Mayday (2013) s05e03 Episode Script

Behind Closed Doors

VOICEOVER: At the time, it was the worst crash in aviation history.
(SCREAMS) It was just a scene of absolute utter devastation.
In 1974, more than 300 people died when their plane fell from the sky.
There's barely anything left here that's recognisable as being a part of an aircraft.
You couldn't walk anywhere without the danger you were gonna stand on a part of a human being.
The key to understanding the disaster is found thousands of kilometres away.
An unusual piece of evidence that tells the troubling story of a crash that could have been prevented.
June 12, 1972.
One of the newest members of American Airlines fleet is in Detroit, Michigan.
- John.
Paige.
- Sir.
Flight 96, a brand-new DC-10, is getting ready for take-off.
Captain Bryce McCormick and copilot Paige Whitney have been in the plane for hours.
When we're in flight, if you can get a chance to look at that.
Detroit is just a stopover on a flight from L.
A.
to Buffalo and then to New York.
- Are we ready to try one, Paige? - Alright, sir.
McCormick has flown the plane out from California, but Whitney is going to fly the next leg.
Both men want as much time at the controls as possible.
Neither one of them has more than 75 hours flying the DC-10.
Few pilots have more.
There simply aren't enough of the planes in the air.
In 1972, the DC-10 had just been introduced.
The plane is the latest advance to passenger jets.
Its style and its size set it apart from other airliners.
The McDonnell Douglas Corporation has spent more than $1 billion developing it.
MAN: In the late '60s, there was a race going among the three major manufacturers of jetliners - McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Lockheed - to see who could get the first jumbo out.
So they got really busy on getting this DC-10 into production as fast as they could.
And one of the things that they could not suffer were many delays based on some problem with the design.
American Airlines is one of the first companies to buy the plane.
Flight 96 is one of those planes.
I'll get that for you in a second.
Just the fifth DC-10 ever built.
Cydya Smith has just been trained to be the chief flight attendant on the DC-10.
I was excited because it was one of the first jumbos that we had.
And I was gonna have the opportunity to fly number one - which is what I always wanted to do - on a big jet.
OK.
You got it? OK.
Hand on the wheel.
I got ya.
V1 rotate.
Just after 7:00 in the evening, Flight 96 lifts off from Detroit airport.
Just minutes after take-off, the plane is rising easily through 3,500m over Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
CYDYA: I was sitting in my seat and the captain had turned off the 'fasten seatbelt' sign.
And I was making my way to the galley.
And I had to go sort of downhill because we were climbing to go to the galley to turn on the coffee.
When I punched the coffee and I moved over to one side, that's when it happened.
(BOOM!) I remember falling over.
Because the plane was goingwas like this but all of a sudden, it just went like this.
And I saw ceiling compartments fall and I saw things coming out of pockets and everything.
And I thought to myself, "Oh, boy.
" Itit felt .
.
like the last day of my life.
- (ALARMS BLARE) - We hit something! We lost an engine here! In the cockpit, the crew is fighting for control of their jet.
The throttles which control the three engines have snapped to idle.
The plane loses almost all its thrust.
The huge jet begins slowing down.
The plane immediately took a huge drop.
And the next thing that happened was I was hit in the face with a piece of the plane.
My husband was frantically trying to find a stewardess to give me something to put pressure on my face to stop the bleeding.
Let me have it! McCormick takes over control of the plane.
(TURNS OFF ALARM) He and Whitney wrestle the jet level.
But Flight 96 has been badly damaged.
Have we got hydraulics? No.
I've got full rudder here.
The rudder on the tail, which controls the direction of the jet, is jammed to the right.
That's forcing the plane to swing dramatically in that direction.
While McCormick fights to turn his damaged plane back to Detroit, Cydya Smith is shocked to see a gaping hole in the floor of the main passenger cabin.
People were asking me what to do and I knew that I didn't know what to tell them.
