McDonnell Douglas Corp.'s board has authorized its Douglas Aircraft unit to begin making firm offers of sale and taking orders for the MD-11, a proposed stretch version of the DC-10 that would continue production of the wide-body jet into the 1990s, the company said Tuesday.
While the action is a significant step toward a major program to continue the DC-10, the formal decision to produce the new jet will depend on the company receiving 20 firm orders, a Douglas spokesman said.
The decision to begin production is expected in early 1986, and the first aircraft could be delivered in the fall of 1989. The aircraft would be produced at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach.
The program would require an investment of about $500 million, the spokesman said, substantially less than the estimated $2 billion that a newly designed aircraft costs to develop.
300 Orders Anticipated
The MD-11 plan calls for adding about 53 seats to the DC-10’s 277-seat capacity by stretching the fuselage 22 feet. It also would include new engines and an updated cockpit with the latest digital electronics technology.
Douglas President Jim Worsham said that the demand for aircraft like the MD-11 is estimated at about 1,400 aircraft--to be delivered between 1989 and 1998--and that the MD-11 should capture more than 300 of those orders.
“To meet that need, we are building on our experience with the DC-10, which is now operated by more than 50 airlines around the world,” Worsham said.
Douglas announced last week that it has sold three DC-10 cargo jets to Federal Express, extending DC-10 commercial and military production to the first quarter of 1988.
Worsham said McDonnell Douglas has scheduled detailed review sessions with airlines worldwide to refine MD-11 specifications and to solicit customers for the aircraft.
The new jet would be particularly attractive to airlines serving long-haul transoceanic routes. But that market niche has been eroded somewhat by recently revised flight safety rules that permit two-engine aircraft, such as the Boeing 767 and the Airbus A310, to fly long distances over water.