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A World Airways MD-11 departs Atlanta. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ian McMurtry)

Using Social Media to Cover the Entire Lifespan of the MD-11

Every aviation enthusiast has a particular airplane that is at the top of their list. It is not always an attachment we can explain, but it is one every Avgeek understands. For Njord Zonneveld, that airplane is the McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

The MD-11 is a widebody, three-engine airliner that was developed from the DC-10. Introducing an array of improvements over its predecessor the MD-11 came with a glass cockpit, extended fuselage and a number of aerodynamic changes including the addition of winglets. The aircraft entered service in 1990 and enjoyed a long service before operating its last commercial passenger flight in 2014. While the production of the aircraft ended in 2000, the aircraft is still used today as a freighter by carriers such as UPS Airlines, FedEx and Western Global Airlines.

Njord’s interest in the MD-11 started whilst seeing one at the Amsterdam airport for the first time. At the time he was unaware of the airframe. Even from afar, Njord’s father, a DC-10 Captain, told Njord it was a DC-10. This error in aircraft type sparked Njord’s interest in the MD-11 and set him on a path to learn more about the airplane’s history and development.

As Njord searched Instagram for MD-11 pages, he discovered that there were very few active ones. This discovery led to a novel idea: using Instagram to share the best available MD-11 content with the world. Njord knew he was on to something but understood that he had to develop the concept further to really make it a hit with aviation enthusiasts. So the decision to cover the story of every MD-11 airframe produced through pictures was made.

On August 6, 2019, Njord began the endeavor of covering all the MD-11’s with a post about ship 447, MD-11 number one. From that point on, aviation enthusiasts have been treated to a near-daily post, each covering the next successive MD-11 airframe.

On March 19, 2020, Njord achieved his goal of creating a post for every MD-11 airframe with his post of ship 646, MD-11 number 200. According to Njord, one of the project’s challenges was the research that went into each post. A large amount of time was spent in an attempt to obtain the photos and information for each of the posts through online research, talking with former airline employees and reviewing production lists.

What makes Njord’s page stand out is the photographic timeline he has created of the MD-11’s entire production run. Many of his posts contain multiple pictures giving the audience the ability to scroll through and see what a particular airframe looked like when it first started flying through to when it stopped. Not only are photos provided, but viewers of the page are provided with interesting factual data regarding the tri-jet.  Njord says that for him, discovering new facts about the MD-11 was one of the best parts of the project. For example, when reading Njord’s post about ship 468, MD-11 number 22, you’ll learn that McDonnell Douglas produced a combi variant of the airplane (combi aircraft can be configured to carry passengers or cargo and sometimes have a cabin configuration to allow both at the same time). Only five were built, all of which were delivered to Alitalia.  Njord says he stumbled upon this fact when he noticed an MD-11 he was researching had a rear cargo door, something he had not seen on other airframes.

After posting the last MD-11 airframe on March 19, 2020, Njord says that he received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about his series of posts. Luckily for aviation enthusiasts, Njord has decided to continue his project by covering the MD-11’s predecessor, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10.  Once he finishes his DC-10 project, he is hoping to continue the project with other airliners. By continuing the project, it is Njord’s hope that his followers learn more about the aircraft he covers and that he encourages interest in the MD-11 and other airliners.

Njord Zonneveld is currently studying graphic design in Amsterdam.  In addition to his Instagram project covering the MD-11 and DC-10, Njord also has the distinction of designing a livery for a Danish Air Transport McDonnell Douglas MD-82 (registration OY-RUT). To visit Njord’s Instagram page, click here

Jordan Green
Jordan Green
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