Airbus A350 – already a design classic?

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting | Posted on 03-12-2014

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A350_XWB_-_formation_flight_3

The new Airbus A350XWB was recently certified by both the European and American authorities, marking a major milestone in a type that will certainly come to challenge – or even dominate – the long haul market.

The A350 was first conceived ten years ago, in 2004. Because of its similarities with the A330, which was in its prime at the time, many customers dismissed it as unnecessary. But one key early aspect of the design was in the three letters after its name – XWB – which stood for Extra Wide Body.

This would give it the widest fuselage of any twin long-haul jet, giving airlines the opportunity to add more seating – up to 10 abreast – or to offer passengers more space in the premium cabins. It was naturally a winner with the airlines that consider on-board service and comfort a high priority, with Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways ordering as early as 2006.

1600_1399638164_A350_XWB_water_ingestion_test_Istres___2_

With three different sized variants planned by Airbus, the A350-800, -900 and -1000, there would be a capacity of between 270 and 350 passengers.

Naturally many compare the A350 to the Boeing 787, and I think it’s fair to consider this to be Airbus’ answer to its rival’s latest aircraft. It also incorporates a lot of the techniques and technology of the 787, such as:

  • Composite fuselage and wings (53% of the fuselage)
  • Brand new avionics and cockpit systems unlike most other passenger airliners
  • Improved cabin atmosphere with lower pressurisation altitude to increase comfort for passengers
  • Brand new powerplants
  • Improved aerodynamics to increase range and reduce fuel burn

But there are other aspects which make the A350 a design classic, and unique compared to the 787. First off, its cockpit follows other Airbus models to aid in crew familiarity and the latest technology. It is modelled on that of the A380, with large LCD screens and information systems.

The A350 also features a new undercarriage design to better make use of the new composite wing structure and reduce loading on ground surfaces.

The maximum range of the A350 is another key feature. Like the Boeing, Airbus wanted to offer customers the ability to fly a long distance at affordable costs, due to the lighter structure and improved aerodynamics. The -800 model will fly the furthest, reaching around 8,260 miles, with the -900 and -1000 coming in at just under 8,000 miles. There has even been a -1000LR model touted by Airbus, which would be able to fly non-stop from London to Sydney, but this has not been confirmed yet.

 

Where is the A350 built?

Airbus is building its A350s at its Toulouse Blagnac base. The first flight took place on 14 June 2013, and much of the subsequent testing has taken place from there using five aircraft.

Visitors to Toulouse will be able to see the production line on Airbus Factory Tours, and will soon start seeing a regular stream of new aircraft sat undergoing final modifications and flight testing at the airport.

 

Qatar A350

 

Who will fly the A350?

To date Airbus has received orders for 750 A350s, across all three models. This is already a real success story, with many of the world’s largest carriers opting for the type.

Qatar Airways will be the launch customer for the A350, and one of the test models has already been painted in its colours. It expects to begin flying the type on its Doha – Frankfurt route from January 2015.

A350 XWB AT HONG KONG AIRPORT - ROUTE PROVING TRIP 2

The following airlines have ordered so far:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeroflot
  • Afriqiyah
  • Air Asia X
  • Air Caraibes
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Asiana
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Etihad
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Japan Air Lines
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Libyan Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • SAS
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SriLankan
  • TAM
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways (American Airlines)
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Yemenia
  • + many lease companies

 

1600_1407576872_A350_XWB_sao_paulo

Further reading

Airbus recently put together some extra information on their A350 so that you can find out more about the product and its unique features.

A350 Cabin – Inspired Design – How the aircraft’s cabin differs from other aircraft.

A350 Goes Global – looking at the recent world tour of the third production model.

Bringing the Vision to life – looking back at the first flight and its test pilots.

Top 8 beach spotting locations

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport Spotting Guide, Asia, Australasia, Australia, Caribbean, Cyprus, Eastern Europe, France, North America, Sint Maarten, Spain, Thailand, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 28-11-2014

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Many of the most enjoyable spotting trips are when you can relax in the sun or take photos in a stunning locations. A lot of the world’s airports and runways back onto beaches, which turn out to be great spotting locations.

All of the locations listed here are accessible, public places.

