Checking in for a very special flight.  Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Checking in for a very special flight – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This is the final part of a three-part series documenting the DC-1o’s final passenger flights.  Click here for Part 1 (flying from Dhaka to Kuwait City) or click here for Part 2 (flying from Kuwait to Birmingham).

I felt lucky, but also as if I had spent the better part of the last few days being beaten by 2x4s.  I was able to fly on the last schedule passenger flight for the DC-10, the creator of my dismay (that much time with air that dry had some long-lasting affect). If that wasn’t enough I was going to fly on the very last, and I mean the absolute final DC-10-30 passenger flight . My flight wouldn’t be long, but it would be adventurous. I had already put in quite a bit of time with this DC-10 and was ready for another level of AvGeek adventure.

Check in was brisk. I was actually in the terminal a little early anyway to meet my friends and try to sort out a ticketing matter with Delta (it didn’t work; I had to wake up early the next day to fix it) so I thought after one failure, I may as well go for a win.

My boarding pass was issued promptly, seat 33A. There were no bags to check, obviously – I was just going up to Scotland, than back down to BHX.

I made my way up to the makeshift Biman store to purchase some safety cards. Whilst there, it became clear that this last flight was going out with quite a fanfare.

What was being referred to as the "Biman store" selling aircraft errata. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

What was being referred to as the “Biman store” selling aircraft errata                         Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

According to Kevin Steele, Biman CEO, there were passengers from 52 countries flying aboard S2-ACR. Over 1,300 of the ~1400 possible seats for the final flights were sold. Clearly, this had been a great exercise for aviation enthusiasts! I was thrilled to be in BHX for this and this was going to be a legitimate party!

DC-10 cake with 77W cake on the other side. Either way, who doesn't love plane cake? Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

DC-10 cake with 77W cake on the other side. Either way, who doesn’t love plane cake? Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

There was even free cake and champagne! Mysteriously full of cake and inspired by the CEO’s aircraft retirement speech, it was time get on the bus.

This is what it looks like when 50 people try to photograph an aircraft at once. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

This is what it looks like when 50 people try to photograph an aircraft at once – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Thankfully, to prevent crowding, the buses of AvGeeks were brought out in shifts. Still, it’s a hard task to herd that many enthusiasts.

Having taken tons of DC-10 photos in Dhaka, and upon landing in BHX, I just decided to walk around and appreciate just how large this aircraft actually was. It’s a beast. Modern Boeing would say that you could easily get 10Y in a fuselage that wide. Some “blue chip airline” would’ve done it- and everyone would suffer indefinitely. 9Y’s not exactly spacious either. One must remember that this was designed to be an 8Y aircraft.

Boarding a DC-10 for the very last time. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Boarding a DC-10 for the very last time – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

What struck me most upon boarding this time was the absolute eye-watering stench. It was perverse. Seriously, the things we do for this hobby border on the self-destructive at times. I know, scent and safety are separate, wow – I will not forget that.

The service items were juice. More than most airlines give you on a Y flight of one hour. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Juice was served – more than most airlines give you on a Y flight of one hour            Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

The service for this one hour party flight consisted of juice: a box of blackcurrant Ribena, and glasses of orange or apple.

Startup and taxi were similar to my two previous flights with Biman. What was dramatically different was just how fast we were airborne. Probably less than a 20-second, but beautifully-loud, takeoff roll. Keep in mind, the engines were derated approximately 15% for this rocket to 24,000 feet.

Turning North over the West Midlands. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Turning north over the West Midlands – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

After the seatbelt sign turned off, everyone got up. So crowded were the aisles and so heavy was the air with cameras that I was even more grateful I’d made the very long (much more private) journey four days prior!

Party time! Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Party time! Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

It got so surreal that even the cabin crew began to take pictures of us taking photos!

Watching the watchers watch us watching them watch. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

Watching the watchers watch us watching them watch – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

It was a carnival up there – complete with two men from the tour company or Biman loudly selling merchandise! Sadly, most people will probably never see a flight like that again. Or, really, a flight like that ever. It’s an absolute shame!

