Max Q
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What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:42 am

This aircraft did not have the most impressive record with respect to accidents and incidents


On several occasions a hard landing led to a complete failure of the main wing spar
causing the aircraft to turn over with disastrous results



But the DC 10, for all of its issues didn’t
have this problem


I think a bigger wing could have helped but I believe the main problem with The MD11
was it’s under sized horizontal stabilizer,
two thirds the size of its predecessor in an attempt to reduce drag


As a result, pitch control authority was reduced and approaches had to be flown at significantly higher airspeeds making for a far less forgiving aircraft in the flare, especially at the typical high landing weights of pure freighter versions.


I know an artificial stability system was added to assist in pitch control but I don’t know if that helped very much



What if MD had just left the horizontal stabilizer alone ? Using the same size as
the DC10 would have helped significantly, perhaps eliminated this problem



As a comparison, the vertical and horizontal stabilizer size was unchanged by
Boeing when transitioning from the 747
Classic to the 744, no such problems were encountered
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
 
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zeke
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:23 pm

Not being built
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trex8
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:57 pm

why does a wing spar failure make you flip?
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:34 pm

Well, when one side of the plane is no longer supported by the landing gear on that side, the plane rolls over, especially when it’s traveling at 150 knots when this failure occurs. See FDX landing accidents.

GF
 
rmilstre
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:52 pm

Under extreme loads, when your wingbox fails before your gear fuse pins fail, you've got a (bigger) problem....
I doubt weakening the gear connection points is the right answer, so an analysis of how to improve the wing box's tolerance to these extreme landing loads might be in order. Well, might have been in order 30 years ago, when the design was in progress.... Had that been done, we might have had three crashes resulting in belly flops, rather than turtles.
Isn't hindsight great?

-Rob
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:31 pm

zeke wrote:
Not being built


Typical answer from someone who knows little about this airplane. Sort of what you might see from a Boeing that has never flown an Airbus.
 
sharles
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:14 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Well, when one side of the plane is no longer supported by the landing gear on that side, the plane rolls over, especially when it’s traveling at 150 knots when this failure occurs. See FDX landing accidents.

GF

As I understand it, simply not being supported by landing gear is the safe failure mode. It is what happens on other planes where the gear fails before the wing (spar?). You just drag that wing along the ground.
The problem with the MD-11 is that the wing is broken off the airplane, hence the other side still has lift and is lifted up, which then rolls the plane.
Or am I wrong?
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:25 pm

You’re correct

GF
 
stratclub
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:42 pm

BravoOne wrote:
zeke wrote:
Not being built


Typical answer from someone who knows little about this airplane. Sort of what you might see from a Boeing that has never flown an Airbus.

Brave's assessment has a lot of merit. At the very least the people that were responsible for for pushing through those glaring design flaws (cargo door latching) and and failing to actually fix those design flaws after lives were lost on the DC10 should have gone to prison. The tradition of questionable design was kept alive on the MD11.

From Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_MD-11
Safety Problems
"The MD-11 has had problems with its flight control systems that have resulted in multiple accidents and incidents since the aircraft's introduction.[53] The initial design of the slat/flap lever in the cockpit was conducive to accidental dislodgement by crew in flight. The defect has been corrected since 1992.[54] In the early 2000s, Boeing improved the flight control software at the urging of the FAA to reduce the possibility of violent unintentional pitch movements.[53]

In an effort to improve fuel efficiency, McDonnell Douglas designed the MD-11's center of gravity to be much further aft than other commercial aircraft. There was also a fuel-ballast tank in the MD-11's horizontal stabilizer since its tailplane was smaller than the DC-10's to improve fuel efficiency, but this was found to inhibit the MD-11's crosswind performance.[6] These design features significantly reduced the MD-11's margin for error during the takeoff and landing phases, making it more difficult to handle than the smaller DC-10.[7] A number of operators have introduced special training to assist crews in safely handling the MD-11's critical phases of flight.[55]"
 
Wacker1000
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:05 pm

They should have put a landing gear on the tip of the vertical stabilizer and two more on the fuselage's crown.
 
spacecadet
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:35 am

The official reports in at least some of these accidents have noted the smaller horizontal stabilizer as making the MD-11 less predictable at low speeds than other, similar aircraft (including the DC-10). This was especially true for crews who transitioned from the DC-10 to the MD-11 and may have an unconscious expectation that the MD-11 would respond like a DC-10.

When you combine the smaller stabilizer with the fact that the crew doesn't necessarily know what's going on at the back of the plane, you've got a recipe for problems. The FedEx accident at Narita, for example, looked very dramatic but to the crew, it wouldn't have appeared that anything abnormal was happening because the cockpit was level with the ground even as the tail bounced into the air. This was in the accident report.

The stabilizer was made smaller to improve fuel economy.
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AbigailWT
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:22 am

zeke wrote:
Not being built



First thing that popped into my head when I read the title. Bravo.
 
BoeingGuy
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:07 am

AbigailWT wrote:
zeke wrote:
Not being built



First thing that popped into my head when I read the title. Bravo.


I agree. It’s probably the worst airplane designed and built in the modern era. How could a company that designed the DC-8 and DC-9 and C-17 build such a piece of junk as the MD-11?
 
