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Guest Debosonic

The Decline of the Passenger MD-11

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Dear Friends, in anticipation of the release of the MD-11, I would like for someone to enlighten me a bit on the history of the MD-11, in particular, how it has been slowly phased out of most active passenger service and has found a new role as a cargo airliner.. What are the reasons behind that, and why has the MD-11 production come to an end? Fascinating stuff..Meanwhile, I like to say that it is great that PMDG has also done a cargo variant. As a resident of Dubai, I practically worked inside the airport, we built the hangars...and all one saw those days are many many UPS FEDEX and EVA CARGO Md-11Fs at dubai, it is still a very common sight. They can be seen climbing out and approaching dubai fom most parts of the city.

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I've heard the short version was that the MD-11 could not fill the seats cargo holds and fuel tanks. where if you fill it with boxes you can fill the tanks and go the range!

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True, but mainly due to the failure of the engine manufacturers to meet their design goals. The airframe itself was sound design-wise. It's one thing to have delays in the powerplant development (GE/777), but a five year lapse in meeting performance goals put the nail in the md-11's coffin. Dan

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MD had considered a replacement to the DC-10 for some time.. downturns in the market, the DC-10 accidents.. and the DC-10 dwindling sales (apart from in the military tanker market) were all cause for MD to start an update programme.. They proposed several different DC-10's.... stretched versions.. higher performing engines.. etc... I think the first was the Super 50.. then they had the Super 60.. The airline industry was in a slump though for a while unfortunately and interest was low..The DC-10 update programme was started and stopped.. then started.. and stopped.. then started again and stopped again.. I think it was 3 times in total.. Other MD sales were going well now.. the MD-80 was doing well.. and eventually they started testing again with some aerodynamic features on a DC-10.. These experiements later became the MD-EEE programme.. Which gave birth to the MD-11 programme.. The orders for the MD-11 were still not massive.. The airline industry was still recovering from the slump and also there were concerns as to MD's future.. (which were later realised).. However the plodded on.. and as the programme progressed.. MD kept changing the performance specs... "welll.. it might not go as far..."... etc.. Airlines began to lose interest in it.. There were less than 200 MD-11's sold.. That is a commercial disaster for an aircraft of this nature.. It was for all intents and purposes a completely new aircraft, and quite revolutionary.. It's automatics had never been seen before but these features didn't hold a candle to the economics of operating it.. It wasn't as good as it was said to be on paper on the get go.. and sales were hit as a result.. confidence in MD was lowered... and MD-11 sales suffered even more!.. There were other reasons.. much the same reasons the newer revised update to teh A330 was a total waste of time for Airbus... Airlines did not want.. an updated DC-10.. Airbus took this onboard and went with the A350 XWB.. learning from the mistakes of MD.. MD didn't listen, well more than likely just didn't have the money to completely re-design.. The DC-10 accident, in particular when the engine detatched on takeoff.. gave airlines SERIOUS doubts over the structural integrity of the DC-10.. and since the MD-11 looked the same.. and to a lot of ill informed passengers, frankly.. that's enough... they just stood there shaking their heads and looking worried about their future PAX projections..The MD-11 was launched with a passenger variant.. and freight variant... The accidents of China and Swissair were going to be the end of the MD-11 for PAX really.. from that point forward MD-11's were slowly phased out of PAX service.. converted and used for freight only... (I think FedEx is almost the sole user now, don't quote me on that.. but it offers them advantages.. a common fleet etc.. lower running costs)..Out of abotu 200 ish aircraft build nearly 190 are still in service.. Contrary to popular and ill informed belief.. the MD-11 service record is not bad.. It IS A CURRENT in service aircraft.. if anyone is calling it "defunct" then.. apply the same tag to the 757 aircraft which is also no longer in production.. I imagine if the 767 doesn't get the tanker deal.. that won't be in production for much longer either.. soon to be 787'd.... The MD-11 just never got the sales due to a whole string of circumstances... MD were eventually... broadly speaking, taken over by Boeing.. as they got into more financial difficulties..Was the MD-11 a commercial success? No.. it wasn't.. it was in no uncertain terms a complete disaster for McDonnell Douglas.. Sales were low.. 200 aircraft is not enough to fund the entire development of essentially a brand new aircraft.. gear up for manufacture.. and then make money from it.. This is the whole problem Airbus have for the A380... a programme that cost soooo much.. their now (this is Airbus' own figure btw).. break even point is 420 aircaft!!! You can see how the MD-11's 200 sales just aren't enough now can't you.. Although I do think the A380 will reach its target over the next 5 to 10 years.. in orders at least.. the deliveries will follow after.. and we'll see a number of A380 variants.. and upgrades in the programmes future..The MD-11 was one of the final nails in the coffin for Douglas.. It did innovate.. but didn't change the core design and concept.. and some may argue it should have done..BUT let's make it clear, just because an aircraft is a commercial disaster doesn't mean it's not an impressive, technologically advanced or interesting aircraft to learn about! It's not defunct.. it's in service TODAY.. in fact most of the 200 ish produced are flying.. How about some other examples of commercial disasters that are interesting aircraft... The Comet.. the VC-10.. Concorde... BOY.. that was a disaster! But the flagship of the fleet for BA and Air France..In summary... its small order book doesn't make an aircraft any less interesting and fun to fly ;)Craig

