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The Last of The Tri-Jets: Circling the globe in a MD-11 While Hauling Everything Under The Sun

The movie “Around The World In 80 Days” won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This video of a Lufthansa Cargo flight around the globe is just as worthy…well almost.

What’s it like to fly around the world in 66 hours? (Actually, it was 68 hours because of a two-hour delay on the final leg.)

For a Lufthansa MD-11F cargo plane, the hauling of freight from Germany and back again involves crew changes and logistics that boggle the mind. From Frankfurt to Chicago to New Zealand to Australia to Malaysia to Pakistan to United Arab Emirates to Frankfurt.

Hauling 90 tons of cargo requires precise judgment on takeoff and landing. An aborted takeoff could create shifting that could damage the cargo. During landings, because of the weight the MD-11 has to come in “hot” at 180 mph and hit the runway precisely in order to have enough concrete for its roll out.

Like passenger aircraft, time spent on the ground is money wasted. Moving cargo from Point A to Point B involves loading and unloading that is quick but not hurried. The ground crews are different at different airports so keeping on schedule can be challenging.

And each airport/destination has quirks. In New Zealand, for example, the entire interior of the plane had to be sprayed to kill any germs to prevent them from being transmitted from the previous location.

Especially when the MD-11 is flying over the Pacific, it’s tough to not think about the crash scene that started Tom Cruise’s survival/adventure in “Castaway.”

If you enjoy travel, piloting cargo planes would be a great career. The pilots and co-pilots featured in this video had some length trips of six hours or more but when they arrived at their destinations they went off duty and had two days to explore. The

One motto for cargo flights could be “if it fits, it ships.” Between one of the world’s most expensive luxury cars to horses, the flights shown carried a wide variety of cargo.

The three-engine MD-11, built by McDonnell Douglas, was originally built as a wide-body passenger jet to service long routes. Now, most have been turned into cargo planes. The amount of cargo they can carry is equivalent to carrying about 900 passengers.

Our compliments to Sven Herold whose production company filmed and produced this video.



Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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