Smith has been able to account for all of her passengers.
But flight attendant Sandra McConnell is missing.
Sandra! Can you hear me? Sandra, where are you? And finally I saw her come out of one of the bathrooms.
McConnell has to cross the hole in the floor to move to safety.
And almost every step she took, the floor kept collapsing.
(ALARM BEEPS) The crew brings up power to the engines on the wings.
But the third engine on the tail stubbornly refuses to respond.
Center, this is American Airlines Flight 96.
We've got an emergency.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) American 96.
Roger.
Type of emergency? We've got a jammed rudder.
We need to get down and make an approach.
Along with this engine and his rudder, McCormick is also having trouble controlling the elevators on the tail of the plane.
They help him move the massive plane up and down.
They're slow to respond but he can move them.
The situation isn't completely hopeless.
I think it's going to fly.
MAN: (OVER RADIO) American 96, turn for the right heading in 200.
Without complete control of the elevators and with a rudder that's frozen to the right, McCormick has to use his engines to turn the plane.
By increasing the thrust on one side of the plane, he can change direction.
But it won't be fast.
I have no rudder control whatsoever.
So our turns are gonna have to be very slow and cautious.
All of the passengers move as far away from the hole in the back as possible.
But apart from the cut to Loretta Kaminsky, so far there are no other serious injuries.
(PHONE BEEPS) CYDYA: Captain! There's a hole in the back of the plane.
- A hole? - Yes, sir.
What do you want us to do? Get everyone ready for an emergency landing.
Bryce McCormick's DC-10 is badly damaged.
The lives of everyone on board now depend entirely on his ability to land a plane that can barely fly.
With explosive suddenness, a short flight from Detroit to Buffalo has become the most challenging flight of Captain Bryce McCormick's career.
He's down an engine and he can't move his rudder.
As he heads back to Detroit, McCormick begins to slow his plane down so it can land safely.
But when he does, his plane begins falling dangerously fast.
Ideally, McCormick should be descending at 700 feet a minute.
But now he's falling more than twice that fast.
1,600 feet per minute.
What's the sink rate? Sink rate.
1,600! At this rate, McCormick will crash well short of the runway.
He increases power to his engines to slow his fall.
Sink rate 700.
McCormick has slowed the plane's descent to 700 feet per minute.
But to do that, he's had to increase his forward airspeed, which means he'll be landing far faster than usual.
For the first time since the beginning of the crisis, McCormick talks to the passengers.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.
We've had a small problem but the plane is under control now and we're heading back to Detroit for an emergency landing.
LORETTA: Bryce McCormick was as calm as if he were welcoming you on the plane.
As the plane nears the airport, flight attendants ask passengers to remove their shoes and any sharp pieces of jewellery.
CYDYA: They had to take off their shoes and glasses.
We collected everything in a blanket.
Less than half an hour after leaving, the badly damaged DC-10 struggles back to the Detroit airport.
The few minutes that it took to get back to Detroit were the longest minutes that I will ever remember spending on an airplane.
Because we were sure that we were not going to survive.
Captain Bryce McCormick now needs to give the jet even more power to push the nose up for landing.
His plane is still drifting to the right and travelling fast.
I have no rudder to straighten it out when it hits.
The DC-10 with 67 people aboard roars toward the runway at almost 300km an hour.
Brace! The landing was the most frightening part of the entire flight.
(BRAKES SQUEAL) When the plane hits the ground, it begins veering hard to the right.
Once the plane landed, it seemed like we just went on forever.
I mean, it was just forever.
One set of landing-gear wheels runs off the runway and through the grass.
After a harrowing touchdown, the plane eventually comes to a stop just 300m from the end of the runway.
OK.
Engines off at your discretion.
Shut 'em down.
LORETTA: Every woman wanted to hug him.
And he was just amazing.
Because it was just at that moment that we all realised that we were alive because of him.
That he literally had saved our lives.