 

1. Phuket, Thailand

By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Thailand’s holiday island is popular with many airlines arriving from near and far, including both domestic and long-haul airliners. Probably the best location to spot at the airport is Nai Yang Beach running along the western side of the airport, which is accessed by walking around 15 minutes from the road.

Any aircraft approaching runway 09 can be easily photographed, and by finding an area of high ground you can also see over the perimeter fence and photograph aircraft on the ground easily.

 

2. Sydney, Australia

By Advanstra (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Advanstra (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best spots for photography and plane spotting at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is The Beach off General Holmes Drive, at the east side of the airport.

You can spot here from both the car park and the beach itself, with aircraft using the runways in view, especially 16R/34L which passes very close to you and can lead to some spectacular photographs.

 

3. St. Maarten, Caribbean

Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To

Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To

Not much can be written about Maho Beach that hasn’t already been said. Some of the most stunning aviation photography in recent times has been of aircraft passing incredibly low over the heads of people on this beach, on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. This is especially fun since huge widebody airliners use the airport, and tend to land as early as possible, barely missing the perimeter fence.

The bar on the beach is known to list the arrivals due at the airport each day, meaning you can keep an eye on what’s due as you sip cocktails and soak up the sun.

 

4. Larnaca, Cyprus

Mackenzie Beach lies just off the northern perimeter of Larnaca Airport, with aircraft passing close by before landing or after takeoff. You can reach the beach off Piale Pasa, at the southern end of the city.

 

5. Lanzarote, Canary Islands

When aircraft are arriving on runway 03, the beach running around the southern portion of the airport is an ideal position to spot and photograph aircraft arriving at Lanzarote Arrecife Airport. Due to the position of the sun, this location is best in the morning for photography, and a fence can obstruct some shots of aircraft on the ground. But if you’re just watching the action it is perfect.

The location is reached along Avenida Playa Honda.

 

6. Boston Logan, MA

By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are actually two beaches at Boston Logan Airport which are good for spotting.

Constitution Beach is best for aircraft using runways 22L and 22R, and the taxiways associated with these runways. You can get some good action shots of aircraft arriving and departing. Better in the afternoon and evening for photography. This beach is close to Saratoga Street.

Meanwhile, Yirrel Beach at Coughlin Park is great for aircraft approaching runway 27, and to a lesser degree departing runway 09. This location is good all day for photography. The park and beach are off Shirley Street, with parking nearby.

 

7. Nice, France

Not the best beach for aircraft photography, however the very popular area running the length of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers quite interesting views of aircraft departing from the nearby airport. Aircraft need to make an immediate turn to the right following departure, following the sweep of the bay. There are few main airports situated this close to the city they serve.

 

8. New York JFK

 

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge off Cross Bay Blvd is a well known spotting location at New York JFK, alongside Howard Beach, which is good for getting distant after-takeoff shots of heavy airliners as they make a turn.

 

Do you know of any good beach spotting locations? Leave a tip in the comments section below!

Czech Airlines bounces back with new routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eastern Europe, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Spain, Western Europe | Posted on 27-11-2014

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CSA A320

CSA Czech Airlines has announced a bunch of new routes starting next year, following a period of cutting back and introspection over recent years.

The new routes to be opened by the airline are:

  • Prague – Bilbao – A319 (Starts 1 June 2015)
  • Prague – Billund – ATR42 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Bologna – ATR72 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Cork – A319 (Starts 14 May 2015)
  • Prague – Kaliningrad – ATR72 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Kazan – A319 (Starts 29 March 2015)
  • Prague – Oslo – A319 (Starts 30 March 2015)

The airline said:

“After a year of cutbacks, we plan to expand the existing Czech Airlines’ network starting the 2015 summer season. We feel that there is a significant business potential in our new destinations which we would like to use fully. At the same time, we would like to capitalise on Czech Airlines great reputation in the Russian market and, effective April 2015, service a total of nine destinations in Russia,” said Jozef Sinčák, Chairman of Czech Airlines Board of Directors, and added: “We have set the new destinations timetables in a way to best use the market potential and at the same time appeal to both local and transfer passengers as the connections were designed with the customers’ priorities in mind. We will operate all new destinations using the existing free capacity of Czech Airlines and thus improve the fleet use.”

