Nostalgic, but true! The Dutch airline Martinair Holland (MP) was along with its counterparts Cargolux (CV) and German Cargo Service (GCS) - today’s LH Cargo - seen as being one of the important pioneer air-lines which together formed what we see as today’s air cargo industry. All three carriers started flights to the Middle East and later the Far East offering so called ‘split charter services.’ It was the DC-10 that became the Dutch carrier’s cargo workhorse during those early cargo pioneering days. Two of these former MP oldies are still in service, thanks to Texas-based Omega Air Refueling.
Starting in the seventies, Martin Schroder, the company’s founder, wisely saw the potential which lay in operating a quick-change fleet of aircraft. This started with the venerable DC-9 aircraft,
which Martinair flew during the day with passengers and at night with cargo. In the early 1980ies, the aging Douglas services were enhanced by the addition of the more efficient and modern
DC-10-30CF of which Martinair had five in its fleet which remained in service until 1995.
All of them have long gone or are passing their time away in a desert graveyard.
From freighter to tanker
Except for two with the Bravo-Papa and Bravo-Tango call signs. They have outlived many older aircraft and are still enjoying a life in the clouds. These two freighters were handed over by MP to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) in 1995 and were converted into aerial tankers. Since then they were known as ‘KDC-10 tanker aircraft.’ In the years after, the two KDC-10s, which were modified with boom-equipped aerial refueling systems, have been in active service with the RNLAF on in-flight refueling duties for the air force’s fleet of fighter aircraft.
However, their active life with the RNLAF has come to an end as the Dutch air force has decided to switch to the Airbus A330 MRTT tanker fleet. The newer KDC-30Bs are seen as being more cost efficient and can be utilised by other European air force fleets as well.
With that decision, it seemed that the fate of the two ex- MP DC-10s was finally sealed. Into the desert to be scrapped!
Not the case, however.
Omega gives the aircraft new lease on life
San Antonio, Texas headquartered Omega Air Refueling which operates a small fleet of aerial tankers on contract to the U.S. Air Force, has given the old Bravo-Papa and Bravo-Tango aircraft a further chance to stay in the air for some years to come.
The first aircraft which has reached the age of forty-plus has been sold by the RNLAF to Omega and has in the meantime received its new registration - N364DE. The second KDC-10 will also go to Omega Air Tanker in 2021. The two aircraft will be Omega’s first boom equipped aircraft. This will enable them to refuel almost all types of aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. Their present fleet of two B707-300 (KC-707) and one DC-10-40(T) are not suitable for all inflight refueling operations as they only have the so called ‘probe-and-drogue’ refueling systems.
The two ex-Martinair DC-10s have been well maintained by the Dutch air force and can expect to be in the air for many more years to come.
MD-11Fs gone too
The DC-10F was replaced by the MD-11F, which Martinair also operated, but these were phased out of service when Air-France-KLM management decided to reduce their freighter fleet. The MD-11F was also a very reliable cargo workhorse and it is sad to see this aircraft disappearing from the air cargo scene. Lufthansa Cargo, which still has MD-11Fs in their fleet are now busy with replacing them with the more fuel efficient B777F.
LH Cargo recently retired the last built MD-11F and the aircraft with the registration D-ALCN was ferried on November 26th to the Victorville, California graveyard.
No chance for a new lease on life!
John Mc Donagh
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