by Philipp Kunert
On 11 November KLM Royal Dutch Airlines bid farewell to the tri-jet Boeing MD-11, successor of the legendary McDonnell Douglas DC-10. In the middle of September KLM made three one-hour farewell flights available for booking and with the tickets costing 111 Euros each they were sold out within minutes.
During the morning of 11/11 hundreds of aviation enthusiasts began to flock in at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to say goodbye to KLM’s last aircraft type manufactured by McDonnell Douglas at Long Beach. Special check-in counters were adorned with a logo of the tri-jet and made everybody feel that celebratory mood. To avoid discussions concerning the seat allocation all seats were distributed randomly and passengers got their boarding passes together with a brochure detailing KLM’s MD-11 operations as well as a letter showing the „Rules of the house“ for that special day.
During boarding of the buses at gate C22 every passenger got an MD-11 bag containing some snacks and small souvenir items. The bus journey led to apron R where apart from MD-11 PH-KCD „Florence Nightingale“ (operating the farewell flights) her sistership PH-KCB and DDA Classic Airlines‘ DC-3 PH-PBA, resplendent in her KLM retro colours, were parked.
Every passenger found his personal copy of the book „Farewell MD-11“ on his seat, published by some KLM employees in cooperation with the airline.
After take-off the crew initially stopped the climb at 2000 feet and set course along the North Sea in a south-westerly direction, passing Leiden towards Rotterdam to overfly the port.
After the seatbelt signs had been extinguished almost everybody took the chance to explore the aircraft one final time and document this event with lots of pictures.
Especially on the last two flights lots of ink pens were used to adore the cabin walls with often emotional salutes.
While climbing to 5000 feet and delivering detailed explanations regarding the routing (unfortunately in Dutch only) the crew turned north-east towards Amersfoort and Lelystad. Finally after a large left turn the aircraft came in to land at Schiphol after a mere 60 minutes flying time. This was commented by all passengers with fanatic rounds of applause, especially after the final landing of a commercial MD-11 passenger flight at 16:44. 21 years after taking delivery of their first aircraft another chapter of KLM’s fleet history came to a worthy end.
After vacating the runway the flight attendants ignited fire crackers and confetti adorned the cabin floor. Dawn set the atmosphere for the MD-11 now following her old relative, DC-3 „Prinses Amalia“ for a 30 minute taxi tour around the aprons of Schiphol airport to bid farewell to all airport workers. Before finally reaching apron R the tri-jet traversed the obligatory farewell fountain of the airport fire crews.
Saying goodbye seemed to be difficult for everybody on board and those using the front door for disembarking got a nice farewell by almost 20 crew members that had lined up on the way down the stairs. Every passenger now had the chance of a quick walk on the enclosed apron to take pictures of the second MD-11 attending as well as the DC-3 before returning to the terminal building on shuttle buses.
With their organization of the MD-11’s farewell flights KLM set high standards that should animate other airlines to bid farewell to their classic aircraft types in a festive way and give aviation enthusiasts the opportunity of taking part in these events. Last but not least these days present an effective tool of marketing to the airlines.