Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 345,636
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

SimpliFlying Announces Best Airline Social Media Presence

The Trophies all lined up ready to be handed to the winners of the SimpliFlying Social Media Awards - Photo: Artstudio23.com

The trophies all lined up ready to be handed to the winners of the SimpliFlying Social Media Awards – Photo: Artstudio23.com

On a recent flight from Seattle to Phoenix I did something that has become more common. My flight was delayed and I conversed with the airline via Twitter to see if there was anything I could do to make my now-25-minute connection.  Had the airline not had a presence on Twitter, I could have been stranded.  This was not a first though for me; I often deal with the airline social media teams to get situations handled, or to help with a booking.  Social media and airlines seem to go hand-in-hand lately, but what airlines have the best social media presence?

October saw a selection of travel social media heavyweights all gathered for the 4th Annual SimpliFlying Social Media awards in Amsterdam. Over 37,000 votes were collected for the evening’s events to choose the winners.

Continue reading SimpliFlying Announces Best Airline Social Media Presence

More Enjoyable Flying Experiences for KLM Passengers

My KLM Airbus A330 (PH-AOL) at Amsterdam after my flight.

KLM Airbus A330 in Amsterdam. Image: David Parker Brown / AirlineReporter.com

UK

Flying can be a negative experience for many travelers and is usually the worst part of any vacation. Flyers are often hassled by the person in front of them reclining the seat or squeezing into a bathroom that barely lets them turn around to take a seat. All of these negative frustrations are increasingly becoming associated with the average flight experience.

However, airlines like KLM have taken notice of this alarming trend and are starting to take matters into their own hands. Through a series of new and improved services, KLM is starting to develop a more positive customer experience. Hopefully other airlines will start to take notice.

Continue reading More Enjoyable Flying Experiences for KLM Passengers

Rock and Roll: More Options for an Electric Ground Taxi System

WheelTug testing at Prague Airport using a Germania 737-700 in July, 2012 Courtesy: WheelTug

WheelTug testing at Prague Airport using a Germania 737-700 in June, 2012. Yes, it’s moving!
Courtesy: WheelTug

You may have read my recent report on the Honeywell/Safran Electric Ground Taxi System, or EGTS.  But as we’ve seen countless times with many technologies, there’s rarely just one solution to a challenge.  We’ve had the 707 & DC-8 duo,  L-1011 & DC-10s, 737 & A320s, PCs & Macs, iThingys & Everything Else… you get the idea.  Interesting, though, that the market usually settles down to 2 options. So it should be no surprise that there’s another E-Taxi system, one that takes a different approach to meeting the same objectives of saving fuel, time, and other operational costs.

Gibraltar-based WheelTug decided to figure out a way to power the nose gear in their E-Taxi solution, and not the main gear. Their reasons? Easier and quicker installation; no interference with braking and anti-skid systems; shorter cable runs to the equipment bay under the cockpit; and it’s lighter, on the single nose gear rather than two main gear. But there isn’t much space available on the nose gear and in the wheel well. To make it all work, WheelTug looked to an old idea updated with new technology – the “wheel-hub” electric motor.

Continue reading Rock and Roll: More Options for an Electric Ground Taxi System