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McDonnell Douglas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

McDonnell Douglas Corporation
FateMerged with Boeing
SuccessorThe Boeing Company
FoundedApril 28, 1967
DefunctAugust 1, 1997 (merger date)[1]
HeadquartersBerkeley, Missouri, US
ProductsAircraft, missiles, rockets, space components (archived copy)

McDonnell Douglas was a major American aerospace manufacturing corporation and defense contractor formed by the merger of McDonnell Aircraft and the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1967. Between then and its own merger with Boeing in 1997, it produced a number of well-known commercial and military aircraft such as the DC-10 airliner and F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighter.

The corporation was based at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport near St. Louis, Missouri, while the headquarters for its subsidiary, the McDonnell Douglas Technical Services Company (MDTSC), were established in unincorporated St. Louis County, Missouri.[2]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ How This Plane Earned A Dangerous Reputation: The DC-10 Story
  • ✪ History of McDonnell Douglas 1
  • ✪ This Plane Could Even Land Itself: Why Did The L-1011 Fail?
  • ✪ The Making of a DC-10 - McDonnell Douglas 40570 HD
  • ✪ McDonnell Douglas DC-X (Documentary)


Thanks to Squarespace for making this video possible, more on that after this video. In just a few short years it would go from being the pride of Airlines to a plane that some thought twice about flying. [Television] The cargo door was found to have a basic fault in design. Before you got on the DC-10, were you worried about it? After the Chicago disaster though it's the engine mountings that have come under the closest scrutiny. After a series of accidents, McDonnell Douglas is newest jet was engulfed in an extraordinary wave of controversy. And while the DC-10 ultimately went on to be safe reliable even pioneering, the company that built it never fully recovered from its missteps. the DC-10's story begins in the early 1970s, at a pivotal time, when air travel was undergoing a revolution. Long-distance flying, once reserved for the wealthy, opened up to the middle class. And some of this had to do with aircraft design. A 1960s era airliner like a long-range Boeing 707 had a single aisle, accommodating at most six seats across. But a new generation of planes introduced for the 1970s added another aisle allowing for many more seats. These new generation of airliners were called wide-bodies and their increased capacity and new efficient fan jet engines helped make air travel more affordable. Leading the way was Boeing's revolutionary 747. Introduced in 1970, the world's first wide-body was doubled the size of earlier airliners, and the jumbo jet quickly became an icon of the jet age. But rival manufacturers raced to unveil wide-bodies of their own. In 1971 McDonnell Douglas introduced the DC-10. With a striking trijet configuration, it promised improved fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs. The medium to long range airliner could be configured to carry anywhere from 255 to 380 passengers. And with larger windows and a quiet spacious cabin, the DC-10 set a new benchmark for passenger comfort. This was an entirely new kind of airliner and McDonnell Douglas anticipated huge demand. But so did rival Lockheed, a company also introducing a new trijet wide-body aimed at largely the same market as the DC-10. The two companies were building pretty much the same plane, but the L-1011 was Lockheed's first ever jet airliner. McDonnell Douglas on the other hand, had been building them since the late 1950s, so they knew a thing or two about slinging jets. The DC-10's wide-body design incorporated many existing narrow-body technologies from earlier DC-8 and DC-9s. Focusing on simplicity and reliability, McDonnell Douglas took a technologically cautious in an era of rapid technological change. And this helped accelerate the DC-10s development. On the other hand the L-1011s more ambitious and technically advanced design threw Lockheed's program into a tailspin of cost overruns and delays. The DC-10 beat the L-1011 to the market, and it was less expensive. So McDonnell Douglas was soon out selling its rival. [Television] the DC-10 is probably the quietest jetliner you've ever flown in. The United DC-10 Friendship, a plane designed to please everybody. From a wide-body Continental Airlines DC-10... but the DC-10 would quickly lose its shine. In just a few short years the new jet would go from being the pride of Airlines, to a plane that some people thought twice about flying. A series of accidents during the 1970s, some of which were attributed to the plane's design, engulfed the DC-10 in an extraordinary wave of controversy. McDonnell Douglas found itself facing accusations that it had rushed the planes development, leading to inadequate, even negligent design decisions. In 1979 an American Airlines DC-10 was involved in America's worst air disaster, but it's the events after the crash that really damaged the plane's reputation. In an unprecedented move, the Federal Aviation Administration suspended the DC-10 Type Certificate. For five weeks U.S. registered DC-10s sat grounded on tarmacs, and foreign DC-10s were banned