Aircraft By Type

Aircraft Make & Model:
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10
410,000 lbs.
3,130 statute miles
564 mph
250 passengers (46 First Class, 204 Coach)
181 ft., 5 in.
155 ft., 4 in.
59 ft., 3 in.
3 General Electric CF6-6D
HP or Thrust:
117,900 lbs.
No. flown by DL:
First Delivery:
November 1972 (leased from United Air Lines)
First Scheduled Service:
December 15, 1972
Reason Aquired:
In case of delay or cancellation of Delta's L-1011 deliveries when engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce faced bankruptcy in 1970-1971.
Last Retirement:
December 1, 1988
Reason Disposed:

Narrative:  McDonnell Douglas DC-10 1972-1975, 1987-1988

Technical Advances
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 appealed to U.S. carriers looking for a jet smaller than the Boeing 747, but able to fly transcontinental range and retain wide-body appeal for passengers. With the Lockheed L-1011, the DC-10 fit the need for a jet between the 180-seat narrow-body jets and the 360-seat Boeing 747.

1972-1975 Service
Delta placed an order with Lockheed for the new L-1011 TriStar in 1968, but with Rolls Royce facing bankruptcy in 1971, the engine program was falling behind schedule. As protection in case of delay and cancellation of its L-1011 deliveries, Delta decided to fill the gap with another wide-body jet, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. "Order of a minimum fleet of DC-10s," said Charles Dolson, Delta's Board chairman and CEO, "will assure Delta's maintenance of a competitive posture over its domestic routes during the 1972-1973 time period. Delta will continue to study possible long-range solutions to the Lockheed-Rolls Royce problems."

Delta ordered five DC-10s on March 18, 1971. These were sold to United Airlines and leased back to Delta from October 1972 to May 1975. The planes arrived at Delta in late 1972 and early 1973. Delta assigned them Ship Numbers 601-605 (N601DA-N605DA).

Delta started DC-10 service on December 15, 1972, from Atlanta to New York-LaGuardia, and expanded to the following markets:
  • Chicago-Florida (Orlando, Atlanta, Tampa and Miami)
  • Northeast-Gulf States (New York, New Orleans and Houston)
  • East-West Coasts (Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles)

When Delta started Lockheed L-1011 service in late 1973, it was the first airline to simultaneously operate three of the first generation wide-bodied jets—the Boeing 747, Douglas DC-10, and L-1011.

Delta's first DC-10 service ended on May 1, 1975, and the leased planes were returned to United Air Lines.

1987-1988 Service
Delta acquired twelve DC-10s from Western Airlines when it merged with Delta on April 1, 1987. They were Western Ship Numbers 901-902, 904-913 (N901WA-N902WA, N904WA-N909WA, N912WA-N915WA). Western had operated the DC-10 since 1973 over its longer domestic routes, especially those to Hawaii and Alaska. Western also used the DC-10s for the airline's brief service to London in 1980-1982.

On December 1, 1988, Delta Flight 134 from Los Angeles to Atlanta landed to a two-fire hose water salute. It was the last revenue flight for the DC-10 with Delta and for pilot Captain Bob North, retiring after 34 years of service.

More Information

  • Boeing.comDevelopment and specifications of the DC-10 


  • dc-10_western
  • dc-10_delta
  • dc-10
  • McDonnell Douglas DC-10 - "Rollout & First Flight" - 1970