MD-11 crash raises history of problems

The FedEx MD-11 aircraft that slammed into the runway before bursting into flames and killing both pilots last month while landing at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport during windy conditions, has raised the issue of the aircraft’s overly sensitive flight-control systems and reputation for being difficult to control during rough landings. Narita’s main runway at Japan’s […]


The FedEx MD-11 aircraft that slammed into the runway before bursting into flames and killing both pilots last month while landing at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport during windy conditions, has raised the issue of the aircraft’s overly sensitive flight-control systems and reputation for being difficult to control during rough landings.

Narita’s main runway at Japan’s busiest international hub was closed for nearly 24 hours disrupting hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers as a result of the dramatic crash that was captured on airport video cameras.

Airline-related blogs have been full of discussions of the hard-landing that ultimately culminated in the total loss of the aircraft and death of both pilots.

Shocking video footage of the accident shows the plane’s rear wheels hitting the tarmac with the plane’s nose lowering violently followed by a strong nose wheel bounce with the aircraft becoming airborne again, rising about 9 metres.

The second touchdown was very hard on the nose wheel followed by what appeared to be collapse of the left main landing gear which possibly punctured the fuel tanks causing a massive fire to break out before the plane rolls over to the left.

Substantial discussion amongst pilots and aviation experts have pointed out the difficulty in controlling MD-11 aircraft after such a ‘bounce landing’. Th e accident is nearly carbon-copy to one experienced by another FedEx MD-11 on 31 July 1997 while attempting to land at Newark, New Jersey.