The FAA was never close to permanently grounding the DC-10. The only place that this aircraft is permanently maligned is on this board. The cargo door had a problem, there was a fix before there were fatalities, after the initial incident over Windsor, ON on the American aircraft. The Paris Turkish Air accident should never have happened. That aircraft should have been repaired before the crash, and there was a directive on how to check the rear cargo door that the airline evidently ignored.
The ORD crash, which I witnessed while on final approach in an MVA Beech 99, was caused by American's poor maintanence procedures. By removing the engines using a fork lift, American weakened the pylon structure. Had they followed McDD's suggested maintanence procedures, that crash wouldn't have taken place. The pressure to ground the DC-10 was from a bunch of political hacks in Congress that didn't have Bill Clinton's sex capades to rail against so they decided to be like that woman, Mary Sciavo, and fashion themselves as aviation experts.
In 1965 - 1966 there were four 727 crashes that happened in rapid succession, all on approach in clear or fairly good weather. At the time there were calls to ground that airplane too. The real problem was inexperienced crews that were transitioning from Piston and Turbo props to Jets and let the airplane get ahead of them, or tried to fly them like a DC-6 and found out that the aircraft, while fighter like, could be unforgiving, especially with a 40 degree flap setting.
The last DC-10 incident, UA 232 at SUX, took place in 1989, some 18 years after the first DC-10-10's went into service. A freak in flight hi bypass engine total failure caused all three hydraulic systems to fail. Many write that if it had been an L-1011, with four systems, the aircraft could have landed safely. Its also possible that a similar engine failure in an L-1011 could have blown the entire rear bulkhead off of the aircraft, or had the Ten had four systems, such a catastrophe could have resulted in the failure of four systems.
The DC-10 flew profitably, and successfully for 30 years. Had the economy not slowed, and the Arabs not hijacked four airplanes crashed them them in a such dramatic way, its quite possible that NW and CO might have flown the Ten for many years to come. There were two hull losses resulting from the failure of a mechanical part, or mechanism. Not bad for 30 years. It also should be pointed out that the DC-10-30 and 40 never experienced any of these problems.
The Ten was good airplane, but an airline can fly an aircraft with two engines cheaper than one with three. The real demise of the DC-10/MD-11 and in some respects, the L-1011, was ETOPS. Once an airline could use a twin Trans Atlantic and later Trans Pacific, the third and fourth engines became redundant. The 747 will eventually suffer the same fate, or will only be used on limited routes.
During the period of 1945 to 1958, the industry bought new aircraft because of innovations in speed, range, and comfort. The 707 and DC-8's, introduced in 1958/59 are gone today, not because the newer aircraft have more range or more comfort or more speed, they are slower in fact, but because they use less fuel, and take one less crew member. It's economics, not marketing. What is the difference to the passenger between a 757-200 and a 707-320C, very little except the lack of two engines on each wing, and the three inches less legroom, a problem, that American Airlines understands and has remedied.