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With video: Delivery of the first MD-11 to Varig had a low pass at Santos Dumont

Photo: Kristiana Jayne Taylor - Planespotters.net

The deliveries of important aircraft are usually made in large ceremonies, with several guests involving the executives of the company that will receive the aircraft and executives and guests of the manufacturer. Today, aircraft delivery events are a little smaller than they were 20 or so years ago. Let's go back a little in the past and see how the whole delivery ceremony of an extremely important aircraft was done, let's see how the first McDonnell Douglas was delivered MD-11 from Varig.

One of the most important aircraft in Varig's history, it deserved a big party to mark a new era for the then largest Brazilian airline. The MD-11 was Varig's star for many years, until its last moments of operation the company flew with the model.

the first two MD-11 were delivered to Varig with registrations PP-VOP and VOQ. In the presence of the president at the time of the company, Mr. Rubel Thomas, along with other Varig executives and the handpicked crew. 

At the Douglas factory in Missouri, USA, a luxurious dinner was offered by the manufacturer to celebrate the delivery of the first two tri-jets to Varig. The party had some very Brazilian details, like some music, dances and some typical Brazilian food. Varig's guests got to know all parts of the great Douglas factory. 

A tour was presented to the guests, showing the entire assembly line of the planes and especially its new product, the MD-11. The following day, November 12, 1991, a beautiful sunny and clear day, the delivery of the first two MD-11s, of 26 aircraft of this model, that Varig would operate throughout its history began.

Perhaps one of the most striking moments of this ceremony. With a pushback tractor attached, the first MD-11 comes very slowly along with the Brazilian flags being waved by models that are next to the aircraft with music in the background.

Anxious and attentive eyes admired by Varig's beautiful painting on one of the most beautiful jets built in the history of aviation. The MD-11 is admired all over the world, its 3 engine attracts many looks even from those who do not understand or do not know the model.

Upon arriving at the chosen position, the National Anthem of the United States began and soon after the Brazilian National Anthem in reference to Varig. The beautiful painting with the chrome belly reflected the sun's shine, making the MD-11 even more beautiful.

Soon after the speeches by the presidents of Varig and Douglas, the official delivery of the aircraft was made. Lots of hugs, smiles and photos were taken, really a moment that had to be immortalized. 

On the way back to Brazil, on an official MD-11 delivery flight, everyone was comfortably accommodated in one of the most modern jets of the time. The MD-11 was a big attraction for Varig on its flights, as it had the best technology both for piloting and operating the aircraft and for passengers. 

Photo: Bravo Alpha – Airliners.net – 2004

Varig MD-11

Photo: Sam Chui – Varigairlines.com

Well, Santos Dumont Airport is known for being a beautiful airfield and for having one of the shortest runways in the country. The MD-11, of course, would not be able to land there, but perhaps an epic and unique moment made by Varig on the arrival of the flight to Rio de Janeiro. 

Imagine now, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11, making a low pass in one of the smallest airports in Brazil? That's right, it happened.

The PP-VOP made a low pass through the Carioca Airport, making the traditional left turn after take-off. What a moment for Brazilian aviation! 

Shortly thereafter, the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 would become Varig's main aircraft on international flights. Everyone wanted to enjoy the modern and comfortable plane, which would initially fly to Amsterdam and Paris, departing from São Paulo with a stopover in Rio de Janeiro. 

Until 2006, Varig operated MD-11s, using them until their last breath. The PP-VOP, which was the first in Brazil and Latin America, was converted into a freighter in 2001 and started to operate for Gemini Cargo and soon after Centurion Cargo. In 2016 it had its tragic end being plucked and destroyed. 

PP-VOP Varig McDonnell Douglas MD-11 photographed at Hannover Langenhagen (HAJ / EDDV) by Carsten Bodenburg

Photo: Carsten Bodenburg – Planespotters

The PP-VOQ, which arrived with its brother PP-VOP, was also converted into a freighter in 2001 and also operated by Gemini Cargo. Since 2014 it has been part of the Western Global Airlines fleet with registration N435KD, however the aircraft has not flown since May 2020. 

N435KD Western Global Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-11F photographed at Miami International (MIA/KMIA) by HR Planespotter

Photo: HR Planespotter –

You can follow the complete delivery in the video below, including the passage in SDU:


Photo credit: HR Planespotter and Carsten Bodenburg Planespotters.net, Bravo Alpha Airliners.net, Sam Chui Varig Airlines.com


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