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Starlionblue
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:54 am

BoeingGuy wrote:
AbigailWT wrote:
zeke wrote:
Not being built



First thing that popped into my head when I read the title. Bravo.


I agree. It’s probably the worst airplane designed and built in the modern era. How could a company that designed the DC-8 and DC-9 and C-17 build such a piece of junk as the MD-11?


The following is my understanding of the broad strokes.

The root cause was inadequate funding. The MD-11 was in many ways just a next gen DC-10. McDonnell Douglas simply didn't have the funds to make a more developed product, leading to a lack of innovation from the -10 to the -11. Redesigning the banjo fitting for the larger center engine was particularly expensive.

Given the rise of the twins at the time, the writing was on the wall for triplets. If MD had developed a much larger aircraft (see below), it might have "stayed ahead" of the twins until the 777 came along, but lack of funding made this impossible. Alternatively, they could have made a twin variant of the DC-10 but the 767 and A300/A310 would have made sales tough. MD was basically crowded out of the marketplace from both sides. Make a DC-10 size twin and face competition the 767 and 300/310, or make a larger triplet and run out of money. The middle ground chosen was like staying on a small iceberg while it melts and hoping for the best.

So now MD had to develop what was basically a stretched DC-10 with some changes. But the fuel burn was too high because there wasn't funding to incorporate the technological advancements needed to keep up with the competition. So not only was there not enough funding to make a viable product, there was now not enough funding to make the semi-viable middle ground product adequate. Result: MD was forced to seek an "affordable" solution to the problem faced by the product it had, leading to the small stabiliser and so on.




If MD had had adequate funding, the resultant aircraft might have looked something like the proposed trijet MD-XX/MD-12 (not to be confused with the proposed superjumbo MD-12). A larger and more advanced aircraft that would have been a decade too late to market anyway

Image
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BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:06 pm

When you poor pilot technique tends to bring the worst design flaws. None of these hull losses would havee occurred had the pilots flown the airplane according to the procedures set forth by MD.
 
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zeke
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:26 pm

BravoOne wrote:
When you poor pilot technique tends to bring the worst design flaws. None of these hull losses would havee occurred had the pilots flown the airplane according to the procedures set forth by MD.


It is not poor pilot techniques, it is a poor design. Have a look at the carriers that have some of these hull losses, very experienced pilots on types, and a number of them from top first world airlines.

First, the MD-11 is essentially a stretched DC-10, with winglets, a 2-crew cockpit (one fewer than on the DC-10), and a few other nips and tucks. Significantly, the designers increased the operating weight and the length of the aircraft, without re-engineering the wing and rudder. As a result, the aircraft has rather sluggish roll and yaw responses to control input at low speeds, i.e., on short finals and during the landing flare.

The second significant factor that affects the MD-11s landing performance is speed. In order to compensate for the MD-11’s higher operating weight and reduced rudder authority, its approach speeds can be substantially higher than other comparable commercial jets. This is due to the higher Vmca of the MD-11. The term refers to the minimum airspeed at which an airborne multiengine aircraft is controllable with one engine inoperative (the MD-11 has three engines). For example, the approach speed (Vapp) for the MD-11 at maximum landing weight (213.8 tons) is around 168 knots, give or take 1-2 knots. This is increased further – by up to 20 knots – if allowances for high winds or gusts are factored into the landing calculations. As a consequence, the sink rate on a heavy approach is usually a few hundred feet per minute higher than on most other transport-category aircraft.

The third factor is the center-gear of the main landing gear. Quite unlike the center-body gear on the B747, which is quite forgiving, the center-line fuselage gear on the MD-11 is primarily designed to support the stretched airplane’s increased ramp weight. Its position at the fuselage center, slightly aft of the main gear, has a significant effect on the landing characteristics of the aircraft. For this reason, it is imperative that the pilot does not continue to flare the aircraft when the radio altimeter callout reaches 10 feet. There should be no continued flare even if the aircraft is not in the desired landing altitude. If the pilot continues to apply back pressure on the control column past this 10 foot radio altitude point, the flare has the effect of driving the center gear onto the runway, which in turn creates a large “up” force on the tail section of the aircraft – which in turn drives the nose gear onto the tarmac and creates a bounce.

Fourth, because of the airplane’s small horizontal stabilizer, a computerized longitudinal stability augmentation system (LSAS) was installed to improve handling qualities (and also the airplane’s shortfall in range). But this system does not operate when the autopilot must be disconnected and the aircraft hand-flown to touchdown.

Please chime in if younthis this is inaccurate or unfair. The aircraft also has a hull loss rate per 100,000 landings about 5-10 times higher than other airliners.
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VSMUT
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:55 pm

zeke wrote:
The second significant factor that affects the MD-11s landing performance is speed. In order to compensate for the MD-11’s higher operating weight and reduced rudder authority, its approach speeds can be substantially higher than other comparable commercial jets. This is due to the higher Vmca of the MD-11. The term refers to the minimum airspeed at which an airborne multiengine aircraft is controllable with one engine inoperative (the MD-11 has three engines). For example, the approach speed (Vapp) for the MD-11 at maximum landing weight (213.8 tons) is around 168 knots, give or take 1-2 knots. This is increased further – by up to 20 knots – if allowances for high winds or gusts are factored into the landing calculations. As a consequence, the sink rate on a heavy approach is usually a few hundred feet per minute higher than on most other transport-category aircraft.