New Eastern Airlines to start flying on 19 December

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, North America, Spotting News, USA | Posted on 26-11-2014

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eastern 737-800

The new Eastern Airlines, which recently took delivery of its first Boeing 737-800, is due to start flying on 19 December from its Miami base.

Initially the airline will operate charter flights, however it has just signed a strategic partnership with Surinam Airways.

“Surinam Airways is delighted to be in a partnership with the new Eastern Air Lines. We believe this is an effective way for our airline to extend its reach by cooperating with Eastern at its Miami base of operations. We look forward to our teams working together to find operational synergies between our two airlines.” Said Ewald Henshuijs, CEO of Surinam Airways.

Eastern’s aircraft wear the classic livery of its predecessor, which went out of business in 1991. It was also based at Miami.

Incredible arrival footage – Swiss A330 at Geneva

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting Videos, Switzerland, Western Europe | Posted on 23-11-2014

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I came across this onboard footage of a morning arrival at Geneva Airport filmed on board a Swiss A330-300 earlier this year.

If you have a few minutes to sit back and relax, it really takes in the sights and sounds of an arrival with stunning light, and the Swiss scenery passing below, before arriving at a packed ramp full of airliners from around the world.

 

9 top spotting airports to reach by budget airline

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Caribbean, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, North America, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Spain, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 21-11-2014

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Spotting isn’t the cheapest hobby, especially if you want to do a lot of it. So I thought I’d look at a few of the best spotting airports that are easily accessible by budget airlines. Hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration for your next trips!

 

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Palma-Vueling

By Peter Bakema [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Palma is one of the busiest holiday airports in Europe, particularly during the summer months. Airlines ferry holidaymakers in droves from all over northern Europe, so you’ll see charter and low-cost airlines as well as Spanish regional aircraft. Palma is a big base for Air Berlin, and plenty of other budget airlines also fly there year-round, including easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling.

 

Amsterdam Schiphol, Netherlands

Amsterdam easyJet

By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although it is one of Europe’s busiest and largest airports, and is also a stronghold of national airline KLM, Schiphol is surprisingly easy to get to by budget airline. easyJet links many destinations across Europe, whilst Flybe and Jet2 link a number of additional points in the UK.

 

Singapore Changi

Photo by Calvin Teo

Photo by Calvin Teo

A major Asian powerhouse and the hub of the large Singapore Airlines. Changi is also on the route map of many low cost and budget airlines, including home-based Jetstar Asia, Tigerair and Valuair, plus regional carriers Air Asia and Lion Air. Long haul low-cost flights are provided by Jetstar and Scoot to destinations across Asia and Australia.

 

Dubai International, UAE

Flydubai fleet

You may think of Emirates when you think of Dubai, but the second largest carrier at the Middle East hub is Flydubai, a budget airline serving destinations across Africa, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent They even fly into Europe. It makes a more affordable way to reach the airport for some spotting.

 

Atlanta Hartsfield International, GA

Southwest Airlines Heart Livery

Atlanta was known as the busiest airport in the world for many years, largely because of the huge presence of Delta Air Lines reaching across the globe and to many points across the United States. However, the airport’s second largest carrier is Southwest Airlines following its acquisition of Airtran. This means you can get to Atlanta from destinations across America at great prices.

 

Dallas Ft Worth, TX

Spirit Airlines

Another US airport which is dominated by a home based legacy carrier – in this case American Airlines – you may be surprised to find that you have good budget options that don’t require a trip to nearby Love Field. Spirit Airlines recently announced a number of new routes from Dallas to regional and leisure destinations to add to its existing network from the airport.

 

Warsaw Chopin, Poland

Wizz Air

The capital of Poland is a major hub for budget carrier Wizz Air which fights bitterly with full service national carrier LOT. You can also reach Warsaw via carriers Norwegian, Air Berlin, Germanwings and Vueling.

 

Moscow Domodedovo, Russia

By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For years it was only possible to reach Moscow via traditional full service airlines, or one of Aeroflot’s classic Soviet airliners. However, recent agreements have led to a number of low cost airlines from outside Russia offering flights to Domodedovo. Most significant perhaps is easyJet, which flies from two points in the UK. Other budget airlines flying to Moscow include Air Berlin, Germania, Niki, Meridiana fly, Vueling and Air Arabia.

