Society for Case Research MBAA 2020

Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
John-Gabriel Licht, Jamie O'Brien, Marc Schaffer

Title: Behind Closed Doors: The DC-10 and the Decline of McDonnell Douglas

This case explores the accidents of two McDonnell Douglas DC-10s in the early 1970s at the onset of the jumbo jet race between Boeing, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas. It explores the series of events during the “Windsor Incident” in 1972 and the subsequent accident over Paris in 1974. It explores the reasons why the cargo door on the DC-10 was faulty and subsequently why the door was not fixed. It examines the interplay of industry suppliers such as McDonnell Douglas and how they interact with oversight authorities such as the Federal Aviation Authority. The Teaching Note has four primary objectives. First, it allows students to think through a conceptual cost and benefit analysis associated with the decision-making process in line with basic economic thinking. Students will revisit core concepts of marginal benefit versus marginal cost, and the notion of opportunity costs. The second goal of this case is to consider the role of business ethics in the DC-10 case: specifically, to consider the potential influence of moral disengagement in unethical decisions made by McDonnell Douglas. Finally, the case allows students to explore organizational culture and specifically offer recommendations for organizations thinking about the link between decision-making, the role of ethics, and culture.