You look at something like this and you say, "Well, there's good flying and there's bad flying.
" This is beyond good.
This is superlative.
This is using every instinct you have as an airman and all the capabilities you have to stay calm enough to get the situation assessed.
With the plane on the ground, the crew has its first opportunity to inspect the damage.
The captain and I walked back when everybody was off.
We walked back to the back.
And we just looked up and saw this hole.
And it was just so weird.
There's no indication that the jet hit something, as the pilots first thought.
What has caused such damage to the airliner? The hole was so enormous that if anyone had been sitting in the seats that were there, they would have been sucked out immediately.
At that point, they still felt it might have been a bomb.
But while the incident had happened with explosive suddenness, no indication of a bomb is found.
As investigators begin their work, they discover that not all of the DC-10 is at the Detroit airport.
A coffin that the plane was carrying in its cargo hold is discovered 30km away from the Detroit airport, near Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Investigators also find the plane's rear cargo door.
Doors are not supposed to fall off airplanes.
Especially since it was a rather new airplane, you would not expect something like that to happen.
When they examined the cargo area of the plane, they discover that the very design of the door makes it a potential weak spot.
Most doors on a jet open inward.
In fact, the door is slightly larger than the frame it fits into.
As the pressure builds inside the jet, this type of plug door is actually forced into the frame of the aircraft.
The design makes the door extremely safe.
But McDonnell Douglas designed the cargo door on the DC-10 to open outward.
That decision was made to increase the amount of storage space on the plane.
When it's closed, hooks on the DC-10's door grab hold of a bar on the plane's doorframe.
To make sure it's closed, baggage handlers push down on a lever which drives locking pins through the hooks which hold them in place.
When investigators examine the cargo area of the plane, they don't find any structural damage around the door.
When they study the locks on the cargo door itself, they find that the latches are not completely closed.
And the pins that are supposed to make sure the door is locked are not in their locked position.
When we interrogated the cargo handler that closed the door, it became immediately apparent that he used excessive force to close the door and, in fact, he said he had to use his knee to get the door handle to go flush.
Investigators make a frightening discovery - it's possible to close the lever on the outside of the door even if the hooks and locking pins are not in the closed position.
Paul Eddy is a journalist who investigated the history of the DC-10.
What Windsor showed is that you could actually pull the handle in order to buckle the top fixture so that the handle went home properly but the locking pins had not gone through the spools.
MAN: Engage the lever.
This means that baggage handlers can believe the door is closed when it's not.
Not only can the outside lever be closed without the locks being fully engaged, there's no way for the crew of the plane to know.
The faulty locking pins will still turn off the warning light, even though they aren't in their proper position.
The door was a ticking time bomb.
As passenger jets climb, the difference between the pressure inside the plane and the pressure outside the plane grows.
If a door isn't properly shut, it will blow out with explosive force.
The problem on the American Airlines flight began as the plane passed through 3,500 metres.
When the door blew, the coffin in the cargo hold was sucked out.
(ALARM BEEPS) When the air pressure inside the plane was released, anything that wasn't firmly attached was pulled out of the airliner.
It's a really startling thing if you're not expecting it.
What you've got is a lot of air stuffed inside this pressure vessel that now wants to get out.
And the bigger the airplane is, the more powerful the hurricane of air leaving the airplane is during that period of time.
By itself, explosive decompression does not make a plane unflyable.
So why had Captain McCormick experienced such difficulties controlling his jet? Investigators take a closer look at the back of the plane's cabin .
.
and learn that the very design of the DC-10 makes it vulnerable.
When the cargo door blew off, there was so much pressure on the floor of the cabin that it collapsed into the cargo compartment below.
When it did, the floor ripped into some of the plane's critical control systems.
JACK NANCE: When it collapsed the floor, it took the cables that controlled number two engine and it took most of the cables, or rather impeded most of the cables that had to do with the flight controls in the back.
I think it's going to fly.
