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Engineering Disasters: Cracked Fitting Brings Down DC-10

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Charles Murray
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Sad memory
Charles Murray   11/19/2014 7:04:08 PM
Unfortunately, I remember the DC-10 crash all too well. I lived in the city of Chicago at the time, and could see the smoke from about seven or eight miles away. I know people who worked in downtown high rises (approximately 40 floors up), and they could see the smoke from downtown Chicago, which is about 15 miles from O'Hare.

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Sad memory
Jennifer Campbell   11/19/2014 9:46:18 PM
Even though it's just a simulation, that video is terrifying and difficult to watch. Thanks for sharing, Chuck. I was 5 at the time, so luckily I was shielded from all the disasters in the world.

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Re: Sad memory
patb2009   11/20/2014 1:15:49 AM
I suspect the Pylon was not designed for easy maintenance.

To me, an engine change should not require pulling the pylon too.

That said, the Operators got creative and it bit them.


If they wanted  a new procedure, either they should have certified the procedure

gotten a TSO and approved it, or got mcDac out there and had them approve it.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Sad memory
Elizabeth M   11/20/2014 6:40:37 AM
I was only a child at the time of the crash but remember reading and hearing about it later. I try not to think about this type of thing when I'm flying, but of course airline crashes like this are a traveler's worst nightmare. Thanks for bringing to light what happened to cause this horrific incident.

Steve Heckman
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Re: Sad memory
Steve Heckman   11/20/2014 8:18:13 AM
Part of the problem is many enginersd lack "hands on" experience. How many aerospace engineers have worked as an aircraft mechanic? Performing real maintenance, not just a team-based senior project? I'm glad our facility is not union, I get to build all my own prototypes and production fixtures, which gives me incredable insight on the process. Given how traditional organization work, it simply is not possible for a normal engineer to forsee such abuses in the field.

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Re: Sad memory
jpratch   11/20/2014 8:28:47 AM
At the time this happened, I worked for a Navy Headquarters organization responsible for extending the time between overhauls for Missile Submarines. One of our engineers discovered that bolts on the stern planes were not being tightened properly and could loosen and jam the submarine in a "dive". A few weeks after the Chicago crash, he was briefing those responsible for approving the expensive inspections needed. When asked to estimate the risk and how likely one of the boats might get stuck in a dive, he responded "... about as likely as an engine coming off a DC-10". The inspections were authorized and loose bolts were found on several ships. 

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Engineers and real-world experience
watsonm05   11/20/2014 8:40:29 AM
The comment about the engineers not having real world experience reminded me of what one of my engineering bosses told me.

He was a mechanical engineer and his first project in the company was to design a support for a liquid storage tank that was being positioned some 15 feet in the air.  When he presented his design to the senior engineers for review they promptly tore it up and instructed him to redesign it.  He was told "You designed it for the wrong thing.  You designed it to hold the tank safely.  You really need to design it to withstand its legs being hit by a forklift because that is guaranteed to happen."  I think he adopted his motto after that: "If it doesn't have to fly, make it out of steel and lots of it!"


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maintenance crews took a short cut
RogueMoon   11/20/2014 9:00:01 AM
I think we're all missing the larger issue here.  The maintenance crew took a shortcut and didn't follow the procedure to detach the engine and pylon separately.  Engineers, nor anyone for that matter, can not forsee all consequence of every permutation of someone not following the instructions.  It's literally an impossible task.   Did the shop ever consider engineering had a good reason for making the procedure in that way?  Why does engineering have to compensate for every whim of the maintenance crew?

We have drilled our shop to follow procedures without deviation, period!  If they have an issue, they stop work and bring it forward, otherwise follow the darn instructions!   If the instructions are deficient, it's the engineer's fault.  If the shop takes a short cut and doesn't follow procedure, it's entirely their fault. 

User Rank
Re: Sad memory
joe215   11/20/2014 9:18:10 AM
I find this a problem all over the country. little or no pratical experiance.  They are freshout of school and dumped into a job and to apply the education they leared which is most likely book and not pratical .  They should be given a job working with the hardware they are desiging as a learning tool before given important task like aircraft or spacecraft.

Quality should be envolved all through the design and human engineering along with system engineering practices should be used in reviewing the drawings and the drawings shall be used to review the work orders to build the items and also to test the items.


I believe uppermanagement and their cost saving ideas have just backfired.

Lets learn from the mistakes and go back to square one to get it right the first time.

User Rank
Re: Sad memory
Battar   11/20/2014 9:18:14 AM
Completely off topic here, but do you know who O'Hare airport is named after (or who his fathers' employer was?) It IS Chicago, after all...

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