Yes, the DC10-40 did operate ORD
for a while as a stopgap, and perhaps SEA
too, but this was all it was, a stopgap. The aircraft was very performance limited between ANC
, so basically it was pax/bags only and often with a seat block - and that was in the days with the original certified operating weight - so it was pax/bags and fumes. As TokyoNarita says, the JAL DC10-40s could operate to HNL
easily whereas it would have been a nightmare for NWA. Indeed, I remember one time we did operate a DC10-40 from HNL
to Japan in the mid 90's because there was absolutely no other choice - again seat block and fumes operation. And yes, some of those former Thai / JAS aircraft were some of the very last aircraft off the production line - and with a certified max take-off weight of 580.0, they were a dream to dispatch (and still are). Compare that weight to the original weights of the NWA DC10-40 at 498.0 - thats 82.0 greater weight, along with far better fuel consumption. It was like day and night in the operation of the DC10 at Northwest.
The 747 was seen as the international aircraft in the 70s and operated practically all international sectors, including all of the developing Europe and Hawii markets initially. Then with the 747 proving too large for Europe, they began the DC10-40 operation because they had no other aircraft. This was when they operated to several destinations out of BOS
(and later GLA
in the mid-late 80's. And it was then and only then that they seriously looked at increasing the weights on the -40 - and again as a stopgap - in order to be able to operate on a level playing field with everyone else transatlantic. The DC10-30 was becoming available with the likes of Swissair taking them out of service to be replaced by MD11s and the like - so they were available at the right time for NWA as a quick and cost effective way to dramatically improve their transatlantic operation. I can't talk for the financial aspects of this decision with regard to lease payments, etc, but operationally, it was a very, very smart thing to do. It allowed us to operate current routes that were marginal at best with the -40 to the fullest of their capability - and it allowed us to develop routes which were totally outside of the realms of possibility of the DC10-40. All-in-all, the DC10-30 has been a resounding success for NWA, and yes its days are drawing to an end slowly as the A330 comes online. It will be a sad day when it finally bows out of service.