 

St Maarten, Caribbean

St Maarten Jetblue

A spotters paradise which is on the bucket list of many who like to photograph airliners at close quarters. But it’s not necessary to spend mega bucks getting there with big airlines, particularly from North America, since budget airlines such as Jetblue, Sun Country and Westjet fly regularly to the island.

Two big wide-body aircraft orders

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Kuwait, Middle East, North America, USA | Posted on 21-11-2014

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Both Airbus and Boeing are celebrating after landing wide-body aircraft orders from two airlines.

A350-900_Delta_RR

First, Airbus announced that Delta Air Lines has placed a firm order for 50 new Airbus widebody aircraft, 25 A350-900 and 25 A330-900neo aircraft.

Delta Air Lines currently flies both Airbus single-aisle and widebody aircraft, including 57 A319ceo and 69 A320ceo aircraft, plus 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. In addition to the order announced today, Delta has an order backlog of 10 A330-300s and 45 A321ceo aircraft, bringing its total Airbus backlog to 105 aircraft.

 

Kuwait-772

Secondly, although not yet a firm order, Kuwait Airways has announced its intention to purchase 10 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

“We appreciate the start of a new partnership with Kuwait Airways,” said Marty Bentrott, vice president of Sales for Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Boeing looks forward to an enduring relationship with Kuwait Airways and we are excited to see that the 777-300ER airplane, which is the preferred long-haul carrier for so many airlines around the world, will now play an important role in the airline’s fleet strategy and expansion.”

5 more Beluga’s coming to Airbus

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 19-11-2014

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MSN 6101 First NEO fuselage loading into Beluga from HAM to TLS

Airbus has taken action to address its large-scale delivery abilities with the approval to construct five new Beluga aircraft.

The manufacturer already operates five Belugas, which are based on their A300-600 aircraft. However, the new examples will be based upon the A330 and are specifically designed to aid in the new A350XWB production line, delivering parts between Airbus plants across Europe.

The first of the five new Belugas will enter in service in mid-2019. The existing Beluga fleet will operate in parallel, and will be progressively retired through to 2025.

 

Boeing 787 prototype to Seattle museum

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, North America, USA | Posted on 12-11-2014

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787 Museum of Flight

One of the prototype Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft has been donated to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

The museum is situated at Boeing Field, close to the city, which today is used as a production facility for the 737 line.

Other notable aircraft at the museum include the first Boeing 737-100, 747-100, a 727-200, Concorde, and Lockheed Constellation, amongst many other historic aircraft.

The Dreamliner Boeing donated to the museum is known as ZA003 (N787BX), the third 787-8 produced. This particular example is the aircraft which took part in the Dream Tours in 2011 and 2012, and saw it visit many countries and airports on demonstration to airline customers and the aviation industry. I had the chance to visit it at London Heathrow, and you can read my report here.

The celebration at the Museum of Flight included several Boeing employees whose work over the years played a role in the design, build and test of the 787 Dreamliner. Each person disembarked the airplane and presented a special artifact tied to the history of the airplane to museum docents and students from local high schools.

The artifacts given by employees ranged from a commemorative cachet carried aboard the 787’s first flight, to early artist renderings of the 7E7. Those artifacts will now be housed at the Museum of Flight.

ZA003 is the first of three flight test 787-8s Boeing plans to share with museums around the world, the aviation community and future generations of employees and airplane enthusiasts.

Visit Museum of Flight here.

McDonnell Douglas MD-11 farewell

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, Western Europe | Posted on 10-11-2014

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(c) KLM

(c) KLM

The final commercial passenger flight of the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 took place on 26th October when KLM flew PH-KCE from Montreal to Amsterdam Schiphol.

On 11th November the airline will formally retire the type by performing three special flights for enthusiasts to get a last chance to experience the aircraft before its retirement. KLMs aircraft are all destined to be parted out and scrapped, with a number of the fleet already falling to this fate.

 

History of the MD-11

The MD-11 came about as McDonnell Douglas sought to develop a replacement for its iconic DC-10 wide-body airliner.

First flown in 1970, the DC-10 had a chequered start with a number of high-profile crashes. However, it would go on to become a major player in the long-haul and high-density short-haul routes of many of the world’s major airlines. Key operators included American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines.