from flying into U.S. airspace. The investigation focused on a suspected flaw with the airplane's engine mountings, but the sudden grounding caused chaos at airports. [Television] How are you going to get there now? I have no idea, I just picked up my luggage downstairs in the mess, I don't know where I'm going to go form here. Before you got on the DC-10, were you worried about it? Well, in Los Angeles where it was every news report had a big write-up of it--about the incident of the DC-10s so it makes it is very much on edge. This delay is due to DC-10 operating restrictions. And passengers are requested to await further calls concerning this flight. A spokesman for the FAA and the United States declared there was a distinct possibility that the model might never fly again operators and passengers around the world are wondering whether the sight of a climbing DC-10 will be as common in the future, or whether it will ever be seen again. Damage to the DC-10s reputation was immediate and severe. Airlines stopped featuring the plane in their advertisements, some quietly removed DC-10s from their mainline routes and new orders for McDonnell Douglas wide-body dried up. But the 1979 American Airlines crash was ultimately attributed to improper maintenance procedures and not directly to a design flaw in the DC-10. But that did little to vindicate the plane's reputation in the eyes of the public. Because memories were still fresh from an even deadlier incident five years earlier. In 1974 a Turkish Airlines DC-10 crashed outside of Paris when an improperly locked cargo door blew open. The explosive depressurization triggered a catastrophic chain of events which ultimately severed critical hydraulic lines needed to control the jet. This was one of the world's worst air disasters, and it might have been avoidable because two years earlier the same catastrophic chain of events almost brought down an American Airlines DC-10 just outside of Detroit. Only the pilot's skill and sheer luck that some hydraulic lines still remained intact prevented disaster. But remarkably McDonnell Douglas knew about issues with the cargo door even before the plane entered service the company had witnessed the cargo door blow up during its own ground testing. Not surprisingly, McDonnell Douglas was criticized for how it handled the issue, which involved negotiating their way out of an FAA issued air worthiness directive. Instead McDonnell Douglas was allowed to handle the cargo door flaw by issuing a Service Bulletin. But it was ultimately ignored by some airlines. After the Turkish Airlines disaster McDonnell Douglas was hit with multiple lawsuits from families of the victims, including up to that point the largest lawsuit in history. And when it became clear they'd likely be held liable, the cases were settled. But while the Turkish Airlines disaster was a PR nightmare for McDonnell Douglas, it's the 1979 Chicago disaster that really seemed to crystallize the DC-10s reputation. The ensuing media frenzy, much of it driven by speculation, was truly unprecedented. But there were other more pointed criticisms, like accusations that the DC-10 s design had been compromised in a deliberate rush to beat the L-1011 to the market, resulting in an overall less sophisticated plane. But what is certain is that it would take years for the DC-10 s reputation to recover. And by the 1980s,McDonnell Douglas was facing even bigger challenges. The market had really only been big enough for one trijet and that ensured that neither would become a true commercial success Airlines now wanted more efficient twin-engine wide-bodies from Airbus and Boeing. McDonnell Douglas was running out of cash to innovate, but that didn't stop the company from trying. [Television] With a new MD-11, McDonnell Douglas once again sets a standard for commercial transport excellence and technological innovation. McDonnell Douglas's efforts to sell an improved version of its trijet in an era when twin-engine jets were clearly the future signaled the beginning of the end for the once legendary aircraft builder. But despite its troubled start the DC-10 would fly for over 40 years, serving with some of the world's largest airlines. In spite of tragic early accidents, including an infamous later incident in Sioux City, statistically the DC-10 safety record would go on to be comparable to other wide-bodies of the era, and much safer than earlier generations of airliners. Noted for their strength, reliability, and ease of maintenance, these iconic jets were workhorses for reputable airlines, and in no small part the DC-10 helped open up air travel to the masses, forever changing the modern airline industry. Ladies and gentlemen at this time we'd like to bring your attention to Squarespace, the best all-in-one platform for building websites. To avoid any turbulence in launching your website, we'd advise you to always choose Squarespace. Doing so ensures you get access to the most intuitive and easy to use user interfaces, a huge selection of beautiful templates, and award-winning 24/7 support. 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The company was formed from the firms of James Smith McDonnell and Donald Wills Douglas in 1967. Both men were of Scottish ancestry, graduates of MIT and had worked for the aircraft manufacturer Glenn L. Martin Company.[3]