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Hi Craig:Great post. Interesting reading.I have really been enjoying getting to grips with the MD11, and in the process, trying to understand a little about why she was so unsuccessful. In terms of systems and technology onboard, she was ahead of her time in many respects. That said, and i cant quite put my finger on what exactly, there is a lot about her in comparison to ther aircraft i have flown (in the sim) that offer reasons not to purchase her, if i should find myself as the CEO of an airline hehehe.Seemingly simple items such as dial-a-flap i should imagine were quite hard to implement, define calculations for, and subsequently maintain. As i am sure were a whole host of other aspects of the aircraft.CheersPaul

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Paul,I can see what you're saying.. from a pilots perspective the need for change moving from the older platforms to the newer advanced platforms like the MD-11 may have been resisted.. But the MD-11 cockpit design is actually extremely good, and airlines would be more interested in the economics of operation rather than the finer details of operation.Dial a flap for example and various other features are designed in part to give pilots that little bit better clarity and control, but also finer flap settings can reduce fuel burns etc.. the automatics managing the fuel reduce costs in terms of extra flight engineers.. From an airline perspective it's all about the operating cost.. and the MD-11 isn't too bad really.. it just didn't meet it's objectives in terms of range and fuel burn.. ALSO.. passengers were reluctant to fly on it due to the DC-10 history and the Swissair incident.. To ill informed the DC-10 and MD-11 are identical to look at, and so.. the same in their eyes..I think the operation of aircraft needed to change, the glass cockpit and automation implementations of Airbus, Boeing and MD all have their individual merits and features.. All were a major shock to crews.. But ultimately it's the economics that sell aircraft.. :) It really is a fascinating subject I could talk about it for hours.. lolCraig

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While the MD11 has had a less than charmed run in the real world, it's a heck of an airplane to fly, as many of you are now finding!It could be suggested that PMDG would have been better off modelling a more commonly utilised aircraft, but to me, the decision to replicate an airplane many of us know little about was actually an inspired choice.I think what has really impressed me about this add-on is that it is the first time in years that I have had to go ALL the way back to 'page one' of the manuals and learn how to fly an airplane. After years of learning different variations of the Boeing stable, the MD-11 took me back to those early days when I first discovered with joy that there were companies out there that ACTUALLY made full airliner simulations for the home PC! I have always found the 'new add-on' buzz was a little diminished as time has gone by. Not this time!This aircraft relies on a different way of thinking in a range of respects, and that is refreshing. I don't believe the FS community has recently had a totally new operating philosophy introduced to them in such a complete and faithfully represented package. But the real indicator for me that we have a good add-on here is this, it has broken my FS usage habits!From the beginning of my FS hobby, my simming has always been slavishly devoted to real-world schedules and types flown around European hubs. The MD-11 has broken that habit for me and sent me off into the heart of Africa and South America at odd hours of the night. I was an avowed FS9 die-hard too, the MD-11 taught me to love FSX (Heaven forbid!). I have clocked up about 300 hours over the course of the Beta, I can honestly say I'm learning something new almost every flight. For those who love intricacies in simulation, as I do, there are months and months of discoveries ahead of you!

