A Legal and Moral Question: The crash of Turkish Airlines flight 981 and the DC-10 cargo door saga

The wreckage of a Turkish Airlines DC-10 lies in France’s Ermenonville Forest, where it crashed on March 3rd, 1974. (New York Daily News)
An advertisement from Douglas’s golden age, the propeller era. (Vintage Adventures)
An advertisement for the DC-10, which in hindsight bears some measure of irony. (The Air Current)
An advertisement for the DC-10’s rival, the L-1011 TriStar. (RelicPaper)
An American Airlines DC-10 similar to the one involved in the incident. (Alain Durand)
A crude artist’s impression of the moment of the blowout. (Original author unknown)
(Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster.”)
An official inspects what was left of the rear cargo door on American Airlines flight 96. (FAA)
An undamaged DC-10 cargo door. (FAA)
Abstract diagram of the latching mechanism on the DC-10’s “over-center” door. (AIB + own work)
How the locking system is supposed to function. (AIB + own work)
How the locking handle could be forced shut without the locking pins engaged and without any indication that the door is not locked. (AIB)
The position of the locking mechanism on American Airlines flight 96. (AIB)
The adjustment to the locking pin extension urged by McDonnell Douglas after the Windsor incident. (Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster.”)
A vintage ad for Turkish Airlines.
Turkish Airlines officials celebrate the purchase of the airline’s first DC-10. (Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster”)
The way the locking pins were rigged on the Turkish Airlines plane, vs. the correct rigging. (AIB)
Members of the press photograph one of the new Turkish Airlines DC-10s. (Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster”)
TC-JAV, the aircraft involved in the accident, formerly fuselage #29. (Steve Fitzgerald)
A selection of some of the British passengers who boarded flight 981. (Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster”)
Baggage handler Mohammed Mahmoudi. (Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster”)
The pilots of flight 981. Note that sources appear to disagree on the Flight Engineer’s first name. (Paul Eddy et al, “Destination Disaster”)
A CGI animation of the crash of flight 981, featured in Mayday: Air Disaster s. 5 ep. 3: “Behind Closed Doors.” Note that in reality the dive was not as steep as this animation would suggest.
Police scour the wreckage of the DC-10, searching for human remains. (New York Daily News)
Photos from the crash site capture the incredible swathe of destruction which the plane carved through the forest. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Police carry away human remains on stretchers wrapped in yellow blankets. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Police picked up identifiable items of clothing and draped them over branches to be removed from the site, destined to assist families in identifying whether their loved ones were on the plane. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
A comparison of the two floor loading situations explains why the failure of the floor on flight 981 was more catastrophic. (Unknown author)
The area where the plane first struck the ground was marked by the complete erasure of all vegetation. (Manuel Litran)
This section of fuselage was one of the largest pieces of the plane left after the crash. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
The plane’s engines were catapulted up and beyond the main wreckage field and across a nearby road. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Another view of the engine. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
The end of the wreckage field, where most of the heaviest pieces came to rest. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Part of the words “Turk Hava Yollari” were still visible on this shattered section of fuselage skin. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
All the trees which remained standing in the impact area were stripped of foliage and draped with random pieces of wreckage. (J. Cuinieres)
The ground was littered with unidentifiable objects over a vast area. (J. Cuinieres)
Police officers search for human remains, which were, as it turned out, everywhere. (Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives)
Today, a memorial to the victims stands on the crash site in the Ermenonville Forest. (Gérard Laurent)




Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.

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Admiral Cloudberg

Admiral Cloudberg

Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.

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