• Going Places - To Dakar, En Route To South America

    Going Places - To Dakar, En Route To South America

    By Rodolfo Astrada

    Off to South America! This trip is flown several times a week by MD11's from Lufthansa Cargo starting at Frankfurt. It reaches Buenos Aires by way of Campinhas and Montevideo. First leg Frankfurt - Dakar is 4600 km / 2480 nm and takes a little less than six hours depending on winds, stretches over contrasting sceneries: France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal. From cold and snowy Germany to the dry and scorched Western Sahara to equatorial Atlantic shores.

    going places

    After an early afternoon takeoff, the first hour breezes by over western Germany and across France before arriving at the Pyrenees. It is amazing how small Europe is, relatively speaking; it takes only a few hours jetwise to cross it whichever way, yet here is where western civilization was born, where contrasting cultures such as Nordic and Latin or Slav and Celtic met, mixed, spiced here and there with influx from Middle East and Asia, fought, mixed again and reached out to the four corners of the world.

    While McDonnell Douglas formally launched the MD11 project in 1986, it was natural to be looking for DC-10 derivatives much earlier. Preliminary studies aimed at a stretched version with higher capacity - 390 to 550 passengers - or greater range or both. Through cooperation with NASA and with a specially fitted DC-10, several performance improvements were investigated leading to development of distinctive winglets for increased efficiency. Yet, studies lingered among various model designations with no production commitment. By late 1983 and with no new orders booked for the DC-10 except Air Force KC-10 tankers, development of a successor was halted, only to be revived only years later with a different target, capacity limited to 320 passengers, range in the 5900 to 7500 nm ballpark and an all cargo version rounding the offer. The new airliner was designated MD11 and like the 767 and A300 was to have a two pilot glass cockpit.

    going places

    So the time came for The Board to unleash the company's sales force, scramble order book in hand and reach out for customers.

    In hindsight, with Boeing's 777 twin engine project under way and the inroads Airbus twin engine jetliners were making perched on an extended ETOPS certification, the lower efficiency afforded by a trijet did not look like a very smart move no matter the fact that orders and options were adding to about 100 MD11's at launch time.

    going places

    Looking down and to the right, the sight of Gibraltar, brings about tons of history and literature featuring the famous Rock as central character. From its geologic origins as a piece of crust freely buoying on the Earth's mantle which happened to jam against Spain, to the legendary Pillars of Hercules marking the confines of the ancient known world, to the rather incongruent political situation of less than 7 square kilometers of United Kingdom territory grafted on an otherwise spanish countryside.


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