MD-11 ends 24 years of passenger flights

Of course, the traditional water canon salute was there. (Image © KLM)
Of course, the traditional water canon salute was there. (Image © KLM)

McDonnell Douglas MD-11: first ever passenger revenue flight on 20 December 1990 with Finnair, final ever passenger revenue flight with KLM on 26 October 2014. After close to 24 years, that’s it for the troubled – but loved by crews and air travellers – McDonnell Douglas MD-11. From now on, only MD-11 cargo haulers remain.

The last commercial KLM service with the MD-11 took off from Montreal Canada using flight number KL0672, and landed back at Amsterdam Schiphol around 06.35 hrs local time on Sunday 26 October 2014. Only hours before, another KLM MD-11 performed flight KL0692 from Toronto. With these flights, KLM ends 23 years of MD-11 service.

Other airlines were way faster to do the same. In fact, Singapore Airlines cancelled a January 1990 order for 5 MD-11s (plus 15 options) even before the aircraft were delivered, as the airline got word that the type’s performance did not live up to expectations. Indeed, early in the MD-11’s career it became clear the aircraft would never meet fuel burn and range figures. Despite a very innovative flight deck and overall design, it was a blow the MD-11 would never quite recover from.

The aircraft to perform the final flight was PH-KCE, named Audrey Hepburn and delivered to KLM in 1994. (Image © KLM)
The aircraft to perform the final flight was PH-KCE, named Audrey Hepburn and delivered to KLM in 1994. (Image © KLM)

Handful
Some severe crashed didn’t help either, Swissair’s flight SR111 being the worst. A fire in the aircraft’s entertainment system caused the aircraft to crash of the Canadian coast on 2 September 1998. In total, close to 250 people lost their lives in 13 MD-11 incident. Some of these incident were attributed to the MD-11’s flight characteristics. The type was said to be a handful especially in cross wind situations. Nevertheless, crews and passengers seemed to love the tri-holer. For KLM, this farewell also means the end of of no less than 80 years of KLM flying McDonnell Douglas aircraft, the Douglas DC-2 being the first in the 1930s. Airbus A330s and Boeing 747s take over the MD11 routes.

A total of 200 MD-11’s were built in Long Beach, and for now, a few dozen cargo aircraft remain, flying for example with Fedex. However, KLM MD-11s are to be seen in the air at least one more time. KLM apparently loves its troublesome but classic workhorses: on the fitting date of 11 November, three farewell flights will be made. Time of take off from Amsterdam Schiphol? You guessed it right: 11.11 hrs.

Escort service. (Image © KLM)
Escort service. (Image © KLM)
KLM says farewell to its long serving McDonnell Douglas MD-11 three engine airliner, marking the end of regular intercontinental passenger traffic with the type worldwide. The aircraft made one of its last public appearances at the 2014 Royal Netherlands Air Force Days on 21 June 2014 at Gilze-Rijen Airbase, where the aircraft named Audrey Hepburn landed after two passes. (Image © Marcel Burger)
‘Audrey Hepburn’ seen earlier this year, during the Royal Netherlands Air Force Days on 21 June 2014 at Gilze-Rijen Airbase. (Image © Marcel Burger)

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest