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FedEx and UPS Advance MD-11 Retirement Programs

The famous trijet is being phased out of the skies as FedEx & UPS begin to retire their sizable MD-11 fleets. The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 will eventually be phased out by Federal Express (FedEx) and United Parcel Services (UPS), the two major American air freight carriers.

As a development of the Douglas DC-10 trijet, the MD-11 trijet has been in service for 33 years as of January 10, 1990, and now the aircraft is being retired. The MD-11F type is used by all of these air cargo operators, some of whom have acquired past operators like American Airlines, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa Cargo, and Swissair.

While the MD-11 had five different versions, including a passenger version and a combi version, only the MD-11F freighter version is still flying today, according to ch-aviation.com. FedEx and UPS intend to discontinue the MD-11 for what reasons?

Even the MD-11Fs will soon disappear from the sky. According to FedEx President and Chief Operating Officer Raj Subramaniam, the Boeing 777 and Boeing 767 bring flexibility to the air cargo airline, which is modernizing. But a portion of that strategy calls for replacing the airline’s “flex fleet” of MD-11s with more effective aircraft in a phased manner. According to a comment Subramaniam made at the company’s fiscal 2023 third quarter financial results call, which was cited by Aviation Week on March 20th,

“We’ve been able to create a more agile and flexible fleet thanks to our fleet modernization strategy. We therefore reach a crossroads here: will we observe a high-demand environment or a low-demand environment? And that flex fleet was the MD-11. And given the current state of demand, we don’t anticipate seeing such high levels of demand.

So, it is desirable to retire the larger, older, and fuel-hungrier MD-11F aircraft from the FedEx fleet.

The same choice is also being made by UPS. Six MD-11s were retired, according to a UPS statement announcing its fourth-quarter 2022 earnings. As a result, the diminished value of the MD-11 fleet left a “non-cash charge”. The international freight market was the agency’s primary area of focus.

James Joseph, president of UPS Airlines, provided a comment to FreightWaves that said in part, “Our MD-11s have served us well since we took receipt of the first aircraft in 2001. They operated mostly in the United States in more recent years after serving as a mainstay on foreign routes. Later this year, deliveries of new, more efficient 767s will start, and we’ll start replacing them.

regards the MD-11F

The MD-11F was the trijet’s final and longest-running manufacturing version, and it is the last MD-11 variation still in use today. The MD-11Fs were built with a front port-side cargo door measuring 140 by 102 inches (3.6 m 2.6 m), which provided access to the main deck’s 15,530 cubic feet of space (440 cubic meters). The MD-11F can carry 26 pallets that are 88 by 125 inches (2.2 m 3.2 m) or 96 by 125 inches (2.4 m 3.2 m) in size and has a maximum payload of 200,151 pounds (90,787 kg). Below is a picture of the MD-11F cargo hold:

The MD-11 may have been developed at a time when just two jet engines were reliable, strong, and efficient enough to carry both freight and passengers, but it was very cost-effective to acquire an old plane that wasn’t used as frequently as a passenger plane. The MD-11 can continue to exist as a good air freighter even though it was not the best passenger aircraft.

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