By Capt. George de Waard, MD-11 & B-744 Airline Pilot
On March 9, 1988, as the last DC-10’s were assembled at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California, the world’s newest state-of-the-art tri-jet was taking shape. The first flight of the legendary MD-11 was planned to take place exactly a year later, but labor actions, manufacturing problems, a reorganization and significant delays with suppliers producing essential parts delayed the ceremonial rollout of the prototype until January 10, 1990. FAA certification was given on November 8, 1990. The launch customer for the MD-11 was supposed to be ‘Yugoslav Airlines’, but due to the war in Yugoslavia at the time, Finnair became the official launch customer on December 7, 1990.
Based on the DC-10, but with a stretched fuselage, increased wingspan and iconic winglets, the MD-11 is a medium to long-range wide-body airliner. It measures 201 feet long, 57 feet high and has a wingspan of 169 feet. The aircraft’s winglets improved fuel efficiency by about 2.5%. Other aerodynamic improvements, which reduced drag, saved fuel and added range were the redesigned wing trailing edge, a smaller horizontal tail with integral fuel tanks and an extended tail cone. The advanced two-crew glass cockpit incorporates 6 display units and has advanced Honeywell computers installed. The MD-11 is capable to perform Category IIIB automatic landings and has a Global Positioning System, dual Flight Management System and a Future Air Navigation System. The aircraft is powered by the General Electric GE CF6-80C2 or the Pratt & Whitney PW4460 turbofan engines. The MTOM is 630500 lbs (286000 kg).
The MD-11 was created to compete with the Airbus A-330/A-340 and the Boeing B-777, which were launched around the same time. Unfortunately, the tri-jet was less fuel-efficient than its competitors and a serious shortfall in range performance resulted in lower sales.
MD-11 Passenger version, accommodating 290 to 350 passengers.
MD-11C Combi version, accommodating passengers and freight on the main deck.
MD-11CF Convertible Freighter version, either an all passenger or an all-cargo configuration.
MD-11ER Extended Range version, incorporating an extra fuel tank of 3000 gallons.
MD-11F Freighter version, featuring a maximum payload of 200151 lbs (90787 kg).
McDonnell Douglas presented in 1996 plans for a new version, named the MD-XX (seating 375 passengers in a three-class arrangement) and the MD-XX LR (309 passenger version with a much longer range, but with the same dimensions as the original MD-11). Unfortunately, these two programs were ended later that year, due to the financial risk. Shortly after, Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas and the two companies merged into the worlds largest aerospace company.
The last manufactured MD-11 was delivered on February 22, 2001 to Lufthansa Cargo. A total of 200 MD-11’s have been built. Currently, the MD-11 is only used as a freighter and is in use with UPS, FedEx, Lufthansa Cargo and Western Global Airlines.
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