Douglas had been chief engineer at Martin before leaving to establish Davis-Douglas Company in early 1920 in Los Angeles. He bought out his backer and renamed the firm the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1921.[4] McDonnell founded J.S. McDonnell & Associates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1926. His idea was to produce a personal aircraft for family use. The economic depression from 1929 ruined his ideas and the company collapsed. He worked at three companies with the final being Glenn Martin Company in 1933. He left Martin in 1938 to try again with his own firm, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, this time based at Lambert Field, outside St. Louis, Missouri.[5]

Douglas F3D Skyknight
Douglas F3D Skyknight

World War II was a major earner for Douglas. The company produced almost 30,000 aircraft (Douglas DC-3) from 1942 to 1945 and the workforce swelled to 160,000. Both companies suffered at the end of hostilities, facing an end of government orders and a surplus of aircraft.

After the war, Douglas continued to develop new aircraft, including the DC-6 in 1946 and the DC-7 in 1953.[6][7] The company moved into jet propulsion, producing its first for the military – the conventional F3D Skyknight in 1948 and then the more 'jet age' F4D Skyray in 1951.[8] In 1955, Douglas introduced the first attack jet of the United States Navy with the A4D Skyhawk.[9] Designed to operate from the decks of the World War II Essex class aircraft carriers, the Skyhawk was small, reliable, and tough. Variants of it continued in use in the Navy for almost 50 years,[10] finally serving in large numbers in a two-seat version as a jet trainer.[11]

Douglas DC-8
Douglas DC-8

Douglas also made commercial jets, producing the DC-8 in 1958 to compete with the Boeing 707.[12][13] McDonnell was also developing jets, but being smaller it was prepared to be more radical, building on its successful FH-1 Phantom to become a major supplier to the Navy with the F2H Banshee and F3H Demon; and producing the F-101 Voodoo for the United States Air Force (USAF).[14][15] The Korean War-era Banshee and later the F-4 Phantom II produced during the Vietnam War helped push McDonnell into a major military fighter supply role.[16] Douglas created a series of experimental high-speed jet aircraft in the Skyrocket family, with the Skyrocket DB-II being the first aircraft to travel at twice the speed of sound in 1953.

Thor Able with Pioneer 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Thor Able with Pioneer 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida

Both companies were eager to enter the new missile business, Douglas moving from producing air-to-air rockets and missiles to entire missile systems under the 1956 Nike program and becoming the main contractor of the Skybolt ALBM program and the Thor ballistic missile program.[17][18] McDonnell made a number of missiles, including the unusual ADM-20 Quail,[19] as well as experimenting with hypersonic flight, research that enabled it to gain a substantial share of the NASA projects Mercury and Gemini. Douglas also gained contracts from NASA, notably for part of the enormous Saturn V rocket.[20][21]

The two companies were now major employers, but both were having problems. Douglas was strained by the cost of the DC-8 and DC-9, while McDonnell suffered lean times during any downturns in military procurement. The two companies began to sound each other out about a merger. Inquiries began in 1963; Douglas offered bid invitations from December 1966 and accepted that of McDonnell.[22] The two firms were officially merged on April 28, 1967 as the McDonnell Douglas Corporation (MDC).[23][24] The two companies seemed to be a good fit for each other; McDonnell was primarily a defense contractor while Douglas sold mostly civil aircraft.


