Turkish Airlines Flight 981 was a regularly scheduled flight from Istanbul Yesilköy Airport to London Heathrow Airport with an intermediate stop in Paris at Orly Airport. On 3 March 1974, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 operating the flight crashed into the Ermenonville Forest, outside Paris, killing all 346 people on board. At the time, it was the deadliest plane crash in aviation history. It still remains the fourth-deadliest plane crash in aviation history, is the deadliest involving a DC-10, the second deadliest with no survivors, the deadliest single-plane crash with no survivors, the deadliest to have occurred on French soil, and the second worst aviation accident in Europe. The crash was also known as the Ermenonville air disaster, from the forest where the aircraft crashed.
The crash was caused when an improperly secured cargo door at the rear of the plane broke off, causing an explosive decompression which severed cables necessary to control the aircraft. Because of a known design flaw left uncorrected before and after the production of DC-10s, the cargo hatches did not latch reliably, and manual procedures were relied upon to ensure they were locked correctly. Problems with the hatches had occurred previously, most notably in an identical incident that happened on American Airlines Flight 96 in 1972, the so-called "Windsor Incident". Investigation showed that the handles on the hatches could be improperly forced shut without the latching pins locking in place. It was noted that the pins on the hatch that failed on Flight 981 had been filed down to make it easier to close the door, resulting in the hatch being less resistant to pressure. Also, a support plate for the handle linkage had not been installed, although manufacturer documents showed this work as completed. Finally, the latching had been performed by a baggage handler who did not speak Turkish or English, the only languages provided on a warning notice about the cargo door's design flaws and the methods of compensating for them. After the disaster, the latches were redesigned and the locking system significantly upgraded.
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