Just curious, how low does the MD-11s landing speed go? The MD-11 is so far the only heavy jet that I have regularly been told to slow down for, and thats in the ATR!
 
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zeke
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:29 pm

Don’t know, those large freighters like the MD-11 and 747 when operating heavy weights would be up around 155-160 kts.

Your probably being asked to slow down to get the wake separation in a slow ATR.
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CosmicCruiser
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 3:49 pm

BravoOne wrote:
When you poor pilot technique tends to bring the worst design flaws. None of these hull losses would havee occurred had the pilots flown the airplane according to the procedures set forth by MD.


I agree BravoOne
I won't say there was no flaws that couldn't have been designed better but I'm constantly reminded every time this thread comes up that I managed to spend 12+ yrs flying one all over the world in all kinds of weather and never had any problems and I'm not insinuating I'm God's gift to aviation. From the crashes I'm familiar with it was always my understanding that the main gear strut failed first. Never land with a side load on the gear. Never. Yes at max ldg wgt Vapp was 168kts. If you were light best I remember you could see in the low 140s.
For the poster that said it was just a DC-10 stretched with winglets is totally wrong. I flew both and they're night and day.
 
WIederling
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:02 pm

trex8 wrote:
why does a wing spar failure make you flip?


about the same way a single stalled wing makes you flip too.
the unbroken wing lift creates torque into the fuselage.
the broken wing just goes up but cannot effect counter torque to keep the fuselage forces balanced.
Murphy is an optimist
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:28 pm

VSMUT wrote:
zeke wrote:
The second significant factor that affects the MD-11s landing performance is speed. In order to compensate for the MD-11’s higher operating weight and reduced rudder authority, its approach speeds can be substantially higher than other comparable commercial jets. This is due to the higher Vmca of the MD-11. The term refers to the minimum airspeed at which an airborne multiengine aircraft is controllable with one engine inoperative (the MD-11 has three engines). For example, the approach speed (Vapp) for the MD-11 at maximum landing weight (213.8 tons) is around 168 knots, give or take 1-2 knots. This is increased further – by up to 20 knots – if allowances for high winds or gusts are factored into the landing calculations. As a consequence, the sink rate on a heavy approach is usually a few hundred feet per minute higher than on most other transport-category aircraft.


Just curious, how low does the MD-11s landing speed go? The MD-11 is so far the only heavy jet that I have regularly been told to slow down for, and thats in the ATR!


Zeke you continue to about airplanes that know little about other than hanging out on A Net. Have read the RJAA accident report?
 
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zeke
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 4:47 pm

So from my long post that is all you can come up with ?

Yes I have read multiple MD11 accident reports including one from the NTSB calling for changes to the landing laws.

Including the last Lufthansa MD11 crash, there have been 29 other bounced or severe hard landings that caused substantial damage.
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BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:22 pm

There at least 2 pilots here posting that have extensive experience in the MD11, yet you contune tis simply blow them off. Amazing amount of simplistic knowledge. I ask aging, did your read the FedEx RJAA report or for that matter the KEWER report?
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:23 pm

There at least 2 pilots here posting that have extensive experience in the MD11, yet you contune tis simply blow them off. Amazing amount of simplistic knowledge. I ask aging, did your read the FedEx RJAA report or for that matter the KEWER report?
 
VSMUT
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:03 pm

zeke wrote:
Don’t know, those large freighters like the MD-11 and 747 when operating heavy weights would be up around 155-160 kts.

Your probably being asked to slow down to get the wake separation in a slow ATR.


Nah, we had them on the TCAS, and typically in visual sight as well. The 747s were never a problem, and 767s were always fast, so we had to keep up the speed ahead of them. The MD-11s were notably slower than all the rest.
 
CosmicCruiser
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 7:24 pm

amazing as I remember having to tell ATC we WERE at our min app. speed already and couldn't slow anymore.

Also as for RJAA and EWR there may be a few little facts missing that most folks don't know. EWR was pilot induced.
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:01 pm

Don't believe I have ever seen an NTSB accident report for the RJAA accident. just the Japanese report which was very exhaustive.

Someone else said you need to bring your best game to town when strap on the MD11 and there is a degree of truth to that. I gave OE in the airplane from the day it entered service and my paring words to a new crew usually had the caveat the airplane did not accept voodoo flying techniques without biting back. For some reason pilots frequently like to color outside the lines at times and while this should never be a part of your routine, you still see it
 
Max Q
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Aug 09, 2018 11:14 pm

Very interesting and some informative replies but the question hasn’t really been answered


I think if they had left the size of the horizontal stabilizer alone it would have significantly improved pitch authority allowing a lower, more forgiving approach speed and resulting descent rate and we
would not have seen so many problems


This would have been a bare minimum though, what MD should have done:


Bigger wing, slapping on winglets wasn’t enough, outside of a whole new design it simply needed more area to provide the lift required


Four wheel center bogie, or six wheel on existing main gear to better spread the load on a landing gear that was at its limit on the DC10 already



Re-configuration of the MLG attach points, in other words you don’t want the main wing spar failing before the gear does



Finally, an ‘all flying tail’ as used on the L1011 could have significantly improved pitch authority perhaps incorporating DLC as was installed on the DC10 prototype


Some or all of these improvements would have made a significant difference in the handling, durability and airworthiness of the design, in fact they would have probably allowed a significant increase in payload / performance


Of course it was all about money that apparently MD didn’t have so they went with the cheapest solution possible to get the required performance, cutting down the horizontal stab to reduce drag, I think thats where all the problems started
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:05 am

One of the nuances that the MD11 has was a dual chambered MLG strut. This was significantly different than "most" DC10's and required a time consuming procedure to service. Improper service could create some very firm landings. When MD cane to assist in our CAT3 autoland application, the pilots said WTF is wrong with this airplan anyway. It was dtermined that the struts were being serviced using the old DC10 procedures thus setting the crews up for a few surprises.