McDonnell Douglas retained McDonnell Aircraft's headquarters location at what was then known as Lambert–St. Louis International Airport, in Berkeley, Missouri,[25][26][27][28] near St. Louis.

In 1967, with the merger of McDonnell and Douglas Aircraft, David S. Lewis, then president of McDonnell Aircraft, was named chairman of what was called the Long Beach, Douglas Aircraft Division. At the time of the merger, Douglas Aircraft was estimated to be less than a year from bankruptcy. Flush with orders, the DC-8 and DC-9 aircraft were 9 to 18 months behind schedule, incurring stiff penalties from the airlines. Lewis was active in DC-10 sales in an intense competition with Lockheed's L-1011, a rival tri-jet aircraft.[29][30][31] In two years, Lewis had the operation back on track and in positive cash flow. He returned to the company's St. Louis headquarters where he continued sales efforts on the DC-10 and managed the company as a whole as President and chief operating officer through 1971.

The DC-10 began production in 1968 with the first deliveries in 1971.[32] Several artists impressions exist of an aircraft named the "DC-10 Twin" or DC-X which McDonnell Douglas considered in the early 1970s but never built.[33][34] This would have been an early twinjet similar to the later Airbus A300, but never progressed to a prototype. This could have given McDonnell Douglas an early lead in the huge twinjet market that subsequently developed, as well as commonality with much of the DC-10's systems.[35]


USAF F-15C during an Operation Noble Eagle patrol
USAF F-15C during an Operation Noble Eagle patrol

In 1977, the next generation of DC-9 variants, dubbed the "Super 80" (later renamed the MD-80) series, was launched.[36]

KC-10 Extender during refueling
KC-10 Extender during refueling

In 1977, the KC-10 Extender was the second McDonnell Douglas transport aircraft to be selected for use by the US Air Force;[37] the first being the C-9 Nightingale/Skytrain II.

Through the years of the Cold War McDonnell Douglas had introduced and manufactured dozens of successful military aircraft, including the F-15 Eagle in 1974,[38] the F/A-18 Hornet in 1978,[39] and other products such as the Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles. The oil crisis of the 1970s was a serious shock to the commercial aviation industry, as a major manufacturer of commercial aircraft at the time, McDonnell Douglas was hit by the economic shift and forced to contract heavily while diversifying into new areas to reduce the impact of potential future downturns.[citation needed]


In 1984, McDonnell Douglas expanded into helicopters by purchasing Hughes Helicopters from the Summa Corporation for $470 million.[40] Hughes Helicopters was made a subsidiary initially and renamed McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems in August 1984.[41] McDonnell Douglas Helicopters's most successful product was the Hughes-designed AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.[42][43]

In 1986, MD-11 was launched, an improved and upgraded version of DC-10.[44][45][46][47] The MD-11 was the most advanced trijet aircraft to be developed. It sold 200 units, but was discontinued in 2001 after the merger with Boeing as it competed with the Boeing 777.[44][48][49][50] The final commercial aircraft design to be made by McDonnell Douglas came in 1988. The MD-90 was a stretched version of the MD-80,[46] equipped with International Aero Engines V2500 turbofans, the largest rear-mounted engines ever on a commercial jet. The MD-95, a modern regional airliner closely resembling the DC-9-30, was the last McDonnell Douglas designed commercial jet produced.[51][52]

On January 13, 1988, McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics won the US Navy Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) contract. The US$4.83 billion contract was to develop the A-12 Avenger II, a stealth, carrier-based, long-range flying wing attack aircraft that would replace the A-6 Intruder.

