What Happened To British Airways’ DC-10s?

UK flag carrier British Airways has flown a diverse variety of widebody aircraft on its long-haul routes over the years. While it is perhaps best known for its extensive Boeing 747 operations, the significance of twin-aisle trijets at the Heathrow-based airline should also not be overlooked. Among its three-engined aircraft were eight McDonnell Douglas DC-10s.

British Airways DC-10
Several of BA’s DC-10s were named after UK forests. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

Inherited from British Caledonian

In 1988, British Airways experienced a significant expansion when it acquired British Caledonian Airways. This saw it inherit aircraft from the latter’s fleet, including, according to data from ATDB.aero, eight McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s trijets. These aircraft officially joined BA’s fleet in April 1988, although they retained their existing registrations.

The DC-10-30 was a long-range version of McDonnell Douglas’s original DC-10-10. This version, which had additional central landing gear to support the weight of its extra fuel tanks, became the most widely produced DC-10 variant, with 163 examples produced between 1972 and 1988.

The name game

When the DC-10s in question flew for British Caledonian Airways, they bore names that celebrated Scottish history. Examples of the trijets were named after pioneering figures like Robert Burns, James S. Mc Donnell, and Sir Walter Scott.

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British Airways DC-10
BA inherited its DC-10s from British Caledonian Airways in April 1988. Photo: Dean Morley via Flickr

However, data from Planespotters.net shows that, upon inheriting the DC-10s, British Airways adopted a new naming system for the aircraft. Specifically, the UK flag carrier named the trijets after forests in the country. These included the Forest of Dean, Epping Forest, Sherwood Forest, Glencap Forest, the Forest of Ae, the New Forest, and Cairn Edward Forest.

Where did they end up?

Although British Airways’ DC-10s were not new when the airline inherited them, they proved a valuable workhorse to the UK flag carrier for over a decade. However, towards the end of the 1990s, the presence of newer Boeing designs such as the 747-400 and 777 saw the DC-10s phased out alongside another trijet, the Lockheed L-1011 ‘TriStar.’

Five of British Airways’ DC-10s left the UK flag carrier’s fleet in 1999, after 11 years of service. By this time, they were either approaching 20 years old, or had already surpassed this milestone. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that their futures were in the cargo sector. After all, many cargo operators favor older aircraft due to their less frequent usage patterns.

Gemini Air Cargo DC-10-30F
Gemini Air Cargo flew several ex-British Airways DC-10s. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

Overall, three ex-BA DC-10s joined US freight carrier Gemini Air Cargo in 1999. The other departures that year took one example to Emery Worldwide Airlines, and another to Cargo Lion via Stansborough Investments. A further two DC-10s departed in 2000, with one each joining Emery Worldwide Airlines and fellow US carrier World Airways.

2001 saw British Airways’ eighth and final DC-10 leave its fleet. G-DCIO was the last to go, departing in April that year for World Airways, where it received the registration N48277. Sadly, data from ATDB.aero suggests that none of the eight examples have been preserved after their service life. Five have been scrapped, two are derelict, and one was destroyed.

Did you ever fly on one of British Airways’ DC-10s? If so, where did the trijet take you? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!