Airbus / McDonnell Douglas Merger That Crashed | Airline Travel News

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It could have been the aviation merger of the century linking Airbus with McDonnell Douglas (MDC) but an incredibly short-sighted decision by then MDC Chairman John McDonnell killed the deal even thou press releases were agreed.

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In 1981, MDC lost its number two spot to Airbus, which logged 64 orders against only 29 DC-9s and eight DC-1Os, and Lockheed announced the closure of its TriStar production line. For Douglas, the prospects were gloomy with no DC-l0s to be delivered beyond 1982 and only 45 Super 80s on order.

MDC then turned to a 150-seater, called the New Commercial Aircraft. A memorandum of understanding was signed with Fokker in May 1981 to develop the MDF-100, a combination of NCA and F29 studies. This project was terminated in February 1982 because of the depressed state of the airline industry.

But the business was turning for Douglas, with success in several military contracts, including an order for 60 KC-10A Extender tankers derived from the DC-10-30CF that kept the tri-jet production line open. Despite this buoyancy, Douglas Aircraft chief, John Brizendine, tired of interference by the McDonnells- decided to retire. In March 1982, Sandy McDonnell, cousin of John McDonnell, appointed Jim Worsham, GE’s VP of marketing development, as executive vice president at Douglas Aircraft.

Worsham arrived at the right time. Deregulation was rapidly changing market dynamics with point-to-point travel giving way to hub-and-spoke operations, which demanded 150-seat jets. Worsham responded with a once-only innovative rent-a-plane deal, secured orders from TWA and American for a total of 35 DC-9 Super 80s, and sold another 30 to Alitalia.

A beaming Worsham, (below left) who was appointed president of Douglas on November 15, 1982, told The Los Angeles Times that “reports of Douglas’ death were exaggerated.” The…

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