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Mark:I think you have just pretty much summed up my feelings about this sim, and i am sure those of many others too.In so far as FSX is concerned, i was an avowed FS9er then FSXer when that came along, but, and as i have said here before, the 744 just ran way better for me in 9 than in X and in both sims i like to have all the sliders to the right, thus FS9 was the way to go for online flying, in a detailed environment.With the MD11, and the lessons that PMDG and your developers have clearly learned in the transition to FSX, and optimsation of aircraft for it. I at last have an aircraft that allows me to use FSX in my favourite online environment, and keep those sliders up.For me, it doesnt really change my FS habits per se, (although apparently BA are swapping out lots of aircraft for the MD11 at the moment ;) ) but the joy of discovering a new aircraft that is so, well, different; from my normal diet of boeings is an absolute...er...joy.CheersPaul

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McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997, and the new company announced that MD-11 production would continue as a freighter. However, in 1998 Boeing announced it would end MD-11 production after filling current orders. The last MD-11 was delivered to Lufthansa Cargo on February 22, 2001. The delivery of this aircraft ended a production run of 200 aircraft, and also ended a chapter in aviation history. The Douglas label disappeared after Boeing acquired the company in 1997.With no other cargo aircraft being offered in same weight and performance category, the MD-11 became highly sought after by cargo airlines. Because of this, resale prices of MD-11s remained high. Passenger airlines seized this opportunity to sell their MD-11s to cargo airlines, and purchase aircraft in the Boeing 777 category (which, at the time, was not offered in a cargo version). The majority of the MD-11 fleet has now been converted to cargo configuration. With a new mission comes a new lease on life, and the MD-11 will continue in active service throughout the world for many years to come. I Remember this clearly, I was on the wing of an MD-11 installing spoiler panels one fine day when I spotted Boeing executives walking down the center isle, then I realized Boeing was buying Douglas, as the company was poorly managed and we knew something was going to happen.I really. loved working on the MD-11 and because I had a part in building this awesome aircraft is one reason this will be the only aircraft I fly in flightsim.I find is interesting that it is more successful as a freighter than a passenger plane.Michael Pare.

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Craig,to add to your post, there were exactly 200 MD-11 build, the last one going to Lufthansa Cargo in 2000.Now speaking of that "complete disaster"... the main competition of that time, the A340-200/300 sold 228 aircraft... that's not so far away from that "complete disaster" now is it?Today 193 MD-11 are still flying, none is parked in the desert. FedEx is by far not the only current operator though. They do have the largest fleet with 58 aircraft, followed by UPS with 36 and Lufthansa Cargo with 19.Biggest PAX operator is KLM with 10 aircraft.By the way the last A340-300 was built last month so there are no more orders for the A340-200/300 left, an era came to an end in Toulouse. While the MD-11 still has a great future as a cargo aircraft unfortunately the A340 classic has not.This is just a bit of numbers to show that the MD-11 didn't and doesn't perform as bad as people generally think.Regards,Markus

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>Craig,>>to add to your post, there were exactly 200 MD-11 build, the>last one going to Lufthansa Cargo in 2000.>Now speaking of that "complete disaster"... the main>competition of that time, the A340-200/300 sold 228>aircraft... that's not so far away from that "complete>disaster" now is it?>>Today 193 MD-11 are still flying, none is parked in the>desert. FedEx is by far not the only current operator though.>They do have the largest fleet with 58 aircraft, followed by>UPS with 36 and Lufthansa Cargo with 19.>Biggest PAX operator is KLM with 10 aircraft.>>By the way the last A340-300 was built last month so there are>no more orders for the A340-200/300 left, an era came to an>end in Toulouse. While the MD-11 still has a great future as a>cargo aircraft unfortunately the A340 classic has not.>>This is just a bit of numbers to show that the MD-11 didn't>and doesn't perform as bad as people generally think.>>Regards,>MarkusSpeaking as an ex MD-11 mechanic, the cause of it's demise as a passenger plane was the fuel burn issues caused by the engines not the airplane, another factor was Douglas had serious financial problems, and Boeing bought the competitor to the 777, then eliminated it, had that event never happened, the MD-11 would have out sold certain airbus models like the A340.Michael Pare.

