James Fallows makes a flawed statement about 1979 DC 10. He states: “and for the DC-10, after an investigation found that the crash was not caused by any basic design flaws”.
This is patently flawed. That the engine fell off it is true that the basic design flaws were not a part of that. However, the fact that there was no control of the plane after it happened was a huge design flaw. At the time McDonnel Douglas was competing, and playing catch up to Boeing in the 747 race for a wide body jumbo jet. They were behind the 747. The DC 10 cut corners on laying out a separate pathway for hydraulic redundancy systems. Those lines on a 747 are set up to be on the front and back edged of the wing. The Hydraulic lines on the DC 10 were set up to be on top of each other. The main line on the bottom and the redundant line on the top of the leading edge of the wing. This is also where the engine pylon attached to the wing. Had there been front and back redundancy, there would have been control of all the hydraulic systems. This would have given the pilots control of the plane and given them a fighting chance. With the top to bottom hydraulic lines, the pilots had no control. I think the last word uttered was ■■■■■
The main cause of the accident was that American Airlines did not follow safety guidelines in their routine maintenance checks of DC 10 engines. The Engines were to be removed by putting them in a strapped harness and lowering the unit to the ground to check for wear and tear. This kept the unit in place while removing it from the wing pylon. American utilized fork lifts to do this without any supporting harnesses to keep the engine affixed and in a safe position until the flange bolts were removed and the engine could be safely removed. What they found is that when the forks were placed under the wings, the forklift would be shut off. While it was off some hydraulic pressure bled off causing the fork lift to drop ever so slightly. This over time and the life of the pylon and engine mounts put undue pressure on the front edge flange bolt causing a hairline crack in the pylon mount. This crack over time and miles and miles of flight time, grew bigger until such time that the flange cracked causing the front of the engine to break loose and it was only a matter of time that the whole engine broke loose taking all the hydraulic controls with it.
So the statement is partially correct only. The FAA blamed it on human error and design flaw. I spent hours as a high school kid pouring over pages and pages of FAA reports, investigative reports, law suits and the like doing a research paper for my Honors English class in high school. It was only a few years removed from the crash so there was a boatload of information. Never flew a DC 10 after that.
It goes to show you that even the simplest of things, Forward and rear hydraulic lines, using proper service techniques and things like that can make the difference between life and death.