We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


The MD-11, a derivative of the DC-10, first flew in revenue service a mere 20 years ago, making it just middle-aged by aircraft standards. However, KLM’s birds are included on this list because they’re the only three-engined jets currently operating in scheduled transoceanic passenger service — with the exception of an occasional Qantas A380.

This delightfully catty witticism nicely rounded off an interesting Wired presentation: Fly Away on These 10 Classic Airliners

I always thought the A380 a hideous gargoyle of a plane. And Qantas is a pretty rubbish airline these days. So have at ’em both, I say.

(H/t: Instapundit)

10 comments to Ouch

  • Lots of MD-11s in service on long haul as cargo aircraft, though, and a few DC-10s and Lockheed Tristars in that role, too. And a few in use as military transports. Plus a few 727s and other smaller three engined aircraft in use on short haul routes, so I think a bit of effort has been made to achieve this particular distinction.

    But yeah. Qantas are pretty lousy.

  • nemesis

    I started working for the airlines in 1978. My favourite – the DC10, It seemed far more modern than the 747, but I did have a soft spot for the BAC 1-11 – a real workhorse, commonly known as the ‘pocket rocket’

  • Hmm. Always found the DC-10/MD-11 to be aesthetically unappealing, particularly on the interior. That, and the nose design reminds me of a bulldog.

    Can’t speak from experience about Qantas – although they’re tough ones to top on the overall safety category – zero fatalities is kinda tough to beat.

  • Kim du Toit

    That article MUST have been a joke. I’ve flown on most of them, or on the Boeing/Lockheed equivalents of the Russian ripoffs, and they were all lousy. Only the DC-3 (a.k.a. Dakota or “Vomit Comet”) was worse. Never flew the VC-10 or Concorde, sadly.

    In my opinion, the best, in chronological order, are: Super Constellation, C-130 (okay, that’s a cargo plane, but it flew better than the 727), 707 and 747.

    And I STILL get nervous boarding a transatlantic flight with only two engines for power.

  • Bruce Hoult

    The problem with the DC10 (and Airbusses too, in general) is that they don’t seem to be robust enough in the face of damage.

    When the 3rd engine blew up on United 232 it took out all three redundant hydraulic systems, making the only controls available to the pilots the throttles on the remaining two engines.

    The QANTAS A380 on flight Q32 lost really far too many of its systems when that engine blew up. The crew couldn’t deploy the slats, couldn’t transfer or dump fuel, couldn’t use the anti-lock braking system. After they landed they couldn’t even find a way to shut down the other engine on that wing. They tried for two hours and then finally had firefighters fire foam into the engine to kill it!

    When a DC10 lost a cargo door (which happened several times), it crashed with all lives lost. When United 811 lost the cargo door on a 747 they lost a couple of rows of seats too, but the plane landed safely. When Aloha 243 lost much of the top half of the cabin on a 737 they landed safely with only the loss of one flight attendant.

    As for QANTAS … I really don’t know what’s happening to them. Air NZ on the other hand seem to be going from strength to strength.

  • Corsair

    I agree about the Super Constellation. I think it is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built.

  • James Waterton

    I’m not an expert on aviation safety by any stretch of the imagination, so I could be completely wrong about the following, but I have to ever-so-slightly leap to Qantas’s defence regarding their recent run of incidents. Firstly, the A380 engine explosion. Considering that it was a new plane, I’d say that responsibility for the failure lies primarily with Rolls Royce or Airbus or both, rather than Qantas. As for the string of incidents on other flights that followed, I suspect these were fairly minor mishaps that happen from time to time to all airlines, but were suddenly newsworthy because of the significant A380 engine failure, and the negative publicity Qantas received as a result. My beef with Qantas has less to do with its safety standards – which I’m sure are still commendable – and more to do with the crappy level of service they offer.

  • ErrolC

    Hmm, the Qantas (and other RR-engined A380s) aren’t currently operating transoceanic. Qantas have decided that Melbourne-LA takes them too far from runways. Their engine support is also in Singapore, so that is another reason for only using them on the ‘Kangaroo route’ – when you are required to do a new inspection within two flight cycles, you don’t have to reposition your birds.
    The RR engine failure caused damage that airliners are not required to handle. At least two different disc fragments damaged wiring (and other elements), and the design requirements are to deal with a single disc impact. (Link)

  • Daveon

    Sorry but given the level of damage the engine failure did this one looks great for Airbus from a systems and structural perspective. As did the Hudson landing.

    Most of the Airbus aircraft loses to date have been related to flight control system problems and/or pilot error. But the reality is they were pushing the envelope of Fly By Wire way beyond where Boeing had ever tried to take it.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Boeing fares with the 787 (whenever it flies) now that they’ve gone down the same route.

    I can’t speak much on Quantas but the times I’ve used them they were better than United, American and Delta and wayyyyyy better than SAA and, the unlamented SABENA.

    Bruce: there have been plenty of extremely mi or equipment failures on both Boeing and McDonald aircraft that have brought them down. The elevator screw jack on the Alaska Airlines MD80 in 2000 springs most quickly to mind and the long series of weird/catastrophic engine and rudder problems on 737s.

    By any metric both Airbus and Boeing turn out fine pieces of kit.

  • Fine simulation of an MD-11 available here, if you like that sort of thing, which I do.