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Like I said before.. the MD-11 is an amazing aircraft.. there are a lot of commerical disasters out there that are amazing aircraft.. The reason it failed was due to a combination of very poor decisions made during the development which led to it simply being uncompetative.. I see what you're saying about the A340... but it is still in production today, they're still building wings and sending them over for final assembly in the UK right now.. The A340 order book is in the order of 400 aircraft in total over all variants.. with some 30 ish.. left to be delivered most being their 600 variant I imagine.. So it's not a dead programme quite yet.. (will be soon though)The MD-11 production has totally stopped.. and like I said IT IS NOT a negative comment about the aircraft.. but a programme selling 200 aircraft with a massive development budget just wasn't enough to make it commercially viable.. In 1988.. Analysts concluded.. in order for MD to make the MD-11 programme profitable.. it would have to sell a minimum of 170 aircraft.. Even their chairman said it was now extremely risky, and they were trailing.. The first flight was 2 years later.. I don't know the exact numbers but a lot can happen in 2 years and that point wouldn't have to shift by much to make the MD-11 a real money pit.. I would be amazed if it broke even overall when all costs are factored in and sales.. cash flow issues.. etc.. To put this in perspective.. their firm order book at the time of the analysts estimation (which I think is optimistic) was something like one third of their break even point.. That is a terrible position to be in.. This is the exact same problem the A380 has.. break even point and book orders just don't balance.. there is a lot of work to do on the A380 programme to claw back the investment and make it profitable.. a LOT of work to do..Nice quote here... "You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't quit" from former Airbus CEO about the risky business in aircraft manufacture..I know what you're saying.. better decisions would have made the MD-11 more successful.. and it's sad that those decisions were not taken... Different decisions and circumstances may have made the MD-11 a bigger success than it was.. same goes for making Concorde successful.. or the VC-10.. but they weren't.. Concorde was an utter disaster.. an enourmous disaster.. that will probably take some beating over the years..It really is a fascinating subject.. I am really interested in all this stuff..CheersCraigPS Stand corrected with the operators.. I was under the false impression FedEx was almost the sole user.. I will take a look at these fleets.. :).. Thanks for pointing that out to me btw.. I always want to know where I've gone wrong!

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Craig,my post was just an addition to yours, nothing wrong with yours except the FedEx thing ;)I just wanted to put things into perspective comparing it to the competitor at the time the MD-11 was developed and brought to market, the A340 classic. I'm not talking about the A340 NG here (-500/-600), this is a whole different animal and came to the market many years later.The A340 classic programme is over, sold just 28 aircraft more and I'm still wondering why the MD-11 was regarded as such a big disaster when it has a bright future as a cargo aircraft and the competitor has not.Markus

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>Biggest PAX operator is KLM with 10 aircraft.>>>Regards,>MarkusThat's why I love this three holer aircraft have seen it many times around and at EHAM for many years :-)One of my favourites and now to fly this amazing aircraft with this system depth development in FSX is just a great aviation dream come true :-) http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y156/awf1/sign.jpg

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Markus,Absolutely.. you're right.. it is a shame it's regarded in this fashion, I guess it's because the overall programme was stopped before it could really make big money.. and when its place in the market was finally realised it was already a bit of a loss leader as far as sales went and the company decided it was better to just quit now rather than take anymore risks with it.. and of course by this time they'd 'merged' with Boeing and I imagine they pushed their own products so not to split up the Boeing commercial airplane business too much..The MD-11 aircraft in service today.. I absolutely agree with you.. have a very good future.. They'll be around for quite a long time yet, this is why I never understood why people said it was "past it" in these forums.. which just isn't true.. I never regarded it as such.. I think the MD-11 production was a victim of poor management decisions and to some degree optimistic promises which in the end it couldn't keep.. and then finally killed by Boeing really in favour of their own product line probably.. BUT.. great to fly ;)Craig

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Craig,yes I still see this as a big mistake by Boeing (killing MD-11 production that early). It would have sold excellent as a freighter for many years more. It's only now that the B777F is available so in those eight years a lot of MD-11F could have been built.Of course Boeing never admitted they made the wrong decision back then. I fully understand that they wanted to sell the B777 instead for passenger service, but for cargo there was just no alternative until today.Markus

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It would have done I think yes.. I'd agree.. Once the potential was realised.. I imagine Boeing were keen to push their own 767 freighter at that point.. it followed the MD-11 but didn't have a comparable capacity.. MD-11 is 80 tonnes and the 767 was around 55 tonnes both with a similar range.. The extra capacity offered by the MD-11 is definitely attractive to operators and this is aparent when looking at the operators today.. (all cargo really)..I imagine that Boeing wanted MD's military capabilities a little more than their commerical aircraft business... and that's why the MD-11 project was neglected..It's really interesting having this discussion about it though.. always good to hear points of view and correct some assumptions I'd made :)Thanks Craig

