Lufthansa Retiring Last MD-11

Last Friday, Lufthansa announced the flights for its final remaining MD-11 freighter. The aircraft, registered D-ALCC, will perform its last flight with Lufthansa on October 15th. D-ALCC will be Lufthansa’s last MD-11 out of a total fleet of 19 throughout the years to leave the airline. For the MD-11’s last couple of flights, Lufthansa has painted a special heart decal on the aircraft with the words “Thank you MD-11” and “Farewell.”

This news comes just a few days after Lufthansa took deliveries of its last 2 ordered Boeing 777 freighters. Last week, Lufthansa’s last 2 Boeing 777 orders out of 9 were delivered to Frankfurt. One of the 777s is a 10-year-old, previously-owned Emirates aircraft, while the other is new from Boeing. Lufthansa plans to start operating these as soon as possible, which explains the short deadline on the MD-11. 

D-ALCC - McDonnell Douglas MD-11(F) - Lufthansa Cargo
Credit: Kobi Ben Navi via Jetphotos
Lufthansa's MD-11 Retirement Draws Closer With Double 777F Delivery -  Simple Flying
Credit: Instagram @lufthansacargoag

The retirement of Lufthansa’s MD-11 was originally planned to be by the end of 2020 last year, but an increase in air cargo demand during the COVID-19 pandemic extended the fate of these aircraft. Lufthansa still had 6 MD-11s in its fleet at the time. Last year, not only were the cargo shipments slowed down by the absence of freight transport via passenger flights, but there was also an urgent spike in the transportation of supplies such as masks, COVID-19 tests, cleaning products, etc. These factors temporarily halted Lufthansa’s plans to retire its MD-11 fleet by 2020. Lufthansa’s incomplete 777 fleets would have been unable to supplement demands. 

The MD-11 has been a crucial part of Lufthansa’s cargo operations throughout its history. Lufthansa first took delivery of the MD-11 in 1998, and the aircraft type served for 23 years with Lufthansa. The MD-11 was the backbone of operations for Lufthansa cargo before the 777 arrived, and has flown hundreds of thousands of hours to a multitude of international destinations for Lufthansa. The last MD-11, D-ALCC, in particular, has flown around 95,517 flight hours during its service. Lufthansa MD-11s have also made great contributions to transporting the vaccine and other much-needed supplies during the pandemic. Lufthansa will be one of the last operators of the plane, as only 3 other airlines – UPS, FedEx, Western Global Airlines –  still operate the MD-11.

Lufthansa Cargo to Phase Out McDonnell Douglas MD-11 – Aeronautics
Credit: Aeronautics

Lufthansa’s decision to retire the MD-11 is due to the replacement of these aircraft with more efficient 777 aircraft. Lufthansa had been slowly phasing out the MD-11s throughout the years due to their old age and lack of efficiency with 3 engines. Although the 3-engined design of the MD-11s with one engine in the tail made the aircraft unique to others, MD-11s were more expensive to operate because of this than the 2-engine Boeing 777. Increased freight transport in the belly of passenger flights also created an excess of cargo planes for Lufthansa, as the airline could transport cargo along with passenger commercial flights at a much cheaper price. 

Lufthansa Cargo Turns 20 - CargoForwarder Global
Credit: Cargo Forwarder Global
Our fleet - Lufthansa Cargo
Credit: Lufthansa Cargo

Parting with Lufthansa will, however, not be the end of the line for these MD-11s. Following the retirement of these aircraft from Lufthansa, a handful of them have been transferred to Florida-based cargo carrier Western Global Airlines, while a few others have gone to FedEx and UPS. Western Global Airlines has bought several of Lufthansa’s MD-11s and will be adding D-ALCC to its current fleet of 15 MD-11s. Of these 15 MD-11s, 6 of them were previously owned by Lufthansa. The addition of D-ALCC will amount to a total of 7 ex-Lufthansa jets in Western Global’s fleet. D-ALCC will be joining its companions D-ALCD and D-ALCA that were both transferred to Western Global earlier this year.

Western Global Airlines' pilots join union - FreightWaves
Credit: Freightwaves

For those wanting to see a Lufthansa MD-11 for the last time, the schedule for the final rotations of Lufthansa’s last MD-11 will be as follows:

Tuesday, October 12

FRA – Departure 17:40 local time

TLV – Arrival 22:35 local time

Wednesday, October 13

TLV – Departure 00:35 local time

CAI – Arrival 01:00 local time

CAI – Departure 04:50 local time

FRA – Arrival 09:00 local time

FRA – Departure 18:35 local time

ORD – Arrival 20:45 local time

ORD – Departure 23:15 local time

Thursday, October 14

FRA – Arrival 14:35 local time

FRA – Departure 17:20 local time

JFK – Arrival 20:05 local time

JFK – Departure 22:35 local time

Friday, October 15

FRA – Arrival 12:05 local time

Hopefully, Lufthansa’s last MD-11 will fly for many more years in its new life under the ownership of Western Global. As the MD-11 takes off under its German colors for the last time this month, it will be remembered for its 2 decades of service and cargo contributions to Lufthansa.


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