FA's use to carry cards and grade the landing just like the Olympic skaters would see. Not many 6.0:)
 
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zeke
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:31 am

BravoOne wrote:
There at least 2 pilots here posting that have extensive experience in the MD11, yet you contune tis simply blow them off. Amazing amount of simplistic knowledge. I ask aging, did your read the FedEx RJAA report or for that matter the KEWER report?


Yes I have, there are a large number of reports that I have read, the type has had far too many hull loss accidents in landing compared to other types.

While you say these are pilot error, my thoughts is if they did similar on a 747 you would not have written the aircraft off, nor would you be talking about loss of life.

I have a lot of experience on a lot of different wide bodies, and I see pilots landing firm and bouncing from time to time, it does not result in a hull loss.

Also carriers near where I am that operated the MD11, it was the only type they had to specially schedule simulator time just for flare and landing practice. A constant observation by those who flew it was the centre gear was in the wrong spot for landing. If you tried to flare it would bury that gear.

The aircraft is very different to anything else on the market, it required different techniques.
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ELBOB
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:09 am

CosmicCruiser wrote:
For the poster that said it was just a DC-10 stretched with winglets is totally wrong. I flew both and they're night and day.


I appreciate your hands-on experience, but technically... it wasn't much more a stretch and tweak. Of the 16,000 DC-10 design drawings they changed 6,000.

For example on the wing MDC changed the upper skins to a new alu alloy, added the winglets and reshaped the trailing edge to move the loading aft. The spars and ribs were the same as the DC-10. They claimed this saved $10 million per aircraft; that's how the while MD-11 program was run, scrimping for savings everywhere regardless of long-term cost.
 
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Horstroad
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:01 pm

BoeingGuy wrote:
AbigailWT wrote:
zeke wrote:
Not being built



First thing that popped into my head when I read the title. Bravo.


I agree. It’s probably the worst airplane designed and built in the modern era. How could a company that designed the DC-8 and DC-9 and C-17 build such a piece of junk as the MD-11?



BravoOne wrote:
Typical answer from someone who knows little about this airplane. Sort of what you might see from a Boeing that has never flown an Airbus.

There are two types of people. Those who hate the MD11 and those who know the MD11.

Just today I met a guy again with whom I received MD11 training a couple of years ago. He told me (during the time he learned to know the aircraft) he was impressed about how well the aircraft systems are designed and that no other manufacturer copied some of the features. And this came from a guy who worked on everything with wings that has been built since the DC3.
And indeed the MD11 was way ahead of its time in terms of automation. Although she has a ton of cables going to each primary and secondary flight control surface, the ailerons and elevators are basically fly by wire with the cables as backup and feedback. There is a sophisticated fuel management system, pilots never have to touch any fuel pump switch. Automatic packs off / pneumatics off take off. Automatic preflight system tests... just a few examples.

The big issue is the small horizontal stabilizer/elevator.
But as said above the aircraft has to be handled accordingly.

BravoOne wrote:
When you poor pilot technique tends to bring the worst design flaws. None of these hull losses would havee occurred had the pilots flown the airplane according to the procedures set forth by MD.
 
BoeingGuy
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:04 pm

Horstroad wrote:
BoeingGuy wrote:
AbigailWT wrote:


First thing that popped into my head when I read the title. Bravo.


I agree. It’s probably the worst airplane designed and built in the modern era. How could a company that designed the DC-8 and DC-9 and C-17 build such a piece of junk as the MD-11?



BravoOne wrote:
Typical answer from someone who knows little about this airplane. Sort of what you might see from a Boeing that has never flown an Airbus.

There are two types of people. Those who hate the MD11 and those who know the MD11.

Just today I met a guy again with whom I received MD11 training a couple of years ago. He told me (during the time he learned to know the aircraft) he was impressed about how well the aircraft systems are designed and that no other manufacturer copied some of the features. And this came from a guy who worked on everything with wings that has been built since the DC3.
And indeed the MD11 was way ahead of its time in terms of automation. Although she has a ton of cables going to each primary and secondary flight control surface, the ailerons and elevators are basically fly by wire with the cables as backup and feedback. There is a sophisticated fuel management system, pilots never have to touch any fuel pump switch. Automatic packs off / pneumatics off take off. Automatic preflight system tests... just a few examples.

The big issue is the small horizontal stabilizer/elevator.
But as said above the aircraft has to be handled accordingly.

BravoOne wrote:
When you poor pilot technique tends to bring the worst design flaws. None of these hull losses would havee occurred had the pilots flown the airplane according to the procedures set forth by MD.


