If exactly five years ago, the MD-11 was saying goodbye to the passengers when KLM withdrew its three engined aircraft from operation, now Lufthansa has confirmed that it will retire the widebody as a freighter aircraft.
According to the company’s financial report released Thursday, the latest MD-11Fs will be taken out of service by the end of 2020. Currently, 11 aircraft operate in the cargo division, but three of them will be retired next month.
To replace the three-engine jet, the German airline is ordering two more Boeing 777Fs. The twin-engine is capable of carrying up to 103 tons of cargo, 10 more than the MD-11F, and with a longer range beyond fuel economy.
Lufthansa even operated 18 MD-11Fs in its fleet that had the mission of retiring the Boeing 747 for 21 years. The jet made by McDonnell Douglas as a successor to the DC-10 turned out to be a sales failure: only 200 airplanes were built between 1988 and 2000, already as part of Boeing.
Relevant in express delivery companies
Today it is estimated that about 120 aircraft continue to fly, all of them as freighters. The largest operator of the MD-11F is Fedex, with nearly 59 aircraft, followed by rival UPS with 37 jets.
The remainder of the active aircraft are at Western Global Airlines, Sky Lease Cargo and little-known Global Africa Aviation, a Zimbabwe-based cargo company with two MD-11s in its fleet.
Although it has not received many orders, the MD-11 has accumulated a career with few accidents or problems facing the reduced fleet. The only accident in which all occupants perished was the Swissair Flight 111, which took off from New York to Geneva in September 1998 and crashed while flying off the coast of Nova Scotia.
In the 1990s, McDonnell Douglas had plans to launch a larger version of the MD-11 as well as a two-engine variant to compete with the 777 and A330, but selling it to Boeing actually meant the end of the iconic’s three engine plane.