It left McCormick just enough control to keep his plane level.
The remarkable flying of Bryce McCormick had saved the lives of everyone on board Flight 96.
But there was a problem with one of the newest and most expensive planes flying over North America.
In the Windsor incident, there was an obvious flaw and that's where the NTSB said, "Look, here is the smoking gun - "the ability to close that thing "without having all those locks engaged.
"Let's make sure we change this system right now.
"Every DC-10 operator needs to know this.
" Right, I want everything checked.
I want all the bolts checked first.
Chuck Miller is the head of the NTSB's Aviation Safety Bureau.
You have to check all the latches, OK? Every single latch It's his responsibility to point out problems with the new DC-10 and propose solutions.
He helps right the fixes he thinks McDonnell Douglas needs to make to keep the plane safe.
PAUL EDDY: He was a very, very professional man and his investigators had enormous respect for him.
Chuck didn't sit back in the office.
Chuck was always on the scene.
For Chuck Miller, fixing the DC-10 is a matter of professional pride.
For McDonnell Douglas, the near accident over Windsor has enormous implications.
Their $1 billion gamble came close to tumbling from the sky.
If anything else goes wrong, the company itself could be at stake.
March 3, 1974 - a perfect spring-like day in Paris.
It's been almost two years since a DC-10 came close to crashing near Windsor, Ontario.
Now more than 50 of the new planes are flying around the world.
One of them, Plane 29, is owned by Turkish Airlines.
Normally the last leg of this trip from Turkey to England wouldn't be very crowded.
But today the DC-10 is filling up fast.
People are squeezing into seats throughout the plane.
A strike at a British airline has passengers scrambling for any flight back to London.
Wendy Wheal is one of many last-minute additions to the flight.
A model, she's returning home after a shoot in Spain.
MAN: We'd been out for 18 months and, er, we were about to start a family.
I believe the secret of her success for modelling was not just that she was a very attractive girl and good model material but she was generally liked by all the photographers because she had such a pleasing, lovely, light personality.
With all the new passengers boarding, the flight is a little behind schedule.
And it's not only the crew who are waiting.
At the back of the plane is baggage handler Mohammed Mahmoudi.
With all the new passengers, he's not sure if there are any more bags to load.
(DOOR BEEPS) Not expecting any other luggage, Mahmoudi locks the rear cargo door.
The DC-10 is set to go.
Just after 12:30 in the afternoon, THY Flight 981 lifts off into the skies above Paris.
London is less than an hour away.
Base control, this is Tango Hotel Yankee 981.
We're at 60.
Requesting clearance to flight level 230.
MAN: (ON RADIO) Tango Hotel Yankee 981, you are cleared to flight level 230.
981.
Roger.
As it flies away from the airport, the DC-10 continues to gain altitude.
2,700 metres.
3,000 metres.
3,300 metres.
- (BANG!) - (PASSENGERS SCREAM) The huge jet shudders and banks to the left.
(ALARMS BEEP) What happened?! - The cabin blew out! - Are you sure? Just 16 seconds after the start of the crisis, the crew struggles to save their crippled jet.
The nose is pitching down, the plane picking up speed.
Bring it up! Pull our nose up! I can't bring it up! She doesn't respond.
(PASSENGERS SCREAM) Passengers at the back of the plane witness a horrifying scene.
Two rows of seats have simply disappeared.
Through a huge hole in the floor, passengers can see the sky over France.
7,000 feet! - Hydraulics? - We've lost them! The crew discovers that they have no hydraulic power with which to control the plane.
Without it, they can't move their rudder or elevators.
Even without its most basic controls, the plane begins to level out.
But it's fallen too far.
It looks like we're going to hit the ground.
Brace! The DC-10 is travelling almost 800km/h.
(BOOM!) The flight from Paris to London never even makes it to the English Channel.
Just nine minutes after taking off, Turkish Airways Flight 981 becomes the worst plane crash of all time.
