Where I come from, we have a saying, that roughly translates to “not pretty, but quite rare”. It seems to fit the bill for this McDonnell Douglas MD-11. But even if it’s not exactly a thing of beauty, it’s spectacular with three engines, looking like something from the Space Age.
Trijets (aircrafts with three engines) became A Thing back in the 60’s. Safety regulations put a 60 minute flying time limit on twinjets (two engines). Back in the day, the engines were not quite as realiable as they are now. But trijets were allowed to fly longer routes. If one engine decided to suddenly call it a day, you would still be able to cover a reasonable distance and hopefully land safely. Thus the trijets were all over, very popular in the 80’s. Especially the DC-10, on which the MD-11 is based.
Thankfully, flying is much, much safer today, and twinjets are the norm on transatlantic and even transpacific flights. Apart from a few types of business jets, the trijets fell out of production around the year 2000.
Today, the “old” planes are mostly used for cargo by FedEx and UPS. And Lufthansa, who has a small fleet based in Frankfurt Airport (FRA). Since this particular airport has a ban on night flights and all sorts of additional noise restrictions, it’s a great spot for watching some daytime cargo aircraft. Including the MD-11.
First time I saw one, it was climbing out from Manchester Airport, going God knows where. Hopefully somewhere with better weather. It rained cats and dogs and buckets of water. I took a picture anyway and decided it was very artsy. I call it “England”.
I probably don’t have to explain why.