The 777 is at least as sophisticated and much better designed. It has an optional feature that will automatically configure the bleed system for a packs-off takeoff but will power one pack from the APU. Then it will reconfigure after takeoff. It has its own preflight system tests too. And it’s all fly-by-wire and has a few backup cables.
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:35 pm

BoeingGuy,
I think you're line up for wrong runway:)
 
Flighty
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:16 pm

zeke is correct that the statistics are known to be bad. The M11 wasn't able to succeed with human operators as well as other types. Other posters must be correct that the M11 lands just fine in 99.5% of circumstances with 99% of pilots. But that isn't good enough. There was an underlying set of issues with M11 that caused a higher hull loss rate (I leave it to the aviation pros to explain what that is).

CosmicCruiser, anything you can describe about the difference between DC-10 and MD-11 flight characteristics? Did the DC-10 feel more natural, as it was a clean sheet design? Did the MD11 benefit from the higher automation? Performance?
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:30 pm

I'll toss may 2 ents in regarding the differences between the DC10 and MD11. Most of my approx 5000 hours in the DC10 were in the -10 , with very little -30 time so you need to factor in that. The DC10 was pretty straight forward wide body with a FE to boot. The MD10 was a derivative (that I never flew), and the MD11 was aa airplane with great systems automation that was built so as to operate at of near it's max limitations. Both the DC10 and the MD11 were good airplanes as long as you observed the consequences of not following standard best practices. The MD11 may have a glass jaw when excessive hard landings occur without benefit of bounced landing procedures. Both were a pleasure fly buy the L1011 beat then hands.
 
747Whale
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 3:47 am

There's a lot of misinformation in this thread, mostly promulgated by those who clearly have zero MD11 experience (and some who don't appear to be pilots at all).

The center gear does not cause bounced landings, nor does it cause crashes. The aircraft can be landed with or without the center gear extended, and the center gear is simply there to carry the increased weight. The MD11 has a gross weight nearlky 50% higher than the original DC10. The - 30 expanded the weight envelope, but the MD-11 still has another 80,000 lb increase over that. It's heavier. It uses the extra gear for that purpose.

The MD11 was designed to be efficient. The MD11 did not go out of production because it was a bad airplane, nor because McDonnell Douglas couldn't afford to build it. The MD11 was touted as much more efficient than the DC10, which it is, but many operators tried to fly it conventionally like any other airplane, and it's designed to be flown by it's own calculated profiles, and has it's own button on the glareshield panel to do just that...let the airplane choose the most efficient climb, cruise and descent. Operators didn't do that, and ultimately didn't see the efficiency they wanted, or that the airplane was actually capable of doing. Consequently, orders cancelled, and at a time when McDonnell Douglas had bet the farm on the MD-11, others were moving toward 2-engine aircraft, and the 3-holer became dead in the water.

The chief cause of the mishap history on the MD11 is landing. The MD11 has the highest landing speed of any commercial airliner. It has considerable gross weight increase over it's parent design, the DC10, but a smaller horizontal stabilizer. It can be flown to the runway with a perfectly stable approach, yet the mishaps occur because of how the airplane is handled in the last 50'. The danger comes from a bounced landing, which is NOT a consequence of having a center landing gear, but of allowing a touchdown at too high a speed. The bounce itself isn't what causes loss of control, but instead putting the nose down quickly. The airplane can quickly enter a series of divergent pilot induced oscillations if allowed (poor pilot technique), causing excess structural stress, and potentially damage.

Someone mentioned the stability augmentation; this has a number of functions , including landing assistance.

A late flare can result in a hard landing, as can retarding power toward idle too soon.

The MD11 flies and lands beautifully and has very good performance. Its systems are very well laid out and designed, with the aircraft being the most advanced and automated aircraft of its kind at the time of its design.

The airplane is not hard to fly, though it is a bit less forgiving of bad technique, and certainly very unforgiving of a hard or bounced landing if a pilot continues to fight the airplane and try to force it onto the runway.

The airplane does not have insufficient horizontal stabilizer. There's a lot more lore than true about it, almost to mythical proportions. It's just another airplane, but one which must be respected and flown smoothly, within limits, using simple, basic piloting techniques. Attempting to salvage a bad landing is a bad idea. If the airplane is flown with some common sense, a knowledge of the performance and the systems, and flown smoothly and conservatively, it's a very safe and straightforward airplane to fly.
 
Max Q
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:54 am

Just cannot agree


It’s incident and accident record clearly shows the MD11 has been anything but a safe and straightforward aircraft to fly
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
 
strfyr51
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 7:14 am

BravoOne wrote:
zeke wrote:
Not being built


Typical answer from someone who knows little about this airplane. Sort of what you might see from a Boeing that has never flown an Airbus.

Curious comment, Please Explain what you mean.? The Airbus isn't that hard of an Airplane, other than the Side Stick.
Aside from the Nomenclature? It's not that much different when you compare the systems. Airbus had to use a LOT of work-arounds to not infringe on Boeing patents. and some of their stuff was pretty ingenious.
 
747Whale
Posts: 680
Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:41 pm

Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:07 am

Max Q wrote:
Just cannot agree


It’s incident and accident record clearly shows the MD11 has been anything but a safe and straightforward aircraft to fly


How much first hand experience do you have piloting the MD11?
 
