Finnair completed its last scheduled passenger flight with the MD-11 aircraft type today (February 22, 2010) – a type that was first launched at the Finnish flag carrier in 1990.
Finnair Flight AY022 took off from Delhi at 10:41 local time (26 minutes late) to arrive in Helsinki today at 14:23 (8 minutes late). This 7:12 hour long flight was the airline’s final scheduled passenger flight aboard an MD-11. The type served Finnair for nearly 20 years during which time it flew some 400,000 hours, landed more than 50,000 times, transporting 14 million passengers (averaging 8 hour long flights with 280 passengers). It played a crucial role in Finnair becoming “the fast airline between Asia and Europe” – by being a great workhorse on the Nordic routes to Asian destinations.
Finnair was the launch customer of the Boeing MD-11 and as such became the first airline to operate the type on December 20, 1990 on a flight from Helsinki to Las Palmas in Spain. The aircraft, a modernized version of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 got increased wingspan and winglets, a 7 m longer fuselage using more composite materials and new engines, but kept the original concept of having two engines below the wing with an additional one at the base of the vertical stabilizer. By an all-digital cockpit it reduced the required flight crew from 3 to 2 pilots compared to the base DC-10 aircraft.
The program to create a better DC-10 was launched and cancelled several times before finally being renamed to MD-11 and committed to by the board of McDonnell Douglas in 1986. First flight was scheduled for March, 1989 but due to manufacturing issues, delays with suppliers and labor industrial actions (strikes) (we heard the same reasons for the delay of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner just recently…) the rollout only happened in September of that year. The type actually took to the skies for the first time on January 10, 1990. After Finnair, Delta Air Lines was the second to start using the type. The first reports and experiences showed that the plane was not as fuel efficient as planned – therefore could not fly to such long-haul destinations as originally claimed. This resulted in Singapore Airlines – the launch customer for the Airbus A380 in 2007 – cancelling its original order of MD-11’s. When McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997, they said the MD-11 production would continue with the freighter variant only. In 1998, they delivered the last passenger version to the now defunct Belgian Sabena and the last freighter version to Lufthansa in 2001. A total of 200 MD-11s were built.
Finnair had up to seven MD-11s at one time. It now uses Airbus A330s and A340s on its long-haul routes that burn 20% less fuel. As of February 2010 the only remaining operator that had ordered the MD-11 from the manufacturer (and not received second-hand’ used versions) is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
The MD-11 has already been removed from the Fleet section of the Finnair website.