In January 1989, Robert Hood was appointed to lead McDonnell Douglas, replacing retiring Worsham. McDonnell Douglas then introduced a major reorganization called the Total Quality Management System (TQMS). TQMS ended the functional setup where engineers with specific expertise in aerodynamics, structural mechanics, materials, and other technical areas worked on several different aircraft. This was replaced by a product-oriented system where they focus on one specific airplane. As part of reorganization, 5,000 managerial and supervisory positions were eliminated at Douglas. The former managers could apply for 2,800 newly created posts; the remaining 2,200 would lose their managerial responsibilities.[53] The reorganization reportedly led to widespread loss of morale at the company and TQMS was nicknamed "Time to Quit and Move to Seattle" by employees referring to the competitor Boeing headquartered in Seattle, WA.[54]


Technical issues, development cost overruns, growing unit costs, and delays led to the termination of the A-12 Avenger II program on January 13, 1991, by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Years of litigation would proceed over the contract's termination: the government claimed that the contractors had defaulted on the contract and were not entitled to the final progress payments, while McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics believed that the contract was terminated out of convenience, and thus the money was owed.[55] The case was contested through litigation until a settlement was reached in January 2014. The chaos and financial stress created by the collapse of the A-12 program led to the layoff of 5,600 employees.[56] The advanced tactical aircraft role vacated by the A-12 debacle would be filled by another McDonnell Douglas program, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.[39][57]

However the purchasing of aircraft was curtailed as the Cold War came to an abrupt end in the 1990s. This curtailment in military procurements combined with the loss of the contracts for two major projects, the Advanced Tactical Fighter and Joint Strike Fighter, severely hurt McDonnell Douglas.[48][58] McDonnell Douglas built only a small wind tunnel test model.[59][60]

In 1991, MD-11 was not quite a success, ongoing tests of the MD-11 revealed a significant shortfall in the aircraft's performance. An important prospective carrier, Singapore Airlines, required a fully laden aircraft that could fly from Singapore to Paris, against strong headwinds during mid-winter; the MD-11 did not have sufficient range for this at the time.[61] Due to the less-than-expected performance figures, Singapore Airlines cancelled its 20-aircraft MD-11 order on August 2, 1991, and ordered 20 A340-300s instead.[62]

McDonnell Douglas MD-12 aircraft concept

In 1992, McDonnell Douglas unveiled a study of a double deck jumbo-sized aircraft designated MD-12.[35][63] Despite briefly leaving the market, the study was perceived as merely a public relations exercise to disguise the fact that MDC was struggling under intense pressure from Boeing and Airbus. It was clear to most in the industry that MDC had neither the resources nor the money to develop such a large aircraft,[64] and the study quickly sank without a trace. A similar double deck concept was used in Boeing's later Ultra-Large Aircraft study intended to replace the 747,[65][66] but ultimately the double deck concept would not see the light of day until the Airbus A380 in the 2000s.[67][68]

Following Boeing's 1996 acquisition of Rockwell's North American division, McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in August 1997 in a US $13 billion stock swap, with Boeing as the surviving company.[1][58] Boeing adopted the McDonnell Douglas logo, which shows the globe being encircled in tribute to the first aerial circumnavigation which was accomplished in 1924 using Douglas aircraft.

