Goodbye, Charlie Papa!

The last trip of the most senior MD-11 becomes an emotional event – not only on Facebook.

The MD-11F called “Charlie Papa” set off on her last trip on 12 May, taking with her the best wishes and emotional goodbyes of the Lufthansa Cargo and LTMI employees. She flew for Lufthansa Cargo all over the world for the last ten of her 22 years. Previously, she had been operated as a passenger aircraft by Brazilian airline VARIG.

Andreas Grubert, Manager Engineering & Fleet Management (FRA F/OT-M), reminisced with a smile about her inspection in Singapore following her passenger-to-freighter conversion: “Charlie Papa caused problems following her conversion and we needed a whole seven test flights, rather than the usual one or two, to prove the aircraft’s CAT III capability. Besides two Boeing engineers, maybe the three Chinese lucky cats in the cockpit also helped in the end...”

It has been a bumpy start for a sometimes temperamental aircraft. Nevertheless, technical operations manager Ulrich Henze (FRA F/OT) looked back with mixed feelings on Charlie Papa as she stood in the LTMI hangar over recent weeks during final preparations: “On the one hand, we’ll no longer have these masses of little problems with this older machine. But it also hurts to see a fully functional aircraft being stripped down.”

It has been a real “Lovestorm” that Lufthansa Cargo witnessed on its Facebook page: over 170,000 fans viewed the post announcing the last flight, more than 2,200 gave her a final “Like” and more than 180 MD-11F-fans left comments wishing Charlie Papa all the best on her journey.

Following a final cargo flight to JFK/New York, the MD-11F landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the premises of Lufthansa Technik Component Services on 12 May at 3:30 p.m. local time. After 83,887 flight hours and 15,090 cycles, she will now be disassembled there into her constituent parts as part of Lufthansa Technik's “2nd Life” programme. Following repair and recertification, the individual components will enjoy a second lease of life as spare parts.

As only 200 MD-11 were produced worldwide, Charlie Papa is a valuable organ donor just as was Charlie Oscar before her, who went to Tulsa in January. Withdrawing the MD-11F from service is also an important step for the further renewal of the Lufthansa Cargo fleet structure. 16 “Elves”, as pilots and technicians sometimes jokingly refer to the aircraft with the third engine, remain in the Cargo fleet. The fourth of a total of five ordered Boeing Triple Sevens, the D-ALFD, will be added in June. By using brand new Boeing 777Fs, Lufthansa Cargo is saving more than 18,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and aircraft.