The MD-11 LR – The Long Range A380 Alternative That Never Was

The Airbus A380 had several potential competitors in the years leading up its launch. Towards the end of the 20th century, there was a craze to see who could produce the next jumbo. As a result, McDonnell Douglas was planning a stretched version of the MD-11 that could have gone up against the European behemoth. Let’s take a look at the proposals.

MD-12
The A380 could have had several rivals. Photo: Anynobody via Wikimedia Commons

Initial plans

The MD-12 was first conceived as a trijet larger than the MD-11, then stretched to a quadjet aircraft. According to AV Geekery, McDonnell Douglas surprisingly revealed the MD-12 project in 1992. The plane would have had a similar appearance to the A380, but with a more streamlined body.

Here is a look at how the two jumbos compare when it comes to key specifications:

MD-12

  • Cockpit crew: 2
  • Passengers: 430 Passengers (3 class) /  511 (1 class). 
  • Engines: 4x General Electric
  • Range: 7,170 NM / 13,279 km
  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.85
  • Length: 208 ft 0 in (63.40 m)
  • Wingspan: 213 ft 0 in (64.92 m)
  • Height: 74 ft 0 in (22.55 m)

A380

  • Cockpit crew: 2
  • Passengers: 400-550 (4 class)
  • Engines: 4x Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or Engine Alliance (General Electric-Pratt & Whitney) GP-7200 turbofans.
  • Range: 8,000 NM / 14,800 km
  • Maximum speed: 0.89 Mach
  • Length: 238 ft 6 in (72.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 261 ft 10 in (79.8 m)
  • Height: 79 ft (24.1 m)
Singapore Airlines A380 Aircraft
There was great excitement leading up to the A380’s introduction in 2007. Photo: Getty Images

A change of heart

Altogether, even though some factors are close calls, the A380 edges the MD-12 in every key aspect. Had the MD-12 been introduced, Airbus would have bragging rights with its specifications.

Nonetheless, the MD-12 would not come to fruition. Remnants of the type went on to exist across the aviation industry. For instance, Boeing has been placing traces of the plane’s design into the wing of its other projects. Moreover, the aircraft’s proposed General Electric’s CF6-80C2 engines later supported variants of the 747, 767, and A330.

Delta Air Lines MD-11
The MD series has been a favorite of many travelers, but the planes have been disappearing in the skies for passenger use. Photo: Getty Images

Several potential competitors

After the failure to introduce the MD-12 McDonnell Douglas went on to work on 300 to 400–seat MD-11 variants. In 1996, the manufacturer shared plans for a new trijet at the Farnborough International Air Show. The plane was at the time named the MD-XX and it was offered in two models. These were the MD-XX Stretch with a longer fuselage and MD-XX LR with a longer range.

Both designs had a 213 ft (64.9 m) wingspan, which was the same as the MD-12. However, the MD-XX Stretch design was lengthened 32 ft (9.8 m) over the MD-11. Moreover, the plane would have had a capacity for 375 passengers in a typical 3-class configuration and 515 travelers in an all-economy setup. The range for this stretched unit was planned to be 7,020 NM / 13,000 km.

Meanwhile, the LR was designed to host 309 passengers n a typical 3-class configuration, It would have also had a range of 8,320 NM / 15,400 km. However, the board of directors at McDonnell Douglas chose to end the whole program later that year.

McDonnell Douglas would soon get scooped up by Boeing amid a $13 billion stock swap in the middle of 1997. Notably, many of the carriers interested in the MD-12 went on to acquire the A380 instead.

There were some rumors that McDonnell Douglas did not actually intend to build the proposed jumbo. Some felt that the program was just a method from the firm to get Boeing to purchase it for a greater fee.

What are your thoughts about the proposed McDonnell Douglas MD-12 aircraft? Would you have liked to fly on the plane if it was introduced? Let us know what you think of the type in the comment section.

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