McDonnell Automation Company legacy

Some of the company's lasting legacies are non-aviation-related. They are the computer systems and companies developed in the company's subsidiary McDonnell Automation Company (McAuto) which was created in the 1950s initially used for numerical control for production starting in 1958 and computer-aided design (CAD) starting in 1959. Its CAD program MicroGDS remains in use with the latest official version 11.3 issued in June 2013.[69][70]

By the 1970s McAuto with 3,500 employees and $170 million worth of computer equipment was one of the largest computer processors in the world.[70]

In 1981, McAuto began processing medical claims after it acquired Bradford Systems and Administrative Services for $11.5 million.[71] In 1983 two principals of Bradford who had to come work at McAuto left to form the Sanus Corporation health maintenance organization. The St. Louis office of Sanus was wholly owned by McDonnell Douglas.[72] McDonnell Douglas personnel including Joseph T. Lynaugh[citation needed] and Howard L. Waltman[73] formed Sanus in 1983. In 1986 after McDonnell Douglas reduced its control, Sanus announced a partnership with St. Louis pharmacy Medicare Glaser to form Express Scripts with the pharmacy providing drugs for the Sanus HMO. Charles H. Ridings, formerly in charge of McDonnell Douglas mergers and acquisitions, was named the first chief executive (although he was quickly replaced by Waltman).[74] The new company soon abandoned the HMO business to become with the country's largest independent pharmacy benefit management organization and became the 22nd largest company in the U.S. in 2017 with revenue exceeding $100 billion—making it far larger than McDonnell Douglas. Five new Express Scripts buildings now sit on the east side of Lambert Airport along I-70.


Military airplanes

The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 was used as the base for the C-17.
The McDonnell Douglas YC-15 was used as the base for the C-17.
McDonnell Douglas DC-9
McDonnell Douglas DC-9
Built from 1988–2000, the MD-11 was the last McDonnell Douglas widebody aircraft.
Built from 1988–2000, the MD-11 was the last McDonnell Douglas widebody aircraft.
F/A-18E Super Hornet
F/A-18E Super Hornet
MD 500 Helicopter.
MD 500 Helicopter.

Commercial airplanes

Experimental aircraft

Proposed models


Manned spacecraft

Computer systems

  • Sequel
  • Spirit
  • Reality OS
  • Series 18 Model 6
  • Series 18 Model 9
  • Sovereign
  • 6200
  • 6400
  • 7000
  • 9000
  • 9200
  • 9400

The corporation also produced the Sovereign (later M7000) series of systems in the UK, which used the Sovereign operating system developed in the UK and which was not based on Pick, unlike the "Reality" family of systems listed above. Sovereign, largely a Data Entry solution, had a reasonable market in the United States supporting data entry shops.[75]

Missiles and rockets

Commercial deliveries

Delivery of McDonnell Douglas-designed  
commercial airplanes by year and model[76]
DC-8 DC-9 DC-10 MD-80 MD-90 MD-11 Total
1959 21 21
1960 91 91
1961 42 42
1962 22 22
1963 19 19
1964 20 20
1965 31 5 36
1966 32 69 101
1967 41 153 194
1968 102 202 304
1969 85 122 207
1970 33 51 84
1971 13 46 13 72
1972 4 32 52 88
1973 29 57 86
1974 48 47 95
1975 42 43 85
1976 50 19 69
1977 22 14 36
1978 22 18 40
1979 39 35 74
1980 18 41 5 64
1981 16 25 61 102
1982 10 11 34 55
1983 12 51 63
1984 10 44 54
1985 11 71 82
1986 17 85 102
1987 10 94 104
1988 10 120 130
1989 1 117 118
1990 139 3 142
1991 140 31 171
1992 84 42 126
1993 43 36 79
1994 23 17 40
1995 18 13 18 49
1996 12 25 15 52
1997 16 26 12 54
1998 8 34 12 54
1999 26 13 8 47
2000 5 4 9
2001 2 2
Total 556 976 446 1,191 116 200 3,485
Active[77][78] 2 32 50 404 65 123 676
DC-8 DC-9 DC-10 MD-80 MD-90 MD-11

Key people


  1. ^ a b Boeing Chronology, 1997–2001 Archived January 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine at
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  4. ^ Yenne 1985, pp. 10–12.
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Further reading

  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920. Naval Institute Press, 1990. 2 volume set. OCLC 19920963
  • Greider, William. One World, Ready or Not. Penguin Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7139-9211-5.

External links

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