McDonnell Douglas MD-11


The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 is an American three-engine medium- to long-range wide-body jet airliner, manufactured by McDonnell Douglas and, later, by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Based on the DC-10, it features a stretched fuselage, increased wingspan with winglets, refined airfoils on the wing and smaller tailplane, new engines and increased use of composite materials. Two of its engines are mounted on underwing pylons and a third engine at the base of the vertical stabilizer. It also features a glass cockpit that decreases the flight deck crew to two from the three required on the DC-10 by eliminating the need for a flight engineer.

The first flight was originally planned to occur in March 1989, but numerous problems with the manufacturing, delays with suppliers producing essential components and labor industrial actions delayed the ceremonial roll out of the prototype until September of that year. The following months were used to prepare the prototype for its maiden flight, which finally happened on January 10, 1990. FAA certification was achieved on November 8, 1990 while the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) certified the MD-11 on October 17, 1991 after approximately 200 separate issues were resolved. The first MD-11 was delivered to Finnair on December 7, 1990 and it accomplished the first revenue service by an MD-11 on December 20, 1990, carrying passengers from Helsinki to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. MD-11 service in the U.S. was inaugurated by Delta Air Lines, also in 1990.

It was during this period that flaws in the MD-11's performance became apparent. It failed to meet its targets for range and fuel burn. American Airlines in particular was unimpressed with the 19 MD-11s that it received, as was Singapore Airlines who canceled their order for 20 MD-11s and instead ordered 20 Airbus A340-300s. American Airlines cited problems with the performance of the airframe and the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, while Singapore Airlines stated that the MD-11 could not operate on the airline's long haul routes. Pre-flight estimates indicated that the P&W-powered MD-11 was to have a 7,000 nautical mile range with 61,000 pounds of payload. With the Phase 1 drag reduction in place then, the aircraft could only achieve its full range with 48,500 pounds of payload, or a reduced range of 6,493 nautical miles with a full payload.

In 1990, McDonnell Douglas, along with Pratt & Whitney and General Electric began a modification program known as the Performance Improvement Program (PIP) to improve the aircraft's weight, fuel capacity, engine performance and aerodynamics. McDonnell Douglas worked with NASA's Langley Research Center to study aerodynamic improvements. The PIP lasted until 1995 and recovered the range for the aircraft. However, by this point sales of the MD-11 had already been significantly impacted. In 1995, American Airlines sold their 19 MD-11s to FedEx, as the PIP program was not sufficient for the aircraft to fly the DFW-Hong Kong route.

After McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997, the new company decided that MD-11 production would continue, though only for the freighter variant. In 1998, Boeing announced they would end MD-11 production after filling orders on hand. The last passenger MD-11 built was delivered to Sabena in April 1998. Assembly of the last two MD-11s were completed in August and October 2000; they were delivered to Lufthansa Cargo on February 22 and January 25, 2001 respectively. Production ended because of lack of sales, resulting from internal competition from the Boeing 767-400 and Boeing 777, as well as external competition from the Airbus A330/A340.

Photos in the slideshow were taken between January 2016 and August 2018.  Apologies for the large copyrights in each photo - this is necessary in this day and age where photos are widely stolen and passed along as if they are one's own.