In London, the flight is listed as 'delayed'.
The news of the crash comes out slowly.
I went to the ticket office, kiosk, and I asked, "What has happened to the flight?" And instantly the look on the gentleman's face behind the counter told me something was wrong - instantly.
There's barely anything left here that's recognisable as being a part of an aircraft.
I looked on the television and I just thought, "Well, I just hope she's dead," because I just saw the carnage of the forest in Senlis and it was like looking at a First World War trench movie.
Flight 981 carrying 346 passengers virtually disintegrates on impact.
There are no survivors.
It was just a scene of absolutely, utter devastation and the litter of personal possessions, electric wires, bits of metal, bits of bodies just strewn everywhere I mean, you couldn't walk you couldn't walk anywhere without the danger you were gonna stand on a part of a human being.
I still have nightmares about this, even though it's 33 years ago.
Investigators for the French Accident Investigation Bureau are quickly on the scene.
My first job was to evaluate the scope of the wreckage and to begin the first investigation on the spot.
At first I was unable to know what has happened.
I was just seeing that a terrible crash has occurred and that it will be very hard work for the investigators.
Despite the enormous force of the crash, the black boxes, made of three layers of hardened steel and insulation, survive.
Their contents could provide valuable clues about the crash.
Most of the speculation was that it must have been a bomb because you've got an almost brand-new, very powerful aeroplane flying in clear blue sky and it gets to 12,000 feet and falls out of it.
Investigators are called to a field 15km from the crash site.
They find a piece of fuselage and two rows of seats from the DC-10.
Somehow, they fell free of the airliner before the rest of the plane smashed into the forest.
When investigators arrive, the bodies of the passengers who were in the seats have already been removed.
When relatives of those who died in the crash arrive in France, they're directed to a small church in the town of Senlis.
One of the saddest sights I have ever seen is in this church.
They laid out, on tables, everything they'd found - you know, clothing, possessions, teddy bears, rings, watches.
And then relatives who wanted to were allowed to come and walk around these trestle tables with all their stuff laid out.
They produced a little packet with my wife's wedding ring and rings, engagement ring.
It was all pretty battered up so you could imagine the thoughts that went through my mind.
March 3, 1974.
(LOUD RUMBLING, SCREAMING) (ALARMS BLARE) (BOOM!) Since the accident involves an American plane, the NTSB's Chuck Miller joins the investigation.
For the second time in two years he's dealing with a problem with the DC-10.
I don't believe that Miller suspected for one moment that the door hadn't been fixed after Windsor.
But it becomes clean that the piece of fuselage found in France is in fact the plane's rear cargo door.
It seems like a repeat of the Windsor accident.
Miller is left with a haunting question - why hadn't the problem been fixed? When he saw the door, of course saw that it hadn't been done, the fix hadn't been made, that's when, uh, I think his anger, uhbecame very, very strong indeed.
Miller takes an unusual step.
Although the official investigation is just beginning, he gives journalist Paul Eddy an important tip.
I said, "Have you got any ideas what made the door come off?" He said, "Yeah.
"If I were you I'd go look at a place called Windsor, Ontario.
" Hello.
I'm Chuck Miller.
Miller shares his suspicions with the French investigators.
Could you please pass these around? These were taken on June 12, 1972, right after the incident.
We have asked for the report on the Windsor accident and our American colleagues were also volunteers to give us a lot of details.
Now, we had an American Airlines flight from Detroit to Buffalo have its cargo door blow off.
I knew he was being very frank and explaining what he was thinking of the Windsor accident.
After all the work done during the American Airlines investigation .
.
had something been overlooked? Was there another problem with McDonnell Douglas's enormous plane? With the information from Chuck Miller, French investigators take a closer look at the plane's cargo door.
They make a shocking discovery.
There is no new problem.
It's just like the American Airlines case all over again.
The latches that are supposed to hold the cargo door closed aren't locked.
