Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 269,302
2013: 330,818

My Dinner with Audrey – The Last Commercial MD-11 Flight

PH-KCE (Audrey Hepburn) arriving at gate A55 after a water cannon Salute. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

PH-KCE (Audrey Hepburn) arriving at gate A55 after a water cannon salute – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

In October of 1934, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) took delivery of their first Douglas aircraft: a DC-2.  This DC-2 was entered into an air race from London to Melbourne. It placed second. Not only did it place second, but it did so carrying a full passenger load. Fast forward to 1993. KLM took delivery of their last, now, McDonnell Douglas aircraft type – the MD-11. Unfortunately for us enthusiasts, October 25th (when KLM’s summer timetable ended) would not only mark the end of the MD-11, but the end of KLM’s eighty-year history of commercially operating McDonnell Douglas aircraft.

All of KLM’s MD-11s were named after women renown for their charitable or humanitarian efforts. The aircraft I was to fly on, PH-KCE, is named after Audrey Hepburn.

Naturally, I had to be a part of the final flight.

KLM's last MD-11 to Montreal at the gate. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

KLM’s last MD-11 to Montreal at the gate – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

KLM and Aeroports Du Montreal were also very aware that this was the last MD-11 commercial passenger service, ever. They had prepared quite a party at the gate. There was an impressive stack of cupcakes; some bearing a chocolate saying “KLM 95″ – along with a soft drinks bar and a photo booth to get your photo taken with an MD-11.

Continue reading My Dinner with Audrey – The Last Commercial MD-11 Flight

The End of the (Passenger, Widebody) Trijet: Saying Goodbye to the MD-11

A KLM MD-11 coming in for a landing at Montreal - Photo: Doug | Flickr CC

A KLM MD-11 coming in for a landing at Montreal – Photo: Doug | Flickr CC

The MD-11 was probably a bad idea. McAir came up with the aircraft because it was a bigger, meaner, DC-10. So much DC-10 that there originally was not going to be an MD-11, but a DC-10 stretch. There were two attempts at this aircraft: a DC-10-10 stretched by 40 feet, and a DC-10-30 stretched by 30 feet.  Concurrently, McDonnell Douglas (McAir) was concerned about the range of the 747-SP and began work on an ultra-long-range DC-10 Global.

This research lead to an aircraft series called the DC-10 Super 60. The DC-10 Super 60 was going to be a series. A simple stretch, an ultra-long-range variant, and an aircraft optimized for both range and capacity. Unfortunately for McDonnell Douglas, the American Airlines 191 crash happened – summarily executing the DC-10 program. It did not help that there was economic malaise going on at the time, either.

An MD-11 arriving at Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Many MD-11s have been converted to cargo duty. An example arriving at Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney. Photo – Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Being the kings of iteration that they were, in 1981 they decided to revive the large trijet research. Leasing a DC-10-10 from Continental, they studied various winglet configurations in conjunction with NASA. For reasons of marketing, this project would be designated the MD-100. This was an interesting project as it actually offered more engine options than the final MD-11, in the form of the Rolls Royce RB.211. By November 1983, it was clear there was no interest in the MD-100. The board shuttered it. Continue reading The End of the (Passenger, Widebody) Trijet: Saying Goodbye to the MD-11

Air China Takes Delivery of its First 747-8 Intercontinental

Air China's first

Air China’s first 747-8 completing its first flight – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Air China has taken delivery of their first 747-89L, making them the second operator of the 747-8 Intercontinental after Lufthansa.

Air China will operate the 747-8 on training flights from Beijing to Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport. The aircraft’s first international destination will be Frankfurt, with New York and Los Angeles both slated to gain service as more aircraft arrive.

Air China’s 747-8 is configured in four classes with 12 first class seats, 54 business class, 66 premium economy, and 233 economy seats. Economy class will offer between 32 and 33 inches of seat pitch, whilst Premium Economy will offer 38″.  The aircraft will also feature onboard wifi.

The whole cabin was designed by famed Chinese designer Han Meilin. But it was odd that we didn’t get more information about the interior.

Continue reading Air China Takes Delivery of its First 747-8 Intercontinental

Cathay Pacific Concludes 747 Service to North America

Cathay Cabin crew lined up to bid farewell to their North American 747 operations. Photo - Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay cabin crew lined up to bid farewell to their North American 747 operations – Photo: Cathay Pacific Airways

On August 13, 2014 Cathay Pacific Airways celebrated its last 747 flight of any sort to North America. This is an iconic moment, as Cathay Pacific has been flying the 747 to North America, starting with San Francisco, since 1986. That’s 28 years of daily 747s. Cathay itself has been in the commercial 747 business since August 3, 1979. The actual last 747 flight to San Francisco will take place on August 31.

Cathay Pacific's 747-400 Farewell luncheon took place in San Francisco Airport's museum.  Photo - Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific’s 747-400 farewell luncheon took place in San Francisco Airport’s museum – Photo: Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay was not going to let this event pass without fanfare. At San Francisco Airport, they hosted a luncheon to celebrate the 747’s service in Cathay’s fleet.

Continue reading Cathay Pacific Concludes 747 Service to North America

Why are Airlines Continually Ordering Larger Aircraft?

United recently switched their remaining 787-8s for 787-10s. This, however is a -9 Photo - Bernie Leighton

United recently swapped their remaining 787-8 orders for 787-10s. This, however is a -9 – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Boeing sees a market for 36,770 new aircraft between 2014 and 2033; only 2,490 of them are in the “regional” category. They are also clear to not differentiate the single-aisle market by size, but other than in the “Very Large Aircraft” category (think 747 and A380), their forecast for total aircraft demand is very bullish.

With United Airlines converting seven of its eight remaining 787-8 orders to the largest Dreamliner, the 787-10, it is a situation reminiscent of Air Berlin, pending approval, switching their 787-8s to larger 787-9s.

Many airlines are trading 737-700s for larger 737-800s as they come off lease. Southwest, however, is more than happy to have them.  Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Many airlines are trading 737-700s for larger 737-800s as they come off lease. Southwest, however, is more than happy to have the smaller birds – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This is not a trend I expect to stop. Right now, the 787-8 comprises 47% of the total order book. That is, of course, significantly higher than the 249 767-200s ordered in the 767 family (or ~20% of the total 767 passenger fleet produced).

The 737-7MAX  has garnered the fewest orders of  the family (55). On the Airbus side of the spectrum, the A350-800’s future hangs in a precarious balance. The A319NEO has only garnered a total order for 45 frames. The smaller the next-generation aircraft, the smaller the backlog. Or at least, that is what the evidence shows.

The reason, as always, comes down to the most important question an airline has to answer: “what makes the most profit?”

Continue reading Why are Airlines Continually Ordering Larger Aircraft?