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Why Did McDonnell Douglas Fail?  
User currently offlineAvalon From Australia, joined May 2005, 87 posts, RR: 1
Posted (10 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 9716 times:

Why did McDonnell Douglas go under?

I have heard (please correct me if I am wrong) that they had lucrative military contracts (which caused Boeing to take them over, despite other problems that MDD had). Their DC9 progeny (the B717) has continued in production until very recently. Sure, orders for other planes like the MD11 seemed to have pretty much dried up by the time of the takeover by Boeing...

Was it that they faced huge payouts to airlines and others over DC10 problems that ultimately crippled them?

Could they have just closed their commercial airline production and continued as did Lockheed with military planes?

14 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineAirWillie6475 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 2448 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (10 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 9691 times:

I thought they were just taken over by Boeing. Even if they stayed they would have gone under because the md95(717) wasn't successful. The DC10 really hurt their reputation but in reality the DC10 did make a nice come back with the safety record.

User currently offline777ER From New Zealand, joined Dec 2003, 12773 posts, RR: 17
Reply 2, posted (10 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 9678 times:

I think your correct about the military contracts Avalon.

User currently offlineSonOfACaptain From United States of America, joined May 2004, 1747 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (10 years 3 months 17 hours ago) and read 9675 times:

One word......DC-7. That is the plane that created the problem. Douglas focused on the prop-driven plane for too long, while Boeing was well ahead in the jet program. Douglas thought that the DC-7 could compete with anything Boeing could offers, especially considering the disaster the Comets were facing. After Douglas finally woke up, they were too far behind Boeing, especially in money. Although Douglas created a superior jet aircraft at first, Douglas did not have enough money to compete with the upgrades Boeing was giving to its 707's. It also helped that Boeing got the military order, since Douglas was not in the market soon enough. So that is what started the plague. Although Douglas, than McDonnell Douglas, made some fine airplanes, they did not have the finiancial backings to compete with Boeing in the long run.


Non Illegitimi Carborundum
User currently offlineMD11junkie From Argentina, joined May 2005, 3151 posts, RR: 56
Reply 4, posted (10 years 3 months 16 hours ago) and read 9676 times:

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 1):
. Even if they stayed they would have gone under because the md95(717) wasn't successful

That was because Boeing was not going to market fully a product that would compete against its best selling and the one that keeps ups sales, the 737. Same with the MD-11.

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 1):
The DC10 really hurt their reputation but in reality the DC10 did make a nice come back with the safety record.

This one is quite true, but the DC-10 and the MD-11s are one of the aircrafts that have given me more security while flying regarding behavior in flight, approach, takeoff. The bad for the DC-10 was the media covering the AA191 crash and not the NTSB conclusion and final report. That devastated the line. I believe, Douglas was also slow to respond to this kind of attacks. Same with the Turkish carrier DC-10 that crashed shortly after takeoff.

I want to have this thread surely active and want to read all of your opinions.

Please, keep it cool!

Cheers! wave 
Gastón - The MD-11 Junkie

There is no such thing as Boeing vs Airbus as the queen of the skies has three engines, winglets and the sweetest nose!
User currently offlineN1120A From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 27985 posts, RR: 74
Reply 5, posted (10 years 3 months 15 hours ago) and read 9598 times:

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 1):
I thought they were just taken over by Boeing.

Actually, it was pretty much a merger of equals. Remember, a good chunk of Boeing's Board is ex-MDC and Harry Stonecipher, CEO until the recent scandal, was ex-MDC all the way. For a time, the company was called Boeing McDonnel Douglas. It was changed for simplicity and for the fact that Boeing made up more of the merged company than MDC did

Quoting AirWillie6475 (Reply 1):
Even if they stayed they would have gone under because the md95(717) wasn't successful

The MD95 would have likely been much more successful had the merger not taken place. The main reason for the merger is that MDC knew that it needed to be a bipolar world and MDC was really no longer able to the one of the 2 poles

Mangeons les French fries, mais surtout pratiquons avec fierte le French kiss
User currently offlineComeAndGo From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 1060 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (10 years 3 months 14 hours ago) and read 9570 times:

Harry Sonecipher canceled all programs and wouldn't allow Boeing to embark on any new program without his approval. This resulted in the engineers revolting and that's when the saying popped up that MDC bought Boeing with Boeing's money.

User currently offlineBmacleod From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 2610 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (10 years 3 months 11 hours ago) and read 9446 times:

Quoting SonOfACaptain (Reply 3):
Douglas focused on the prop-driven plane for too long, while Boeing was well ahead in the jet program.

Douglas was king of commercial aviation for a good 20 years or so. The DC-8 was a superior aircraft to the 707 in most aspects. It was the 747 that ultimately dethroned MDD (McDonnell/Douglas had merged by 1970).

