Photo (c) Colin Cooke
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was a large, wide-body airliner used principally on long-haul routes, as well as shorter distance trunk routes, particularly within the United States and Asia.
The DC-10 was operated by many of the world’s main airlines, and it was able to compete effectively against rival types like the Boeing 747, Lockheed L1011 TriStar, and Europe’s Airbus A300.
Making its debut in 1970, it was popular until the early 2000s when most carriers phased the type out in favour of modern replacements like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777.
The UK had a surprisingly large number of airlines that flew the DC-10 through the type’s life, including both scheduled and leisure carriers. Below we remember these UK DC-10 operators.
British Caledonian, affectionately known as BCal, flew DC-10s from 1980 until its merger with British Airways in 1988. In fact, its ten-strong fleet were the only aircraft British Airways retained following the merger.
BCal used these aircraft on its long-haul services, and some also wore British Caledonian Charter titles, being operated on high-capacity leisure routes within Europe.
As mentioned, British Airways acquired ten DC-10-30s from its merger with British Caledonian in 1988. These were stationed at London Gatwick, where BCal had been based, and flew long-haul services. They were eventually retired and sold on in 1999.
Probably one of the most famous UK DC-10 operators was low-cost pioneer Laker Airways, founded by Freddie Laker to offer cheap transatlantic travel from London Gatwick and other airports in 1966. The DC-10s flew with the airline from the late 1970s, however since these were the -10 model they had restrictions on payload and range. The airline ceased operations in 1982.
Only a single DC-10 was flown by leisure carrier Monarch Airlines, with registration G-DMCA. It was operated from 1966 to 2002 on routes to European, African, Middle Eastern and North American leisure destinations.
Today the forward fuselage of this aircraft is preserved at Manchester Airport’s Runway Visitor Park and can be visited.
Airtours International / MyTravel
Leisure carrier Airtours International acquired four DC-10s from the late 1990s to capitalise on growing demand for certain destinations, and also to give it long-haul capabilities (alongside Boeing 767-300 and later Airbus A330 aircraft).
Airtours International became MyTravel in 2002, and the DC-10s were retained until 2005, when sold on or retired. This made MyTravel the last UK operator of the DC-10.
When BCal was merged with British Airways in 1988, BA revised its British Airtours leisure subsidiary and renamed it Caledonian Airways. This was the second incarnation of this airline name, and retained a modified version of the BCal tail livery as a link to this now lost airline.
Whilst Caledonian’s fleet focussed on Lockheed L1011, Boeing 737, 747 and 757 types (and later Airbus A320s), it also operated DC-10s sporadically throughout its existence. These were mostly temporary leases from BA or other carriers.
At the time of its merger with Flying Colours in 1999, Caledonian had two remaining DC-10s, which went on to operate with the new carrier, JMC Air (see below).
JMC Air (which stood for John Mason Cook – part of the Thomas Cook family) was formed out of Caledonian Airways and Flying Colours, and it acquired two DC-10-30 aircraft – G-GOKT and G-LYON – which were gone two years later, shortly before the airline became Thomas Cook Airlines.
Cal-Air / Novair
Another London Gatwick favourite, Cal-Air was formed in 1985 to cover some of the gap left by the demise of Laker Airways. It was a joint venture between British Caledonian and the Rank Organisation and flew charters to popular holiday destinations and across the Atlantic. It had three DC-10s in total.
When BCal was merged with British Airways in 1988, Cal-Air changed its name to Novair but kept its livery much the same and operated a similar route network.
However, by 1990 the airline was closed down after its owner failed to find a buyer. The three DC-10s were sold on.
Did you ever fly with one of these airlines on a DC-10? Leave a comment below!