Design McDonnell Douglas should take responsibilities for

Design and Professional Skills 1

Ethics Report

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McDonnell Douglas should take responsibilities for the crash of the Turkish
Airlines Flight 981

8 January 2018


In 1974, one of the  deadliest plane
crash in the history  happened when
Turkish Airlines Flight 981, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft, crashed into
Ermenonville Forest in the commune of Fontaine-Chaalis ,outside Paris killing
all 346 people onboard.The wide-bodied commercial aircraft experienced
explosive decompression just a few minutes after take-off when the rear cargo
door had blown off. The explosive force caused two rows of seats to get sucked
out.The cargo area evacuated, and the floor of the passenger area, which
separated the cabin from the lower cargo hold, buckled under the enormous
pressure differential. As a result, the hydraulic control lines that ran under
this floor to the tail of the craft were severed which resulted in the total
loss of flight control and witnesses watched as the nonresponsive plane
plummeted at nearly 500 mph into the forest , killing all 346 people onboard.


First of all, the safety aspects of the airplane when designing and
manufacturing it were not priotise.The origin of this incident lay in a poor
handling of design and manufacturing. The decisions made on the manufacture were
driven by savings at the expense of safety. Besides, cargo door’s design used
faulty philosophies. Though the door’s faults were later exposed, a more
serious problem involving the tail control lines in the passenger floor was
continually overlooked until the crash. This was due primarily to a policy of
using old design strategies which met minimum federal requirements. The company
oversimplified the control lines’ failure mode when confronted with it in
ground testing and, being committed to their own design, were unable to
recognize the root problem. In addition, miscommunication of the gravity of the
flaws led the company management to accept the risk in safety.This is to preserve
the reputation of the new aircrafts so that people will not doubt the safety of
it.The opinions given by the contractor’s engineer who knew the problem best were
forcefully silenced due to the closed lines of communication between Douglas
and their contractor.The intense competition within the industry even forces
the managers to employ more ethically questionable tactics in order the lessen
the effectiveness of the FAA’s procedures to make the design flaws look less
serious than it is to save themselves financially


Honesty in testing      

Secondly , the company was not being honest when testing the airplane.Airplane
malfunctions are normally discovered after a major incident occurs .In May
1970,the airplane underwent ground tests to prepare for it’s first flight.During
the testing, the rear cargo flew open due to the fuselage being pressurized
causing a fast depressurization of the cargo compartment.It was neglected and
the failure was blamed on the mechanic who did not lock the door properly.This
serious problem should be able to find out by the Federal Aviations
Administration(FAA),but due to lacks of menpower,to inspect the airplane,the
certification process was done by designated engineering representatives who
were actually paid by Mcdonnell Douglas .Before the deadly crash of the Turkish
flight happens, there was the exact same failure mode occurred to the
airplane.Federal government agencies concluded the changes and modifications
need to be done on it so that it would be safer.To avoid the damages that can
be done by the federal mandates upon McDonnell Douglas’s global sales effort,
the company made an agreement so called ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement ‘with the FAA
which they ‘promised’ that they will fix the problem themselves.But still 2
years later, the crash of flight 981 happened.So it is obvious that the modifications
were not properly handled making  this
unfortunate incident inevitable.



One of the relevant
ethical area for the company is rationality.The company did not make rational
decision throughout the process from designing the airplane until the crash.Mcdonnell
Douglas began sending out detailed design and manufacturing of the fuselage  to subcontractors when they were still working
on the design of DC-10.A contract called the division of General Dynamics was
awarded to Convair to build the fuselage including the cargo doors.Convair was
asked by the Douglas to prepare a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis(FMEA)for the
cargo door locking system .The report of the analysis shows numerous situations
that have the possibilities to be life-threatening .But this report is not
presented to the FAA because  Convair is
not allowed to report any issues regarding the DC-10 to FAA as this is forbade
by the contract made with Douglas.Convair has no choice to keep their contract
due to the competitiveness of business of aircraft subcontracting.


There are many
things that should be done to improve 
air travel’s safety so that disaster  such as Mcdonnell Douglas’s Turkish  Airline Crash will not happen again.A company
has to put more efforts making it more ethical in every single aspects  .After the crash,changes have been made on Mcdonnell
Douglas DC-10 to avoid the same failures to occur again.The  planes were effectively ground by the Federal Aviation Administration until the cargo door’s problems are
fixed .The FAA also worked on its own problems as soon as possible by becoming
more specific, stricter ,banned the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’,forced all the
jumbo jets industry to strengthen the floors and so on.