And since two rows of seats were sucked out of the DC-10 over Paris, it's clear that the floor on the plane collapsed - just as it had in Windsor.
It looks like we're going to hit the ground! ON TAPE: I can't bring it up! In fact, when investigators listened to the cockpit voice recorder ON TAPE: 10,000 feet.
.
.
they find that the Turkish flight crew had even less control of their plane than the crew of American Airlines Flight 96.
We need to get down and make an approach.
I think it's going to fly.
Over Windsor, Bryce McCormick was able to recover his plane and land it .
.
but in Paris, all the hydraulic systems were destroyed.
ON TAPE: Hydraulics?! We've lost it! The hydraulic fluid helps crews move the rudder and elevators on the tail.
Not being able to control them meant the crew couldn't keep their plane in the sky.
(BOOM!) The basic problem was the Paris flight was much heavier in terms of the number of people on board.
The floor, when it collapsed, collapsed with such a tremendous amount of pressure that it literally severed all the cables and control to the back.
They had no hope after that point.
MAN: Do you and each of you solemnly swear that the testimony Shortly after the crash of Turkish Airlines Flight 981, Chuck Miller is back in the United States.
Our first witness this morning is Mr C.
O.
Miller, director of the Bureau of Aviation Safety of the NTSB.
This time he's facing questions from American senators.
.
.
of potentially catastrophic design defects A special hearing begins to find out how a problem that was identified in 1972 could bring another plane down two years later.
Of course, our understanding up to this time, they had all had been.
What you gotta now discover is why wasn't that door fixed.
Why would a major, venerable, mighty American corporation .
.
deliberately do something like this? Less than a month after the near crash over Windsor, the NTSB had made two very specific recommendations.
Miller and his investigators recommended that a change be made to the locking mechanism.
MAN: Engage the lever.
The wanted to make sure that it was physically impossible for baggage handlers to close the lever without the locking pins being in place.
They also suggested that vents be put into the floors of all DC-10s.
This would rapidly allow the pressurised cabin air to equalise without collapsing the floor.
But in the two years since the accident, neither one of these recommendations was implemented.
There is a fundamental problem at the heart of aviation safety - and there has been in the United States for a very long time - and that is that it's the job of the NTSB to discover what's happened and to come up with recommendations as to how to prevent it happening again, but it has absolutely no authority to implement them.
The NTSB does not have regulatory authority.
They have to turn to the FAA - as they did - and say, "We want these things done.
" And that's where the system went wrong.
If the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, issues an Airworthiness Directive, planes are pulled out of service until the proper fix is made.
But as serious as the problems on the DC-10 were, no Airworthiness Directive was ever issued.
A so-called 'gentlemen's agreement' between the head of the FAA and the head of McDonnell Douglas stopped it from happening.
The gentlemen's agreement is the root cause of Paris.
There is no question that if an Airworthiness Directive had been issued - as it should have been after Windsor - Paris would not have happened.
It was an entirely avoidable accident.
McDonnell Douglas assured the FAA that it would fix the problem voluntarily.
An Airworthiness Directive would cast a shadow on the still-fledgling DC-10.
The last thing in the world you want is for the public or any of the airlines who are going to be operating these airplanes to think, "Uh-oh, maybe there's some flaws on this bird," and so an Airworthiness Directive, especially one that requires you to go back and re-engineer something, is a really horrific thought for a manufacturer.
McDonnell Douglas did make changes to the way the cargo door was built.
A peephole was cut in the bottom of the door so baggage handlers could see if the locking pins had engaged.
Several warning signs were also attached to the plane's door.
The company also made other changes to the DC-10.
These included increasing the length of the locking pins and attaching a plate to the inside of the door.
This plate would make it physically impossible to push down the lever if the door wasn't properly locked.
But each of the proposed fixes had its own problem.
Many baggage handlers didn't know what the small window in the door was for.
