The Douglas Company was market leader in the field of aviation until the 1950’s. Then, the Boeing Company proved to be a stiff competitor in the jet market, with its 707. Douglas was then taken over by Mc. Donnell Aircraft in 1967. General Dynamics’ Convair Division was given the subcontract for structural design, where Mc Donnell Douglas had the primary authority to furnish design criteria and to amend decisions. This was done keeping solely profits in mind. Convair’s role was to create a design that would satisfy the stipulated criteria. They were given the contract for building the fuselage and cargo doors.
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Mc Douglas stressed on using electric rather than hydraulic actuators to close the cargo doors, inspite of Convair being adamant that a hydraulic system was needed. As the leading manufacturer of aircrafts, Mc. Donnell Douglas took the responsibility for certification of the aircraft, as it had considerable clout in the FAA. In seeking the certification it maintained that all defects had been removed. The irony is that Convair was not responsible for any mishaps. Facts (in chronological order): Failure Mode and Effects Analysis was prepared by Convair and submitted to Douglas, which contained two defects in the design.
This report was to be given to Federal Aviation Association. The FAA was managed by Douglas, and with total disregard for human life, they never submitted it. During a model test run the DC-10 blew its forward lower cargo door and the plane’s cabin floor collapsed. Douglas blamed it on human failure. Convair sent internal memo about door problem. FAA certified the DC-10 to be air-worthy. The bulk cargo door, of an aircraft traveling from Los Angeles to New York, separated 11,750 feet over Windsor. National Transportation Board recommended changes in the design.
Federal Aviation Association issued airworthiness directive that requires immediate attention. Dan Applegate wrote a stern memo to his superior at Convair that expressed his doubts about the entire project and offered some reflections on future accident liability. In Detriot the cargo door latch electrical actuator system in DC-10 No. 5 made it impossible to close the vent door. The door blew open before the DC-10 reached 12,000 feet altitude and the cabin floor collapsed disabling most of the control to the tail surfaces and the aft center engine.
An American Airlines DC-10 crashed shortly after takeoff from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, killing 275 passengers and crew members. Mc. Donnell Douglas Corporation issued a special report addressing the public’s growing fears about the DC-10’s design. United Airlines Flight 232 crashed near Sioux City, Iowa, killing 112 of its 296 passengers and crew members. Reason stated was, ‘complete hydraulic failure’. Convair should first confront Mc. Donnell and first try to convince them to agree to change the design, citing the risk to human lives. Douglas can hardly be expected to accept the proposition due to heavy monetary risks involved.
Next, Convair would have to threaten Douglas with, going public and with legal action. Maybe this could force them to change their mind and implement changes in the design. The probability of this happening is quite high as Douglas also has a reputation to protect. This would be the best solution to all the problems of Convair. Conclusion: This looks to be the best solution as it would take care of all the problems of Convair of owning up the solution responsibility to inform the public of these wrong doings, limiting liabilities arising out of loss to human life and property and saving its reputation in the market.