The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.
User currently offlineGr8SlvrFlt From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1625 posts, RR: 10
Reply 8, posted (10 years 3 months 10 hours ago) and read 9425 times:

To simplify a complex situation, McD for too long was unwilling to "bet the company" by funding new projects. The MD-11 and future derivitives would have been highly successful if they'd have paid for a new wing, rather than a slightly modified DC-10 wing. McD kept trying to get Airbus and/or the Japanese to but up the development costs for new programs but failed. Boeing risked a lot to bring out the 757/767 and the 777 and was successful. When MD-11 and MD-80 orders began to dry up they had nothing new to offer. The MD-95 (717), a DC-9 derivitive, was too little, too late.

User currently offlineRyanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4782 posts, RR: 24
Reply 9, posted (10 years 3 months 10 hours ago) and read 9375 times:

Hi all... lets not forget that the final nail on the coffin for MD was the rejection of SIA of the MD11 program. The damage was far too extensive to give the program any credit even though a few majors took delivery of the trijet in question.

Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7866 posts, RR: 14
Reply 10, posted (10 years 3 months 10 hours ago) and read 9357 times:

I think what everybody is missing here is that in the 90s consolidation was rampant in the US aerospace industry. Lots of smaller, but successful, players got absorbed into the new larger companies. In the span of little more than a decade you go from ~20 or medium to large aerospace firms to ~5-6 (Northrup-Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Honeywell). The Boeing/MD merger was just part of that larger consolidation.

Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineDAYflyer From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 3807 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (10 years 3 months 10 hours ago) and read 9308 times:

The primary reason was the failure of the MD-11 to meet promised range, payload and fuel efficiency. That and the MD-95 coming on too late to was the reason. They had gotten past the DC 10 safety issues, but failed to offer new products in a timely fashion.

One Nation Under God
User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13563 posts, RR: 17
Reply 12, posted (10 years 3 months 9 hours ago) and read 9287 times:

I would suggest that other reasons besides those mentioned above for their failure include a lack of range of models and the rise of Airbus.
- McDD never created a long range narrowbody twin engine jet like the Boeing 757.
- They never made a competitor to the A-300/767, 2 engine midsized widebody class of a/c, both of which also hurt sales of the DC-10/MD-11.
- The DC-9/MD-80's series aircraft wasn't keeping up with the range of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A-318/319/320/321 series aircraft.
- The DC-10/MD-11 series was obsoleted by the rise of the Boeing 777 and Airbus A-310/330 2 engine widebody models. What if the MD-11 had been made as a 2 engine widebody (of course, there was the paper idea of the MD-12), and did it before the 777?

User currently offlineJDD1 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 94 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (10 years 3 months 9 hours ago) and read 9261 times:

I believe bad management is the real answer.
They came late with the DC-8 and weren't subsidized as Boeing was with the 707/KC-135.
The DC-8, 9 and 10 had no commonality with each other, unlike the 707/727/737.
Launching the DC-10 when the L-1011 was already launched into a market that was too small for both. A rushed program with disastrous consequences.

The sales team offered options and delivery dates that the production couldn't keep up with, right up until the time H. Stonecipher took over, so were paying late delivery payments for decades. Hence no money for upgrades or new models.

Boeing were driving nails in the coffin for a long time with the 747SP to compete with the DC-10-30. Remember the 747 was partly financed by the C-5 project. Then the 737-600 which killed off the MD-90 project.

User currently offlineMD80Nut From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 1023 posts, RR: 8
Reply 14, posted (10 years 3 months 9 hours ago) and read 9253 times:

I believe a contributing factor was that they simply did not compete effectively in the commercial airplane market. I've always felt it was a blunder for them to allow Airbus and Boeing to dominate the popular widebody twin market.

I read an article back in 1998 or so, I believe it was in Airliner World, were they said MD engineers in 1971 proposed a DC-10 twin, essentially a two thirds of a DC-10 that would have had at least 70% commonality in parts with the tri-jet, as well as using the same cockpit. The article said there was considerable interest by airlines in the twin, specially those that had already ordered the DC-10. The article implied that the slow start in Airbus A300 sales was more due to airlines waiting to see if MD was going to offer the DC-10 twin than any skepticism over the concept of the widebody twin. As we know, McDonald Douglas never offered it and the A300, with no direct competitor, went on to establish Airbus as a player in the market.

I've often wondered how different things might have been had McD built a widebody twin. Too bad, as I always have been a big fan of their aircraft.

Cheers, Ralph

Fly Douglas Jets DC-8 / DC-9 / DC-10 / MD80 / MD11 / MD90 / 717
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