KICT
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:11 am

747Whale wrote:
How much first hand experience do you have piloting the MD11?

Why does that even matter? Do you need a MD-11 type rating to perform an objective statistical analysis on the design's operational performance?
The accident rate aside, the MD-11 should not have been built for other reasons, primarily the writing was on the wall before the type entered service once Boeing started work on the 777.
People are saying. Believe me.
 
BravoOne
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:26 am

747Whale wrote:
There's a lot of misinformation in this thread, mostly promulgated by those who clearly have zero MD11 experience (and some who don't appear to be pilots at all).

The center gear does not cause bounced landings, nor does it cause crashes. The aircraft can be landed with or without the center gear extended, and the center gear is simply there to carry the increased weight. The MD11 has a gross weight nearlky 50% higher than the original DC10. The - 30 expanded the weight envelope, but the MD-11 still has another 80,000 lb increase over that. It's heavier. It uses the extra gear for that purpose.

The MD11 was designed to be efficient. The MD11 did not go out of production because it was a bad airplane, nor because McDonnell Douglas couldn't afford to build it. The MD11 was touted as much more efficient than the DC10, which it is, but many operators tried to fly it conventionally like any other airplane, and it's designed to be flown by it's own calculated profiles, and has it's own button on the glareshield panel to do just that...let the airplane choose the most efficient climb, cruise and descent. Operators didn't do that, and ultimately didn't see the efficiency they wanted, or that the airplane was actually capable of doing. Consequently, orders cancelled, and at a time when McDonnell Douglas had bet the farm on the MD-11, others were moving toward 2-engine aircraft, and the 3-holer became dead in the water.

The chief cause of the mishap history on the MD11 is landing. The MD11 has the highest landing speed of any commercial airliner. It has considerable gross weight increase over it's parent design, the DC10, but a smaller horizontal stabilizer. It can be flown to the runway with a perfectly stable approach, yet the mishaps occur because of how the airplane is handled in the last 50'. The danger comes from a bounced landing, which is NOT a consequence of having a center landing gear, but of allowing a touchdown at too high a speed. The bounce itself isn't what causes loss of control, but instead putting the nose down quickly. The airplane can quickly enter a series of divergent pilot induced oscillations if allowed (poor pilot technique), causing excess structural stress, and potentially damage.

Someone mentioned the stability augmentation; this has a number of functions , including landing assistance.

A late flare can result in a hard landing, as can retarding power toward idle too soon.

The MD11 flies and lands beautifully and has very good performance. Its systems are very well laid out and designed, with the aircraft being the most advanced and automated aircraft of its kind at the time of its design.

The airplane is not hard to fly, though it is a bit less forgiving of bad technique, and certainly very unforgiving of a hard or bounced landing if a pilot continues to fight the airplane and try to force it onto the runway.

The airplane does not have insufficient horizontal stabilizer. There's a lot more lore than true about it, almost to mythical proportions. It's just another airplane, but one which must be respected and flown smoothly, within limits, using simple, basic piloting techniques. Attempting to salvage a bad landing is a bad idea. If the airplane is flown with some common sense, a knowledge of the performance and the systems, and flown smoothly and conservatively, it's a very safe and straightforward airplane to fly.


I think you have nailed it.
 
wave46
Posts: 143
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:39 pm

So, the MD-11 was the 1st gen Chevrolet Corvair of the airliner world.

If you knew the handling characteristics of the vehicle, it was acceptable. However, being unaware and lacking care could result in very serious consequences.
 
747Whale
Posts: 680
Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:41 pm

Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:47 pm

KICT wrote:
Why does that even matter? Do you need a MD-11 type rating to perform an objective statistical analysis on the design's operational performance?
The accident rate aside, the MD-11 should not have been built for other reasons, primarily the writing was on the wall before the type entered service once Boeing started work on the 777.


It matters a lot, actually. Whether you've read a little about it and formed an opinion off what you found on the on the internet, or whether you know from first hand experience what the aircraft can and can't do, how it handles and behaves, and whether you've been through extensive dedicated training to the specific aircraft type, and then flown it in all conditions, weights, and environments. It matters a lot

There are a lot of opinions expressed here, based on something someone read...and there are a few observations expressed here by those who actually know what they're talking about. It does matter. A lot.

Perhaps you haven't had the benefit of sitting in a classroom with the designers of the airplane and learning the logic behind the decisions that were made in the design, testing, construction, and production of the aircraft, and perhaps you haven't had the benefit of flying with those who took the first delivery, and have flown the type since day one, and perhaps you haven't had an opportunity to spend extensive time discussing some of the mishaps with people who were there, including people who were on board. I have, and I can assure you that there is a very big difference between knowing the airplane, and forming an opinion over what you've read on the internet.

Yes. It matters.

The MD-11 is less forgiving than some of poor handling, or error. It flies very well, lands very well, and hauls a load very well.
 
WIederling
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:10 pm

strfyr51 wrote:
Airbus had to use a LOT of work-arounds to not infringe on Boeing patents. and some of their stuff was pretty ingenious.

Are there actually some examples from that domain around?
Murphy is an optimist
 
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Starlionblue
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Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2004 9:54 pm

Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Dec 13, 2018 1:53 am

strfyr51 wrote:
BravoOne wrote:
zeke wrote:
Not being built


Typical answer from someone who knows little about this airplane. Sort of what you might see from a Boeing that has never flown an Airbus.

Curious comment, Please Explain what you mean.? The Airbus isn't that hard of an Airplane, other than the Side Stick.
Aside from the Nomenclature? It's not that much different when you compare the systems. Airbus had to use a LOT of work-arounds to not infringe on Boeing patents. and some of their stuff was pretty ingenious.


What's hard about the sidestick?

What work-arounds?
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
Max Q
Topic Author
Posts: 7128
Joined: Wed May 09, 2001 12:40 pm

Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Dec 13, 2018 4:10 am

747Whale wrote:
KICT wrote:
Why does that even matter? Do you need a MD-11 type rating to perform an objective statistical analysis on the design's operational performance?
The accident rate aside, the MD-11 should not have been built for other reasons, primarily the writing was on the wall before the type entered service once Boeing started work on the 777.


It matters a lot, actually. Whether you've read a little about it and formed an opinion off what you found on the on the internet, or whether you know from first hand experience what the aircraft can and can't do, how it handles and behaves, and whether you've been through extensive dedicated training to the specific aircraft type, and then flown it in all conditions, weights, and environments. It matters a lot

There are a lot of opinions expressed here, based on something someone read...and there are a few observations expressed here by those who actually know what they're talking about. It does matter. A lot.

Perhaps you haven't had the benefit of sitting in a classroom with the designers of the airplane and learning the logic behind the decisions that were made in the design, testing, construction, and production of the aircraft, and perhaps you haven't had the benefit of flying with those who took the first delivery, and have flown the type since day one, and perhaps you haven't had an opportunity to spend extensive time discussing some of the mishaps with people who were there, including people who were on board. I have, and I can assure you that there is a very big difference between knowing the airplane, and forming an opinion over what you've read on the internet.

Yes. It matters.

The MD-11 is less forgiving than some of poor handling, or error. It flies very well, lands very well, and hauls a load very well.




Except when it doesn’t



Fact is the MD11 has had a very poor safety record, the reasons have been discussed at length since it entered service and mentioned in the numerous accident and incident reports


You certainly do have more first hand insight on the operation of a specific aircraft if you’ve flown it personally, but it’s not a requirement to be able to comment accurately on this aircrafts disconcerting
history, even when flown by top operators
like Fedex and Lufthansa.
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.
 
WPvsMW
Posts: 1792
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Dec 13, 2018 6:37 am

IMO, the analogy to Chevy Corvairs is apt. Both had pioneering technology and performed superbly in the right hands (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvair_Fitch_Sprint) and both would crash unexpectedly. I rolled a Corvair, but not an MD-11.
 
747Whale
Posts: 680
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Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:12 pm

Max Q wrote:
Fact is the MD11 has had a very poor safety record, the reasons have been discussed at length since it entered service and mentioned in the numerous accident and incident reports


You certainly do have more first hand insight on the operation of a specific aircraft if you’ve flown it personally, but it’s not a requirement to be able to comment accurately on this aircrafts disconcerting
history, even when flown by top operators
like Fedex and Lufthansa.


There's nothing disconcerting about the history of the aircraft at all. There might be if indeed what a previous crew did would impact what I do in the cockpit, but it doesn't. If another crew caused a bounced landing and induced oscillations to the point of loss of the aircraft, it's a learning point, but their action does nothing to suggest the same will happen to me. In other words, the fact that incidents have occurred does not mean they will. The design is not unsafe. The aircraft has been operated unsafely, but that doesn't make it unsafe.

I operated a particular kind of aircraft in a combat area. Many of the pilots flying that aircraft in that location were military, and the aircraft had a very high incidence of gear-up landings, hard landings, and pilot induced oscillations that resulted in damage to or loss of the aircraft. Civilian pilots were also employed; there were no incidents involving civilian pilots. Only military. There might be many ways to look at that, but many of them would be oversimplifications and wrong. Did the high incident rate point to a bad aircraft? No. It was a good aircraft well suited to the operation. Did it point to bad pilots? No, though certainly to improper pilot actions. Did the statistics demonstrate a lower military competency? No, it didn't, but did point to certain aspects that needed addressing. Did it mean that civilian pilots were superior pilots? No, it didn't.

One can't really look at the history of the airplane and suggest that it indicates an airplane problem without considering a much wider scope of metric. The Mitsubishi MU-2 is a type design which has a high mishap rate, but it is not due to being a bad aircraft, but due to pilots lacking the proper training; the mishap history of the design has dropped considerably. The Robinson R22 has had a high mishap rate, but that's not an indictment on the aircraft. The US addressed it with training and experience requirements, and the mishap rate dropped sharply. The popular light single piston airplane, the Cirrus line, had a dismal record until concerted efforts were made to focus on training, and now has one of the best safety records for light singles.

Boeing and FedEx came up with the "3 Rules for Landing the MD-11," which, if followed, will eliminate nearly every MD-11 mishap (and not coincidentally, the violation of which have caused most of the ones in the past).

Do not flare late.
Do not make large control inputs during the flare.
Use extreme caution when pushing the control column close to the ground.

Boeing also changed the counsel which for many years was to ensure the long axis of the aircraft was aligned with the centerline before touchdown and never sideload the gear. Boeing's perspective on this now, current doctrine, is that it's preferable to have some crab in the landing that destabilizing by trying to kick it out close to the flare.

MD11 crews must also understand the need for a go-around in the event of a bounced landing: this alone would have prevented the majority of landing mishaps. Trying to correct by pushing the nose down can go wrong fast, as can retarding the power too higher or too soon, and too high a descent rate on touchdown. The airplane is tolerant, but not nearly as forgiving as some with rough handling.

I believe the Narita mishap was mentioned. It's clear in the video what happened, and this isn't an MD-11 failing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_cont ... zQ4jGSqs1E

It wasn't weak wings, it was a bounced landing and a failure to power up and go, which was the only solution at that time. Pressing the nose forward repeatedly and trying to force the airplane onto the ground created the mishap. It wasn't a weak structure with wings coming off; the crew broke the airplane by exceeding the structural capability and forcing it onto the runway repeatedly. They crashed it.

The Avient crash at Shanghai was a takeoff mishap, but not the fault of the airplane. The aircraft is highly automated, and uses autothrottles on takeoff to set and hold the desired thrust. The FADEC and autothrottles work very, very well. Standard practice is to bring the throttles (still called throttles in the MD-11) up to 70-80% power lever angle before engaging the autoflight on the glareshield control panel; this engages autothrottles. If the autothrottles are not high enough, they will not advance to the preplanned takeoff thrust value; the pilot flying must bring them to the appropriate range before that happens. The crew brought the power up, selected autoflight to engage the autothrottles, and never achieved takeoff thrust because they didn't put the throttles in the necessary range: a pilot failing. Neither verified that correct thrust was set, something required prior to 80 knots. They rolled down the runway with partial power and attempted to pull the aircraft off the ground. Not an airplane fault at all.

http://avherald.com/h?article=423638d8

I have spoken to those who were on board and discussed the mishap from their first-hand experience, in great detail.

We can go on all day, but the tendency to read reports and look at the history without knowing anything about the airplane tends to lead to wrong conclusions, many of which have been evidenced in this thread. The MD11 is a good, capable design. It's limited production numbers had nothing to do with it being unsafe, and it's not unsafe. It has some outstanding features, and is far more than a "corvair." A contemporary once remarked to me that he wished he could have an airplane with 747 systems and the MD11 cockpit. I agree. It's a good airplane, enjoyable to fly, and safe. It's less tolerant of bad behavior than some...but then I've flown a number of aircraft that are the same way. Know the airplane, now the limitations and how to operate it properly. It can and is flown safely. Mishaps occur when people aren't paying attention, handle it roughly, destabilize close to the ground, make large inputs that they shouldn't, or try to force the airplane on to the ground when they should be going around. These are pilot issues, not airplane issues.

In the years of service for the MD-11, changes have been made and enhancements; the design and use of the LSAS is one such example, as is the aircraft autothrottle system, which if disengaged will re-engage under certain conditions (windshear, operating in the "foot" close to stall margins, and other features). Some tend to look at the airplane as a flying deathtrap, but those some usually have no experience on the type. It handles very nicely and lands very nicely. People tend to decry what they don't know; this is certainly the case for the MD-11. Before you tear it apart based on what you think you know from the "disconcerting history," a bit of context is in order.
 
Max Q
Topic Author
Posts: 7128
Joined: Wed May 09, 2001 12:40 pm

Re: What would have made the MD11 safer?

Thu Dec 13, 2018 12:58 pm

You have provided a lot of informative context and are very loyal to the aircraft, that’s not uncommon



I have no doubt that numerous FDX crews defended the MD11 and its unforgiving landing characteristics until it was in pieces around them, the same goes for Lufthansa Pilots and others that have suffered incidents and accidents with this aircraft




Blaming them for the weakness of the design is unfortunate and unfair though



And despite your detailed and comprehensive defence that’s what it is by any standard, you claim it does ‘not have a weak structure’ so how do you explain several landing accidents where the wing spar failed and the aircraft rolled over ?


I’ve seen my share of hard and harder landings, some where the aircraft had been flared so late the aircraft was basically flown into the ground and yes I’ve done a few myself


But not once, on any of these Boeing and earlier Douglas aircraft was there any issue or concern over the very airframe structure


In other words, if you’d been in any of the Boeing 7 series and done the same thing you might bend something but you’re not going to have a fatal accident



The emphasis on training with a well timed flare, correct actions to take in a bounced landing, crosswind technique etc seem like positive actions and hopefully will prevent any further accidents but the MD11 has had more than its fair share already


If you’ve read ‘handling the big jets’
one of the points the author repeats throughout the book is that a transport aircraft should be designed for an average pilot, a higher than normal level of skill must not be expected or needed due to inadequacies in the design and there’s quite a few average pilots even at the major airlines


And after all, you can know the aircraft inside out but even the best pilots have bad days, fly exhausted, misjudge a flare and or suffer a combination of these factors and others



Thats when an unforgiving design can kill you.



The MD11 is an unforgiving design, not as safe as it should be, compares poorly with some older types, its contemporaries and more modern types in this respect
The best contribution to safety is a competent Pilot.

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