7 Years Without The MD-11: Where Did KLM Fly The Trijet?

KLM had 10 MD-11s, with the first arriving 28 years ago in 1993. KLM retired the type in 2014, marking the end of all passenger MD-11 services worldwide; a fundamental development. The trijet was never a popular passenger aircraft, but it was more important for freight.

KLM withdrew its last iconic MD-11 seven years ago to the month. Photo: Kok Vermeulen via Flickr.

The last flight was seven years ago

The end of the MD-11 in scheduled passenger service came on October 26th, 2014, when KL672 landed back at Amsterdam from Montréal. The Canadian airport was one of three destinations to see KLM’s iconic three-engine jets in that final year, along with San Francisco and Toronto.

KLM’s final MD-11 flight from Montréal was operated by PH-KCE, which ch-aviation.com indicates was delivered to the Dutch carrier in November 1994. Charlie Echo had approximately 86,444 flight hours when it was retired.

KLM was the last passenger user of the MD-11. Photo: Getty Images.

Where are all 10 MD-11s?

All of KLM’s MD-11s arrived between 1993 and 1997. Four were retired in 2014, the final year of use. The majority have been scrapped. Not surprisingly, PH-KCK had the fewest flight hours (approximately 73,335) and cycles (10,803 landings and take-offs).

While nine of the 10 aircraft were used only by KLM, PH-KCI was used by Brazil’s VASP as PP-SPM between late 1995 and mid-1998. A summary of dates and locations is provided below.

  1. PH-KCA: used from 1993 to 2014; located at Crestview Bob Sikes
  2. PH-KCB: 1994-2014; Crestview Bob Sikes (CEW)
  3. PH-KCC: 1994-2013; San Bernardino
  4. PH-KCD: 1994-2014; Mojave
  5. PH-KCE: 1994-2014; Mojave
  6. PH-KCF: 1994-2012; Victorville
  7. PH-KCG: 1995-2012; Victorville
  8. PH-KCH: 1995-2012; Victorville
  9. PH-KCI: 1995-2012; Victorville
  10. PH-KCK: 1997-2013; Victorville
Bonaire, in the Dutch Caribbean, had more flights than any other destination. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr.

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While the MD-11 is popular for freight, the same cannot be said for passengers. The niche A340-500 was also unpopular in passenger operations, with no more flights scheduled by the type anywhere.

The unpopularity of the MD-11 for passenger service was for five main reasons: performance problems, including insufficient range despite modifications and updates; fuel inefficiency and economic problems; bad timing; the rise of better-suited aircraft; and the decline of McDonnell Douglas. It’s As Scott Hamilton, Managing Director of Leeham Company, stated:

“The MD-11 was one of those airplanes that was classically ill-timed. It came at the end of the three- or four-engine era, just ahead of the real move to ETOPS with the 777, and it was produced by a dying company that no longer could meet promises.”

This aircraft (PH-KCG) was retired in 2012. Photo: Lasse Fuss via Wikimedia.

But the MD-11 was important for KLM

Between 2004 and 2014, KLM used the trijet to some 36 destinations from Amsterdam, based on schedules information from Cirium. These included Kolkata, a long-distance route that KLM served via Delhi that was cut in 2004.

The type also served Kuwait and Minneapolis until 2004. Other places to see it on an infrequent basis included Atlanta (2010 and 2012), Calgary (2010-2011), Los Angeles (2012-2013), Newark (2007-2008), and New York JFK (2008).

KLM's MD-11 destinations 2004 to 2014
These destinations all saw KLM’s MD-11s at some point between 2004 and 2014. Image: GCMap.

North America was first for KLM’s MD-11s

In these 10 years, North America had almost one-quarter (23%) of all flights, followed by the Caribbean (20%) and Africa (18%). African destinations were Accra, Cairo, Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Lagos, and Nairobi. Only the Ghanian capital made it into the top ten most served destinations:

  1. Bonaire
  2. Montreal
  3. Guayaquil
  4. Delhi
  5. Vancouver
  6. San Francisco
  7. Aruba
  8. Panama City
  9. Tehran Imam Khomeini
  10. Accra

The author flew the MD-11 between Amsterdam and Cairo, arriving in Egypt in the early hours. Did you fly the type? If so, share your memories by commenting.