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Yes I think Boeing did not want to continue building a McDonnell-Douglas aircraft. They preferred to build and promote their own. Look at the 717 programme, too.RhettFS box: E8500 (@ 3.80 ghz), AC Freezer 7 Pro, ASUS P5E3 Premium, BFG 8800GTX 756 (nVidia 169 WHQL), 4gb DDR3 1600 Patriot Cas7 7-7-7-20 (2T), PC Power 750, WD 150gb 10000rpm Raptor, Seagate 500gb, Silverstone TJ09 case, Vista Ultimate 64ASX Client: AMD 3700+ (@ 2.6 ghz), 7800GT

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>Yes I think Boeing did not want to continue building a>McDonnell-Douglas aircraft. They preferred to build and>promote their own. Look at the 717 programme, too.>>Rhett>>FS box: E8500 (@ 3.80 ghz), AC Freezer 7 Pro, ASUS P5E3>Premium, BFG 8800GTX 756 (nVidia 169 WHQL), 4gb DDR3 1600>Patriot Cas7 7-7-7-20 (2T), PC Power 750, WD 150gb 10000rpm>Raptor, Seagate 500gb, Silverstone TJ09 case, Vista Ultimate>64>ASX Client: AMD 3700+ (@ 2.6 ghz), 7800GTThe 717 is actually the smaller version of the conversions done to create the MD-10. Same avionics and everything. As for the 777F, it does not have something that distictively places it above the MD-11. An engine on the tail. For those who are unfamiliar, it is a pain in the butt to get up there, and if you have to change it, its nearly impossible at a place where it isnt done all the time. Here are some pics of a DC-10, but you get the point:0%38%303082017d.jpg0%38%303082017c.jpg0%38%303082017b.jpg0%38%303082017a.jpg

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Craig,how was the concorde a disaster? I'm just curious because I know only of the one that crashed in paris. According to a BA Ops agent in JFK back in 1996 or 1997 he said the thing never made them any money! but then again we have airlines who operate for years and never make money!!! as for the ill fated air france concorde I think if we dig into that we will find they took off over weight for the conditions. they had a tail wind that I hear exceeded most tail wind components for Jet aircraft (10kts). so if you are taking off at max allowable for zero wind and then throw in a tail wind you would not believe the amount of performance that can kill for you. then you have the flight engineer shut down an engine on you that doesnt need to be shut down, number 1 was good, number 2 was not, throw in the fact your hydraulics were wiped out and you cant get the gear (gobs of drag) up you are royally screwed. that delta wing became a big speed brake and they could never overcome the obstacles (lack of power and performance) in their way to save their lives. PSS had a concorde for sale before they shut down their web site that is pretty cool to fly. it has some things modeled in it that I had seen when I got a tour of the cockpit in JFK one of the times I parked next to her. hard to believe she was years ahead of her time and flew as many years as she did.

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I Think Craig was pointing towards the fact that commercially, concorde was a disaster.Considering that at launch, there was something like 70 airlines interested in her, however by the first flight, it was only BA and Air France. who were ultimately, given the aircraft, to all intents and purposes.CheersPaul

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>Speaking as an ex MD-11 mechanic, the cause of it's demise as>a passenger plane was the fuel burn issues caused by the>engines not the airplaneExactly. Craig, you ommited the major reason for the MD-11 failure : the underperformance of the engines delivered.MD did count on these engines, like every manufacturer, in the performance calculations. But it appeared that they burned more fuel than expected, thus reducing the MD-11 range.No one can tell that the MD-11 was a bad concept initially, just look at the order book before these problems were discovered, with airlines like American, Swissair, KLM, Singapore Airlines committed to it...If these engines would have been ok, we would have seen a bunch of MD-11 in SIA colors. The order cancellation from SIA was completely related to the engine performance problem, and a key loss for the program. The fact that some of the most successful airlines ordered it back in the days is a proof that the concept was very attractive :)By the way, the AA flight 191 DC-10 accident, even if it was awful, didn't have a role in this : American were among the first to order the MD-11.And the main design problem of the DC-10, the 3 hydraulic lines running at the same point near engine n

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't Fed Ex invested a lot of money installing the MD-11 cockpit systems in their legacy DC10s? Cutting out a crew member saves bucks...Colin WarePortland

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