As early as 1976 a replacement had been discussed. The DC-10 flew in three different variants (the -10, -30 and -40), but the MD-11 would become a completely revised aircraft aimed at recapturing the long-haul market with its low operating costs and attractive range.

Seeing the opportunity, Alitalia, British Caledonian, Dragonair, FedEx Express, Finnair, Korean Air, SAS, Swissair, Thai Airways International, and VARIG all made early commitments for the aircraft and it was formally launched in December 1986.

The first flight of the MD-11 took place on 10th January 1990 at Long Beach, CA, after a number of delays. Following a period of testing and certification, the first aircraft was delivered to launch customer Finnair on 7th December 1990. The first commercial flight of the MD-11 took place on 20th December from Helsinki to Tenerife South.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines were early customers for the MD-11 in the United States. Delta was the first in the country to operate the type.

The MD-11, like the DC-10, is a three-engined, wide-body aircraft. Engines are located one under each wing, with a third mounted at the base of the tail. It offered a modern glass cockpit, eliminating the Flight Engineer position from the DC-10. Passenger capacity was typically 270 in a mixed-class layout, or over 300 in all-Economy seating. One identifying difference from the DC-10 is the addition of winglets on each wingtip.

 

Disappointing Performance

Fairly early in its operational career it became apparent that the MD-11 was not living up to the promised performance statistics – particularly in terms of its range. At full payloads, the aircraft was only managing a range of around 6,500 miles, instead of the promised 7,000. This caused a number of airlines to complain or cancel orders, including Singapore Airlines.

Although modifications were completed by 1995 to restore the range of the aircraft, it had already suffered irreparable negative publicity and a lack of confidence from airlines who were starting to look at new offerings from Airbus and Boeing.

 

By Montague Smith [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Freighter Renaissance

Despite Boeing purchasing McDonnell Douglas in 1997, it was decided to keep the MD-11 in production but only as freighter as by this time it had no interest from airlines for the passenger variant (it wanted to focus on its 767 and 777 models anyway).

The MD-11 was proving to be quite a success as a freighter aircraft. FedEx Express had started the ball rolling by ordering a number of aircraft as a natural continuation of its sizeable DC-10 fleet. Now, a programme of modifying passenger versions into freighters was taking place.

American Airlines, who were unhappy with their aircraft, eventually sold all of them to FedEx for conversion into freighters. It was a similar story for a number of other airlines, including Alitalia, Finnair and Delta who all retired their MD-11s relatively early and saw them turned into cargo-carrying aircraft. UPS Airlines would also become a significant operator of the MD-11.

The final aircraft of the 200 MD-11s to be built were destined for Lufthansa Cargo as dedicated freighter variants. The last MD-11 was delivered in February 2001.

 

By Leviescobar [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Leviescobar [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Operators

The following airline operated the MD-11

  • Aer Lingus (leased)
  • Aeroflot Cargo
  • Air Namibia
  • Alitalia
  • American Airlines
  • AV Cargo Airlines
  • Avianca (leased)
  • Avient
  • Cargoitalia
  • Centurion Air Cargo
  • China Airlines
  • China Cargo Airlines
  • China Eastern Airline
  • Cielos Airlines
  • City Bird
  • Delta Air Lines
  • El Al (leased)
  • Ethiopian Airlines Cargo
  • Etihad Airways (leased)
  • EVA Air
  • FedEx Express
  • Finnair
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Gemini Air Cargo
  • Ghana Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LTU International
  • Lufthansa Cargo
  • MASkargo
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Martinair
  • Mid East Jet
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Nordic Global Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • SABENA
  • Saudia
  • Shanghai Airlines Cargo
  • Star Airlines
  • Swissair / Swiss International Airlines
  • TAM
  • Tradewinds / SkyLease Cargo
  • Thai Airways International
  • Trans Aer
  • Transmile Air Services
  • UPS Airlines
  • USAfrica Airways (leased)
  • VARIG
  • VASP
  • Western Global Airlines
  • World Airways

Of those operators, only those highlighted in bold are still operating the aircraft today.

KLM were the last to fly passengers on the MD-11. However, World Airways flew passengers on their aircraft until the airline went out of business in early 2014.

At the end of this article you can download a free list of all active MD-11s, including those stored but still in one piece.

