conveying the potential
severity of the problem, or to the FAA for not issuing an AD, or
to the airlines, for not promptly complying, is another matter for

Karl Swartz	|INet		
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