Browsing Tag: 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.

Three KLM MD-11's at Schiphol.

Three KLM MD-11's at Schiphol.

In March of this year, KLM started service between Amsterdam (AMS) and Miami (MIA) using one of their MD-11 aircraft. Unfortunately, the route is not working out for the airline and in March 2012, the plug will be pulled.

“We will stop the route AMS-MIA per summer 2012 (as of March 25 2012),” KLM spokesperson explained to AirlineReporter.com. “With the start of a fourth daily frequency Atlanta-Amsterdam, we have a good indirect alternative within the Joint Venture with Delta.”

It is always sad to see a classic tri-holer pull out of a market. Sure, for an average passenger, I would imagine they would rather fly on one of KLM’s newer A330s, but for us aviation enthusiasts, the MD-11 is the classic bird of choice.

KLM is still operating 10 of the MD-11s in commercial service and seven in their cargo fleet (as of March 2011). They are the only airline in the world still running the MD-11 on scheduled passenger service.

When asked if there were any solid plans on replacing the MD-11, the airline stated, “KLM is continuously monitoring her fleet development, and at this moment KLM has no exact dates as yet to retire the MD-11.”

KLM still regularly flies the MD-11 to San Fransisco and Vancouver, so enjoy spotting them in North America while they are still around. With fuel prices continuing to rise, it is unclear how much longer we will be seeing the blue MD-11s.

Image: Chris 1971

Heck yes! DJ'n at 35,000 feet on KLM's new Amsterdam to Miami flight.

Heck yes! DJ'n at 35,000 feet on KLM's new Amsterdam to Miami flight.

It takes something big to turn down an offer to fly on a party plane from Amsterdam to Miami on KLM. I was invited to KLM’s party flight, but unfortunately had to turn it down to cover the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental’s first flight.

Luckily Shashank Nigam, who runs the site Simpliflying.com, was on the flight and able to share all the excitement. “The KLM flight was quite exciting, and entertaining, to say the least,” Nigam told me over email. “It was the first time I was in a plane that felt more like a club, since everyone was grooving to the music being played by the Dutch DJs. Probably the most happening 10 hours I’ve spent in the air.”

The passengers were no ordinary folks. Sure there were quite a few DJ’s to offer block-rocking-beats, but also passengers who won KLM’s Fly2Miami social media competition. And actually the power of social media made KLM change the first flight.

Originally KLM planned to fly on March 27th, but a DJ and film maker explained that would be too late for participating in spring break events in Miami. KLM challenge them to fill the plane and they would make it happen.

One beautiful tri-hole. A KLM MD-11.

One beautiful tri-hole. A KLM MD-11.

They started a website and social media campaign to get folks to get 150 people to sign up and only had seven days to do it. Luckily for them, it only took five hours to fill the plane and KLM changed the date to March 21st. Now that is awesome.

Well for social media it is awesome, for me it meant I couldn’t go. Although parting at 35,000 feet is pretty slick, I am more upset that the aircraft used on the flight was an MD-11 and I missed out flying on it. KLM is the only airline offering scheduled passenger service using the MD-11. For an airline nerd, this is awesome. KLM flies a fleet of 10 passenger versions and seven cargo versions of the MD-11 aircraft. This is a small percentage of their over 200 aircraft strong fleet.

KLM will now offer scheduled service from Amsterdam four days per week and is their 65th international destination.

MORE GOODIES:
* Video of Water canon salute
* Video of the DJ’s in action at 35,000 feet
* KLM’s blog about the event

Images: DJ from KLM, MD-11 from caribb

 

 

Finnair MD-11 (OH-LGB) taking off in the moon light

Finnair MD-11 (OH-LGB) taking off in the moon light

It is that time again where I have quite a few blogs I never got around to blogging and they aren’t really timely anymore. Instead of just hitting delete, I want to still share the stories with you folks. Here they are:

* Photos and Video of a United Airlines Airbus A319 that had a landing gear failure. (via Flight Global)

* Get free cookies and toothbrushes at airports. (via USAToday)

* Delta Air Lines converts airports from Northwest Airlines to Delta. (via Delta Blog)

* An Antonov AN-124 flew a mobile Air Traffic Control unit to Haiti. (via Aviation Week)

* Qantas Airlines is getting rid of some of their business class. (via Aviation Week)

* Finnair has stopped flying the MD-11. Which is a total shame! (via Things in the Sky & Cranky Flier)

* People calling for a ban on pets being allowed in passenger cabins. (via The Independent)

* Google maps now showing live flights in Europe. (via tnooz)

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Image: KalleA