DC-10 Flies Last Revenue Passenger Service

 - February 24, 2014, 2:29 PM
DC-10 S2-ACR—the last of the type in passenger revenue service—lands at London Heathrow Airport in 1991. (David Donald)

The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 has flown its last passenger-carrying service, at least in civilian colors, after a career spanning 43 years. Biman Bangladesh Airlines operated its final scheduled flight with the type from Dhaka to Birmingham in the UK via Kuwait on February 20, before operating nine local scenic flights as part of the type’s farewell ceremonies over the following weekend. Birmingham’s fire crews gave the final passenger-carrying DC-10 (registered S2-ACR) a water-arch send-off before it set course for the U.S. for disposal, possibly to a museum.

First flying on Aug. 29, 1970, the DC-10 played a part in the initial widebody revolution, joining the Boeing 747 and its fellow trijet, the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, as the first of the twin-aisle jetliners. Although a series of fatal crashes marred the DC-10’s reputation, it recovered sufficiently to outsell its Lockheed rival. Delivered to Biman on Dec. 30, 1988, S2-ACR was the penultimate aircraft to emerge from the Long Beach production line, which ultimately produced 446 DC-10s. In the UK, the DC-10 became best known as the aircraft chosen by Freddie Laker to launch his Skytrain low-cost transatlantic service, in so doing becoming the first non-U.S. operator of the type. Northwest Airlines, the last major airline to operate the DC-10, retired the last of its trijets in January 2007.

Although the DC-10 might have flown its last passenger-carrying service, the type remains in use as a freight-hauler with FedEx, which operates more than 60. Kelowna Flightcraft of Canada also flies four freighters. The U.S. Air Force continues to operate the KC-10A Extender tanker/transport, and the Netherlands air force has two tanker-modified KDC-10s. Casper, Wyoming’s 10 Tanker Air Carrier also flies two modified for fire-fighting duties, while Orbis International has converted another to serve as a mobile eye hospital.

Biman has replaced its DC-10s with dry-leased Boeing 777-300ERs, which now ply long-haul routes such as those to Birmingham, Frankfurt, London and Rome. From this summer, Biman also plans to fly from Birmingham to New York. The airline took delivery of its third 777 on February 11, allowing it to retire the DC-10. It originally planned the retirement for December, but a delay in the delivery of the third 777 extended the DC-10’s career by a few weeks. Biman expects a fourth 777 to arrive on March 21, and the airline also plans to acquire four Boeing 787-8s.