And the baggage handler in Paris read and spoke three languages, but not English, the only language in which the warning signs were written.
The support plate that was supposed to be installed in the door was never attached to the jet that crashed in Paris.
Papers confirming the completion of the work are also uncovered.
But no matter what the paper trail says, the fix was never made.
Again the problem is you don't have an independent FAA inspector coming along to look and see and then put his stamp on it.
Because it wasn't an Airworthiness Directive.
In the years following the Turkish Airlines crash, an enormous flurry of lawsuits are filed in California.
The tragic story of the DC-10 has one more surprise in store.
It's 1974, and an unprecedented series of lawsuits are being filed against McDonnell Douglas.
The families of those who died near Paris want someone held responsible.
As time went by, I learnt more and more about what actually happened, and realised that it was not an accident as we would call an accident.
It was totally avoidable.
My goal was to expose these people.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, lawyers who are involved in the case have access to the entire history of the DC-10's development.
They're not the only ones who pore through the evidence.
So does journalist Paul Eddy.
We were determined to get to those documents and that testimony.
Somebody gave us a key to the depository where the documents were.
And so at night we would go in, and then had a huge accumulated pile of documents to go through, in order to find out what they'd been up to.
Reading through the immense pile of paper, Eddy makes an incredible discovery.
A memo written by Don Applegate, the Director of Product Engineering for Convair, the company who'd built the cargo door for McDonnell Douglas.
I think the point when we knew we'd got them was the Applegate memorandum that specifically prewarned this would happen.
The memo is a damning indictment of the cargo doors that were being made for the DC-10, and the lack of venting in the cabin floors.
It warns that it's only a matter of time before there's a major disaster involving the doors.
MAN: "The airplane demonstrated an inherent susceptibility "to catastrophic failure "when exposed to explosive decompression "of the cargo compartment.
" The memo, written just weeks after the near disaster in Windsor, recommends that immediate changes be made to the DC-10 cargo door.
You know you've got them.
You know you've got them, 'cause you know they knew.
During the court case, another chilling find is made.
Not only did McDonnell Douglas know about the problem after Windsor .
.
they knew during the development of the DC-10.
Four years before the Paris crash - two years before Windsor - the cargo door failed during a pressure test.
The company knew there was a problem.
But the fundamental design of the door stayed the same.
I could not believe that a large corporation, McDonnell Douglas at the time, could do such a thing, could risk our lives - ordinary people's lives - for the sake of money.
Well, in aviation it's called 'tombstone technology'.
In other words, we always have the balance of money.
And unfortunately, over the years it has been true more times than not that we have had to wait until we had enough people die in an accident to say, "We really are gonna have to spend the money over here.
" The Applegate memo, and other information that comes out during the court case, leads to one of the biggest settlements in the history of aviation.
McDonnell Douglas paid over $80 million in damages.
After the Paris crash, foolproof changes were finally made to the DC-10 cargo door.
And this time nothing was left to chance.
The FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive that ensured the doors would never again open in midair.
And it worked.
After Paris, there wasn't another serious incident involving the cargo doors on a DC-10.
But the plane's history, and an intensely competitive industry, did have an impact.
McDonnell Douglas sold far fewer commercial DC-10s than it had once hoped for.
Most of the pilots that I know who have flown the DC-10 over the years really love the old bird.
She's probably a little more clunky than the 747 in terms of her heaviness of flight controls, but it's still a lovely bird to fly.
That's fine, but you can't disassociate .
.
either the aeroplane or the company from the awful reputation that the crash left.
Eventually McDonnell Douglas itself disappears.
The company was bought by Boeing in 1996.
In the forest outside Paris a monument now stands honouring those who were killed on Flight 981.
A permanent reminder of one of the most disturbing crashes in the history of aviation.
ROBERT WHEAL: You never forget.
I've gone on to lead my life for 30-odd years, but I've never forgotten.
People to this day think it was an accident.
And it wasn't.