It was a very fast, very smooth flight. So much so on both accounts that I didn’t return to my seat until just prior to descending through 10,000 feet.

Descent and landing was sad, not because it was a bad landing- it was just that it would be my last ever DC-10 ride. Well, maybe not – but that’s for another article on another continent.

The last DC-10 landing. Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

The last DC-10 landing – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This always will remain the only landing where it was acceptable to clap. Do it any other time and you’re a jerk – this time it had to be done.

A water cannon salute. Leaving the windows the cleanest they'd been the whole time I had spent with ACR. Photo - AirlineReporter.com

A water cannon salute. Leaving the windows the cleanest they’d been the whole time I had spent with ACR.                                      Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

After a water cannon salute, it was time for me to take care of some interviews and a press conference led by the CEO of Biman Kevin Steele. He is a fascinating and genuinely awesome guy! The fact that he would wear a T-shirt to support the last flight, rather than the suit his wife begged him to wear, says a lot about how important the DC-10 is to him.

What a great spot for a press conference! Photo - Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

What a great spot for a press conference! Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

It was there that I learned that on a per-seat basis, the 77W is 35% more efficient. Insane, really.

What a lot of you are probably wondering about is “why BHX”? Why is BHX the future for Biman’s international expansion?

Firstly, fifth rights are not an option out of London airports. Any of them. Secondly, Birmingham is working on constructing a proper transit facility to assist Biman passengers heading across the Atlantic from Dhaka (where most of the North American Bangladeshi is from).  Recall earlier how Bangladesh is FAA Cat-II in terms of safety? Well the reason that DAC-BHX-JFK has not gone on sale yet is exactly that.

Biman is aware of this issue and are working with obtaining a category one crew to fly their 777-300ERs all the way from Dhaka to New York. Biman also envisions service to Canada, but understands that even with significant O&D numbers in Toronto, the Canadian government cannot be convinced as no Air Canada partner flies to Dhaka.

With the opening of the runway extension at BHX, Biman opens both a new era for itself and the West Midlands. They will be the first tenant airline to make good use of it.

BONUS: Amazing video taken by Airchive.com of the DC-10 final flight experience

Will I miss the DC-10? You bet. I like diverse skies with diverse liveries. The DC-10’s end is just another stepping stone into the endless world of identical twins.

CONTRIBUTOR - SEATTLE, WA. Bernie has traveled around the world to learn about, experience, and photograph different types of planes. He will go anywhere to fly on anything. He spent four years in Australia learning about how to run an airline, while putting his learning into practice by mileage running around the world. You can usually find Bernie in his natural habitat: an airport. Email: [email protected].

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7 Comments

Great read Bernie and well done. I so regret not booking a seat on that last flight. Kudos to you for doing so.

Cheers
Aziz

Michael Berch

Enjoyed this report, Bernie, mich thanks. I spent countless hours on United Airlines DC-10s back in the 1970s and ’80s between the U.S. West and East coasts, and a few flights to Europe.

What will be the ultimate fate of S2-ACR? If the Scotland-BHX flight was the last passenger flight, does that mean S2-ACR will be scrapped in the UK? Or a non-pax ferry flight back to Bangladesh or a third country for scrapping?

Yeah, back to DAC for scrapping. It was ferried back with a few crew. It was supposed to go to Bruntingthorpe- but they cannot remove the engines.

Michael Berch

Ah, thanks. It would have been lovely to have it at Bruntingthorpe Museum as a static display.

Amazing final to the trilogy! Thanks for sharing Bernie, I for one will miss the D10.

So the big question is…will any of ACR’s parts end up on eBay? I’m sure some geeks will buy ’em!

Mike H.

Emerald_Queen

It makes me sad to see such a wonderful jetliner from a bygone era disappear from the skies. They are still used by FEDEX though so it can’t be too bad. It’s a real tear jerker to see all the World War 2, Cold War, and Vintage Airliners sit in a airplane junk yard. I remember when I was a little girl and found out Concorde was out of service. I was crying. That was back in 2009 or 2010, years after, but I didn’t know about Concorde until then.

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