When I investigate the histories of models in my collection it is always an interesting moment when I realise that I have the same airframe in my collection wearing different liveries. This is the case for one of my DC-10-30s, which started its life in the South Pacific and would alternate during its career between that region and the USA. It was also unique in being the only DC-10 to wear the wonderful scheme of Air Pacific of Fiji and would be the aircraft that launched that airline's ill-fated first steps into long-haul travel.
Ship 47848/136 began life as ZK-NZN with Air New Zealand in January 1974. NZ leased its DC-10s out to other operators when seasonal demand dictated and NZN was leased to Malaysian Airlines System between November 78 and April 81. In Malaysian service she just wore blue 'malaysian airline system' titles but otherwise kept the standard NZ scheme.
The well publicised problems the DC-10 experienced in mid-1979, when its AOC was withdrawn, and the infamous crash of sistership ZK-NZP into Mt Erebus in Antarctica that November did the trijet no favours in Air New Zealand service. Additionally, McDonnell Douglas' failure to follow up with a larger longer ranged variant helped push the kiwi flag carrier into the arms of the 747. The result was that the Tens were gradually sold with NZN leaving the fleet in April 1981 sold to International Lease Finance Corp.
In 1980 the US trunk airline Western Airlines became a transatlantic airline when it started Honolulu-Anchorage-London Gatwick services using its DC-10-10s. The series 10 wasn’t ideal for such a route and in April 1981 WAL leased a series 30 from ILFC which became N821L ‘The Londoner’. This was the same aircraft that had been ZK-NZN.
In that year the routing was changed into a direct Denver-London Gatwick service but the route wasn’t a success and all transatlantic operations were stopped in 1982. N821L remained in the fleet and appears to have been scheduled on the Los Angeles to Anchorage route but as the only DC-10-30 ever operated by Western she was rather surplus to requirements.
By the early 1980s Fiji Airways had been known as Air Pacific for over a decade but was losing money with its strategy of being a pan-Pacific airline. The Fijian government bought out other shareholder governments in 1984 and the carrier reorganised itself accordingly. I've discussed this early phase of Air Pacific's existence in a previous blogpost including the service of their BAC One-Elevens:
In September 1983 Air Pacific began long-haul operations for the first time when it wet-leased N821L to operate from Nadi to Honolulu. The route continued onto Los Angeles from Hawaii, but with a Western callsign. Dubbed ‘Project America’ the service was not a success. The route was cancelled after 14 months but with debts of over $20 million the airline was forced to enter into a partnership with Qantas in 1985. This partnership left no room for the Douglas product.
This DC-10 was returned to ILFC on December, 28 1984 and she quickly joined American as N144AA. She went on to provide sterling service and wasn’t retired until 2000 after 20,297 landings and 103,400 hours.
The aircraft was ferried to Mojave for long term strage on December 5, 2000 and then sold for scrapping to GA Telesis Turbine Technologies in October 2001. Throughout its 26 year history the aircraft had a fairly unique career in-between its usage with two major DC-10 operators.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: