Aircraft By Type

Aircraft Make & Model:
McDonnell Douglas MD-11
610,000 lbs.
8,460 statute miles
543 mph
248 passengers (16 First Class, 53 Business, 179 Coach)
200 ft., 10 in.
169 ft., 6 in.
57 ft., 9 in.
3 Pratt & Whitney PW4460
HP or Thrust:
60,000 lbs. each engine
No. flown by DL:
Primarily international routes
First Delivery:
December 1990
First Scheduled Service:
February 5, 1991
Reason Aquired:
Expanding service to Asia.
Last Retirement:
January 1, 2004
Reason Disposed:
Replaced by Boeing 767s and 777s.

Narrative:  McDonnell Douglas MD-11 1991-2004

Technical Advances
  • Engines designed to provide maximum efficiency in their thrust class with fuel burn reductions compared to other engines on wide-body, tri-engine jets in 1991.
  • Aerodynamic enhancements included winglets, a new tail cone, streamlined pylon-engine joints and a smaller horizontal stabilizer containing fuel tanks that could be used to trim the aircraft.
  • More cargo capability than any other aircraft in 1991.
  • Advanced flight deck allowed 2-pilot operations compared to the 3 crewmembers required for earlier tri-jets.
  • More interior space per passenger and more carry-on baggage capacity than any other wide-body aircraft in 1991.
U.S. Launch Customer

"[The MD-11] brings new standards of convenience and comfort to the international traveler." Ronald W. Allen, Delta's chairman, president and CEO in February 1991. 

Delta was the first U.S. carrier to order the MD-11 in September 1988. Initial order: 9 MD-11s, with 31 more on option.

The airline selected the MD-11 and the Boeing 767-300ER for flexibility on its international routes. Delta planned for the MD-11 to operate initially in the Pacific region and later to Europe. The long-range aircraft would replace the Lockheed L-1011 on established transpacific routes and allow Delta to expand its network between Asia and the U.S. The 767-300ER would operate over the Atlantic Ocean.

Early Service
At a Los Angeles-Tokyo route case hearing before the U.S. Department of Transportation in May 1990, Delta Chairman and CEO Ron Allen announced that Delta had reached an agreement to lease two MD-11s for a period of approximately 2½ years. Allen noted, "These will be among the first MD-11s to go into service and will allow Delta to continue growing in the Pacific." Specifically he said, "With these leased aircraft, we can initiate MD-11 service in the Los Angeles-Tokyo route early in 1991, while we await the delivery of MD-11s previously ordered, the first of which will not be delivered until later in the year."

Delta's initial MD-11 service:

  • Inaugural flight on February 5, 1991, from Atlanta to Dallas/Ft. Worth, continuing to Orlando and Los Angeles. 
  • This was the first MD-11 service in the U.S. (Finnair flew world's first MD-11 service on December 7, 1990.)
  • Delta went international with its MD-11 on February 6, 1991, flying Orlando-Los Angeles-Tokyo. 
  • This was Delta's first non-stop service to Asia from Los Angeles and the world's first trans-Pacific flight with the MD-11.

Delta's own MD-11s began delivery in early 1992. By March 1993, Delta was the first carrier with an all-MD-11 transpacific fleet.

Centennial Spirit
As the Official Airline of the 1996 Olympic Games, Delta unveiled Centennial Spirit, a new MD-11 jet (N812DE) painted in a commemorative paint scheme. Centennial Spirit transported the Olympic Flame from Athens, Greece, to Los Angeles, the site of the 1984 Olympics, for the start of a torch relay to the 1996 Games site in Atlanta.

Delta operated its last MD-11 flight on January 1, 2004, from Tokyo to Atlanta.

More Information

  • Delta MD-11 Brochure: Glossy 17-page brochure found in the seat pockets of Delta's MD-11 planes in 1992.
  • Boeing.comDevelopment and specifications of the MD-11
  • md-11_olympics
  • md-11_wheels_down
  • md-11_cargo
  • md-11
  • Delta MD11 at LAX
  • Delta Airlines MD-11 at LAX 25L