Besides, government regulations have to be
in placed to preserve safety and fair practices.Safety should be the top
priority instead of blindly striving for economic gain .The same incident will
happen over and over again if strict regulations are not implemented. The
incident that happened has led to hundreds of lives lost. Mcdonnell Douglas took the responsibility
for the incident resulting many people lost their jobs,damaged its own
reputation therefore affected their revenue . The Mcdonnell Douglas Corporation
was forced to pay 18 million in damages .


is very important that McDonnell Douglas should be conscientious when making
decision for not just  the engineering
process ,but for the entire life of the product.Decisions should not be driven
by savings at the expense of safety and faulty design philosophies.





The main reason why such unethical
decisions are made is because the  problems
that may cause the crash were continually overlooked.The company oversimplified
the failure mode when dealing with the jet in ground testing ,being committed
to the their own design therefore unable to recognize the root problem.



crash of the Turkish Airlines Flight 981 is a classic examples of the complex
nature of most applications of ethics in engineering. Although every
organizations that involved have done mistakes that led to this crash ,McDonnel
Douglas should take on the most blames and responsibilities for this failure to
happen. McDonnell Douglas was given plenty information and opportunities to
find out,solve and improve the fundamentals flaws of their product. If the
company has the following ethics such as honesty,rationality and priotises
safety,such horrible incident could be prevented and hundreds of people onboard
the flight will still be alive right now.The company faced several law suits
after it was discovered that they already knew about the cargo door issue
during the DC-10’s development.In the end, the McDonnell Douglas Corporation
has since been taken over by their former lead competitor Boeing, and is now
contributing to a company which is ethically reputable and has set the standard
for aircraft production throughout the entire commercial era.






1)Peter French, “What is Hamlet to McDonnell-Douglas or McDonnell-Douglas to
Hamlet?” Business & Professional Ethics Journal vol. 1, no. 2
(1982), pp. 1-13.

2)Birsch, D. (1992). Whistleblowing, Ethical Obligation, and the DC-10. In
Fielder, J. H., & Birsch, D. (Ed.), The DC-10 case: a study in applied
ethics, technology, and society (SUNY series, case studies in applied ethics,
technology, and society, pp. 161-176). Albany: State University of New York

3)Fielder, J. H. (1992). Floors, doors, latches, and locks. In Fielder, J.
H., & Birsch, D. (Ed.), The DC-10 case: a study in applied ethics,
technology, and society (SUNY series, case studies in applied ethics,
technology, and society, pp. 69-81). Albany: State University of New York

4)Livingston, Richard E. (1989). International Airline Passengers
Association Critique of the DC-10. In Fielder, J. H., & Birsch, D. (Ed.), The
DC-10 case: a study in applied ethics, technology, and society (SUNY series,
case studies in applied ethics, technology, and society, pp. 307-313). Albany: State
University of New York Press.

5)Newhouse, J. (1982). High risks, sinking fortunes. In Fielder, J. H.,
& Birsch, D. (Ed.), The DC-10 case: a study in applied ethics, technology,
and society (SUNY series, case studies in applied ethics, technology, and society,
pp. 55-67). Albany: State University of New York Press.

6) Destination Disaster, by
Paul Eddy et al., Quadrangle, The New York Times Book Company, 1976.


7)Air Disaster, Vol. 1, by Macarthur Job, Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd.
(Australia), 2001


8)Charles B. Fleddermann. Engineering Ethics. (Upper Saddle River, NJ
Prentice Hall, 1999).

9)Fielder, J. H., & Birsch, D. (Ed.). (1992). The DC-10 case: a study in
applied ethics, technology, and society (SUNY series, case studies in applied
ethics, technology, and society). Albany: State University of New York Press.

10)Daniel A. Vallero, and P. Aarne Vesilind. Socially Responsible
Engineering Justice in Risk Management. (Hoboken, NJ John Wiley & Sons,
2007), pp. 66-71.

11)Johnston, M. (1976). The last nine minutes: The story of flight 981. New
York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.











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