Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 258,704
2013: 330,818

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 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

KLM Starts to Say Goodbye to the MD-11

An MD-11 in KLM livery at Amsterdam (AMS).

An MD-11 in KLM livery at Amsterdam (AMS).

This is a guest story by Drew Vane on the classic MD-11.

In July of this year,  KLM started retiring their fleet of MD-11s with plans to replace them with more fuel efficient aircraft. “Phasing out the MD11 forms part of KLM’s ongoing fleet renewal programme,” a KLM spokesperson explained to AirlineReporter.com. “The last of KLM’s ten MD11s is expected to leave the fleet by the end of 2014.” For the long term, KLM plans to replace the MD-11s with 787-9s, but until then, they will Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s.

In my last article, I highlighted the DC-9 and its impending departure from the commercial skies.  I’d thought its time was coming to a close, but Delta surprised me by extending the DC-9’s usage an additional year, but it looks like KLM won’t be delaying their MD-11 retirements.

The flight deck of a KLM MD-11. Photo by Dave H.

The flight deck of a KLM MD-11 (PH-KCB). Photo by Dave H.

Once KLM phases out the MD-11, there will be no other commercial airline flying this widebody tri-jet for scheduled passenger service.  It’s anticipated that only few cargo and charter airlines will use the MD-11 in their fleet before disappearing from the sky forever.

The MD-11 came about when the aviation engineers at McDonnell Douglas decided an upgrade to the DC-10 was warranted.  Instead of inventing a new aircraft, McDonnell Douglas took an already existing popular wide-body aircraft, whose biggest user and launch customer was American Airlines, and made it better.

The DC-10 was plagued with poor media attention due to some catastrophic failures in the 70’s and 80’s, including the worst commercial air disaster in US history, the loss of American Airlines Flight 191. With that flight, a DC-10 rolled over following takeoff and crashed in Chicago on May 25, 1979 which resulted in 270 deaths.

KLM MD-11 at AMS with Northwest DC-10s in the background. Image taken in 2001 by Ken Fielding.

KLM MD-11 at AMS with Northwest DC-10s in the background. Image taken in 2001 by Ken Fielding.

New technological advances had a major impact on what led to the DC-10 Super 60 project, what would eventually become the MD-11.  Boeing’s website best describes what exactly made the MD-11 better than its predecessor.  Specifically it states that the MD-11 has “advances in aerodynamics, propulsion, aircraft systems, cockpit avionics and interior design.”  What does all the mean? Well, a leaner and meaner version of the DC-10.  Here is a summary of the modifications:

  • Advanced Cockpit: Fly-by-wire technology, CRT displays, dual flight management system computer (eliminates need for a flight engineer), hydraulic fuses to prevent loss of control in catastrophic conditions, central fault display system, GPS, and Cat III automatic landing capability for extremely bad weather.
  • Composite Materials: Usage of light weight composites reduced overall weight and allowed for a fuselage 40 feet longer than the DC-10.
  • Aerodynamic design: Added winglets produce 2.5% more efficiency in drag as well as wing and tail improvements.
  • More efficient engines: More efficient aircraft engines were developed by Pratt & Whitney, GE and Rolls Royce.   New engine types resulted in greater thrust as less fuel usage and longer range.

The table below highlights how these improvements directly related to a longer range and more efficient aircraft.  To make things apples to apples, I’ve chosen versions that were the best of each aircraft type.

DC-10-30

MD-11 ER

Cockpit Crew

3

2

Passengers (3-class)

255

293

Passengers (2-class)

285

323

Maximum Range (full load)

6,600 mi

7,240 mi

Maximum Cruise Speed

Mach 0.88

Mach 0.88

Maximum Takeoff Weight

572,000 lbs

630,500 lbs

Maximum Fuel

36,650 gallons

38, 615 gallons

Engines  – Thrust

PW4462 – 62,000 lbf

PW JT9D-59A – 53,000 lbf

Fuselage Length

170 ft

192 ft

Wingspan

165 ft

169 ft

So, what we have is a longer range aircraft that is capable of carrying more passengers with less crew and a state-of-the-art cockpit.

If you want to catch a ride on one of these “Mighty Dogs” after KLM retires their 9 remaining aircraft, short of buying your own, you’ll have to fly on a charter flight or ship yourself via Fedex, UPS, Eva Cargo or Lufthansa Cargo.