Last McDonnell Douglas plane delivered

The Associated Press
Friday February 23, 2001

LONG BEACH — The last plane to be built under the McDonnell Douglas name was delivered Thursday during ceremonies marking the end of an era for the Southern California aviation industry. 

The event at Long Beach Airport was attended by about 1,000 people, including former employees of McDonnell Douglas, which was acquired by Boeing in 1997. 

The MD-11 cargo plane purchased by Lufthansa German Airlines was the last of the tri-jet aircraft built in Long Beach, ending a 30-year production run. 

The MD-11 was the successor to the tri-jet DC-10 aircraft designed in the mid-1960s by Douglas Aircraft Co.  

The company, which was founded by industrialist Donald Douglas, merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967. 

McDonnell Douglas once was an aviation industry giant in Southern California, providing thousands of aerospace jobs in its factories from Burbank to Long Beach to San Diego. 

The delivery of the last MD-11 took place 80 years after Douglas flew his first plane on Feb. 23, 1921. 

Douglas, a New York native, moved to California and began building his first plane in 1920 in the back room of a barber shop in Santa Monica.  

Douglas eventually opened an aircraft assembly plant in 1941 near Daugherty Field, which is now Long Beach Airport. 

Douglas Aircraft developed the twin-engine DC-3 in the early 1930s and also delivered more than 30,000 aircraft during World War II. 

Douglas in 1946 approached the military with a plan for government and industry to work together.  

The idea, dubbed Project Rand, led to the formation of the Santa Monica-based Rand Corp., a think-tank known during the Cold War years for its focus on national security issues. 

The Douglas aviation track record includes the delivery of 200 MD-11s and 646 total tri-jet aircraft. 

The industry recently has moved away from tri-jet aircraft due to advances in engine technology, said John Tom, a spokesman for Boeing. 

Boeing abandoned future production of the MD-11 after acquiring McDonnell Douglas and changed the name of the twin-engine MD-95 aircraft that was being developed to the Boeing 717, Tom said. 

“It’s the end of an aviation era. The tri-jet program was a very important program for McDonnell Douglas, Boeing and Long Beach,” Thom said.  

“But we’re not done here. We’re still building 717s and we hope to be in this business for many years to come right here at this location.”