MD-11 Saudia

By Biggerben [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Where to see MD-11s today

As already mentioned, the only airlines still flying MD-11s are cargo operators now that KLM have retired their passenger examples.

The principal operators today are FedEx Express and UPS Airlines.

FedEx’s main base, and the main hub of MD-11 operations, is Memphis Airport in Tennessee. Other bases which its MD-11s stage through include Paris Charle de Gaulle, Toronto Pearson, Guangzhou, and Osaka Kansai.

UPS’s principal hub is Louisville International Airport in Kentucky. It also has significant bases such as Cologne/Bonn, Hong Kong and Shanghai Pudong.

Lufthansa Cargo flies its MD-11s from its Frankfurt Main hub, with most passing through over a 2-3 day period.

Martinair’s cargo operation keeps Amsterdam Schiphol alive as a MD-11 base, whilst Nordic Global Airlines has also meant Helsinki retains regular flights after Finnair retired its aircraft.

Other airports you’ll see regular MD-11s at include Addis Ababa, Anchorage Ted StevensBogota, Liege, Ostend and Miami International.

 

Incidents

Despite only 200 airframes being built, the MD-11 has suffered a disproportionate number of accidents in its short life.

Pilots often commented on the unusual landing characteristics of the MD-11, particularly during crosswind conditions, and a number of examples have been involved in landing accidents resulting in hull losses and, in some cases, loss of life. The following accidents have occurred:

  • 31st July 1997, FedEx N611FE crashed on landing at New York Newark airport
  • 2nd September 1998, Swissair HB-IWF crashed into sea near Halifax, Nova Scotia, following in-flight fire.
  • 15th April 1999, Korean Air Cargo HL7373 crashed after takeoff from Shanghai Hongqiao airport.
  • 22nd August 1999, Mandarin Airlines B-150 crashed on landing at Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok during a typhoon.
  • 17th October 1999, FedEx N581FE crashed on landing at Subic Bay airport in the Philippines.
  • 23rd March 2009, FedEx N526FE crashed on landing at Tokyo Narita during windy conditions.
  • 28th November 2009, Avient Z-BAV crashed on takeoff from Shanghai Pudong airport.
  • 27th July 2010, Lufthansa Cargo D-ALCQ crashed on landing at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
By Lasse Fuss [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Lasse Fuss [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Preservation

The MD-11 is now in its twilight years, but as yet there has been no serious moves to preserve any examples in a museum or aircraft collection. Some would say it is too early to propose this, given the type is still fairly active with many cargo airlines and has a number of years’ active service left in it; it is also only 24 years old and hardly a strong candidate for a historical item. Maybe you disagree (leave a comment below).

However, given the type’s passing from commercial passenger services and the strong feeling amongst the aviation enthusiast community for this aircraft (often in combination with its DC-10 and Douglas heritage), a number of people have been asking for one of KLM’s examples to be preserved. A Facebook group was formed to campaign for the move, and it was hoped an example would be sent to the Aviodrome museum at Lelystad, near Amsterdam (which also holds former KLM Boeing 747, Fokker 100, F27, DC-2, DC-3 and Lockheed Constellation). However, costs and the potential income from spare parts have prohibited this from becoming a reality.

 

For me, the MD-11 was one of those underdog airliners, like the Trident and BAe ATP, which set out to make a difference and had all the right credentials to make it big. In the case of the MD-11 it was set to take what the DC-10 did well and do it better, which should have appealed to the many customers who had flown the predecessor. But early problems in performance and the increasing number of twin-engine long-haul airliners emerging at the same time meant it was no longer as attractive when it became essential for airlines to save money wherever possible.

I personally only flew the MD-11 twice: once with American Airlines from New York JFK to Heathrow in 1995, and once with KLM from San Francisco to Amsterdam in 2007. I found it to be a great aircraft, which felt modern but still harked back to the classic days when planes looked like planes. For me, it will be sadly missed but I’m glad it will live on for a few years yet as a cargo workhorse.

To accompany this article I’ve produced a list of the MD-11s that are still flying. To get hold of a free download copy, all you have to do is sign up to receive updates from this blog by e-mail (you’ll get all the latest news and articles!). Plus, every time I update the active MD-11 list I’ll send you an update for free!