The 200 units of McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft deployed found myriad uses and proved worthy enough to replace and surpass its predecessor, the DC-10. To better understand the MD-11, let us take a brief, closer look at the DC-10.
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
Gamers who have flown air-to-air refueling runs in flight SIM or shooter games might be familiar with the KC-10 Extender, which is the designation for the DC-10 refueling platforms for the US Air Force. Among the 446 DC-10’s shipped, 60 went into Air Force duty as refueling platforms – and they fit the bill perfectly.
After all, the DC-10 was meant for medium to long-haul ranges and its widebody design that can carry up to a maximum of 380 passengers was well-suited for the task. The three-engine jet airliner was easily distinguishable through two turbofan engines seen mounted on pylons under each plane wing (the third placed by the base of the plane’s vertical stabilizer). After production of the aircraft ended in 1986, the MD-11 took over.
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
Just like the DC-10 upon which its design was based, the MD-11 sported three engines, a widebody design, and was also engineered for medium to long-haul transport. Compared to the DC-10, notable changes to the new model included a reduced flight crew (two instead of three), new engines, a stretched out fuselage, larger wingspans plus winglets, and a smaller tailplane. It also used more composite materials.
To put the obvious differences in better perspective, the MD-11 is 18.6 feet longer than the DC-10 and can carry a maximum of 430 passengers or an equivalent weight. Development of the plane started in 1986, and the first one rolled off the production line in 1990. By 2001, after 200 units produced, the MD-11 was officially put out-of-production.
Perfect for Cargo or Freight Use
While the MD-11 was produced in five variants (four main and an “extended range”) which included passenger types and a couple of cargo-passenger hybrids and convertibles, it is more often recognized as a cargo vessel the way a Boeing 747 is recognized as a commercial passenger airliner. Indeed, most airlines who used the MD-11 for passenger flight eventually replaced them with newer, better oriented models like the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A330.
The MD-11F was the main all freight or cargo MD-11 type. There were 53 original MD-11F planes. Of course, when the MD-11’s were replaced by other passenger airliners, Boeing (along with its international affiliates) offered conversion of existing MD-11 passenger craft into freighters, and the MD-11 BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter) was born.
Current operators of MD-11 freighters include FedEx Express, Lufthansa Cargo, UPS Airlines, and World Airways. (see the UPS MD-11 Aircraft Model here)
A Day in the Life of an MD-11 Freighter Trijet
Boeing boasts the MD-11 as the world’s only modern widecabin trijet that was of that sort of scale. That, along with sophisticated automatic system controls, makes it ideal for cargo operations where it can take up to 630,500 pounds of weight across 13,230 kilometers on extended range models while generally reducing pilot workload.
During operation, UPS offers either 26 cargo positions where their dimensions are 88in by 125in, or 22 96in by 125in positions plus 4 88in by 125in cargo compartments. Freighters also typically have 6 and 7 differently sized compartments in the forward and aft belly. Other operators have similar dimensions to work with.