The grounding of the @dc10s by the Federal Aviation Administration has crippled European air connections to the rest of the world.
Although the plane is not widely used for intra-Europe travel, its grounding has affected an estimated 40 to 50 percent of the long-distance capacity from Europe to North America, Asia, Africa, and South America. "It's Europe's connection with the rest of the world," as one observer here put it.
Many of the European airlines bought DC10s for the long-haul routes they thought could not support, the larger Boeing 747s. The major European airlines have more than 60 of the planes: Among the largest operators are Lufthansa, the West German airline with 11; Swissair with nine; Alitalia with eight; Iberia with seven, and UTA, a French airline, and British Caledonian Airways also fly them.
When the grounding orders went out last week, the planes and their passengers were stranded all over the world. For instance, one of Sabena's three DC 10s was in Bangkok, and another was in Panama. Neither has moved.
About 400 visitors to Papeete, Tahiti had to stay over when UTA's DC10 was grounded.
As soon as the FAA grounded the DC10, aviation officials around the world followed suit. They have a long tradition of cooperation with the FAA and have always looked to the United States for leadership in safety, air-worthiness and certificate for the DC10, other countries followed immediately. Now, however, at the beginning of the heavy travel season, officials are under pressure from the airlines to seek ways to determine on their own if the DC10 is safe.
Airline officials here maintain it is. They express surprise that the FAA has taken actions causing all DC10s to be grounded. There is some resentment that the FAA calls the shots for the rest of the world at least in the sense that Europe's U.S. bound flights have been so severly hampered.
In addition, all the European airline leaders maintain they have inspected their planes thoroughly and found no trouble.
Generally, they contend that the long range DC10 Series 30, which most of them fly, is significantly different from the DC10, Series 10, involved in the fatal crash in Chicago and in which the cracks have been found.
They also suggest that American Airlines, to which the ill-fated plane belonged, was using a maintenance procedure on its wings and pylons that was contrary to McDonnell-Douglas instructions. The procedure, involving a mechanical forklift, which some contend may have put undue stress on the wings is not used here, they argue.
Claiming that little satisfactory information is flowing here from the FAA, the European airlines have worked out a plan they hope will at least allow them to begin using the planes again for routes not going to the United States.
Meeting in Strasbourg Tuesday, the European Civil Aviation Commission, comprised of representative from 21 European countries, agreed to draw up a program of inspections and maintenance designed to insure and maintain the air-worthiness of the DC10 to speed official consideration of returning the plane into service.
The program is being drafted now by a group of airline officials and will be submitted to a meeting of aviation and airline experts on Friday in Zurich. If the program is approved, it will be reviewed by a formal extraordinary maintenance review board on Monday, also in Zurich.
Hans Raben, president of the European Civil Aviation Commission, said FAA and McDonnell-Douglas officials have been invited to attend along with the 13 European DC10 operators and their worthiness authorities.