All posts tagged: mcdonnell douglas
McDonnell Douglas MD-11 side view

I’m actually really glad that I spent the last week or so working on this MD-11 template, because it has reminded me just how much I’ve always liked this big McDonnell Douglas three-holer.

I’m pretty sure that it all started way back in the 1980s with the DC-10, because I vividly remember drawing pictures of them during class and getting in trouble for it. It was totally worth it though, because drawing was the only thing that could hold my attention and it was also a perfect way to let my crazy imagination run loose. I occasionally added missiles and machine guns to the bottom of the wings, and seriously considered writing McDonnell Douglas a letter to propose the idea of a top-secret fighter version. Back then, I was totally convinced that was a brilliant idea. But now, 30 years later, I’m starting to think my obsession with the A-Team and Blue Thunder on TV greatly distorted my perception of reality. Wasn’t 1980’s television awesome?

Interestingly enough, the DC-10 was the very first aircraft template I created way back in 2012. I can’t quite recall exactly why I wanted to start illustrating airplanes, but starting with the DC-10 was the obvious choice since it was one of my all-time favorites and I thought it would be fun to see if I could do it. I did it of course, and the rest is history. Unfortunately, since it was my first ever aircraft template, there is a lot that is wrong with it and a big part of me has been wanting to go back and redo the entire thing to bring it up to my current standards. It’s been on my mind for a while now, but it all came to a head last week when I tried to base this MD-11 template on that old illustration. It wasn’t until I started modifying that old DC-10 that I realized that there was too much wrong with it and I was going to have to start over from scratch.

MD-11 blueprint

Side profile line drawing of a McDonnell Douglas MD-11

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the MD-11, it was essentially the second-generation version of the DC-10. Although it shares a vast majority of structural components from that old bird, there are actually some very significant visual differences which essentially made it an all new design:

  • The fuselage was lengthened by 18 ft 7 in (5.66 m) over the DC-10-30
  • It has an all new screwdriver-style tail cone
  • The wingspan was increased by 4 ft 2 in (1.27 m) over the DC-10-30
  • Winglets were added to the wings
  • The airfoils under the wings are slightly modified
  • It features all new engines (General Electric or Pratt & Whitney)
  • The new engine options necessitated a slight redesign of the number two engine housing attached to the vertical stabilizer. This actually started with the DC-10-40, but it carries over to the MD-11 as well.

There are also a huge number of other little minor visual differences, such as the size and location of the smaller aerodynamic fins on the top and the bottom of the fuselage. Access panels and sensors (such a static ports) are also quite different compared to all DC-10 versions. The landing gear is slightly different as well but visually it’s almost the same.

Anyway, thanks all of you out there who suggested the MD-11 as my next template! I had a lot of fun with it, even though I had to build it from scratch (something that I wasn’t planning on doing). FYI, there will be a slight two-week pause on my airliner template production, as I’m going to be traveling over the next week which is going to cause a backlog on all the projects that I’ve got going on at the moment. As of right now, I’m tempted to do the A330NEO next – but I’ve got a long list of illustrations that I need to do so I’m not really sure which one it’s going to be yet…

MD-90 side view all white

Ok you guys…what is it about the MD-90 that makes you all seem to want a template of it so badly? I mean, this was never really a very popular aircraft with the major airlines, and if it weren’t for Delta Airlines, every last one of them would’ve probably been chopped up and converted into beer cans by now. That can of Redbull sitting next to you on your desk? Yup, that would likely have started it’s life as a McDonnell Douglas MD-90 if it weren’t for Delta’s quirky habit of acquiring older aircraft which every other airline can’t seem to get rid of fast enough.

Let’s look at the numbers. According to Wikipedia, there were only 116 of these things built over the span of seven years (1993-2000), and at the time of this writing, Delta Airlines is the sole remaining operator. They’ve got 61 of these airplanes still in service, and that number is dwindling more and more with each passing year. Oddly enough, I’ve been getting requests to create side view templates of the MD-90 at the rate of roughly one per week for the past year and a half (mostly from different people but there have been a few repeats). If you’re good at math, you’ll know that that is roughly 75 requests for what is essentially an aircraft that was never very popular and is all but extinct. What gives?

Is it safe to assume that the MD-90 has a cult following that I didn’t know about? I’m a fairly regular reader of airliners.net, and I’m usually in tune with what’s going on in the world of commercial aviation, but I’m not seeing the fascination with this aircraft on the forums over there. Perhaps there really is a secret underground cult following of the MD-90, and if that’s the case, my only conclusion is that you guys aren’t vocal enough. Somebody needs to start a website called md90love.com or something to take advantage of this hugely untapped market. It sounds stupid, I know, but smelling a business opportunity here is the only thing that pops into my head when trying to decipher the data.

Anyway, on to the templates! I knew right from the beginning that this MD-90 illustration wouldn’t be all that much different from my MD-80 template, as they are basically the same aircraft differentiated by a few minor changes. The biggest change, of course, is that the MD-90 has much bigger and better looking engines then it’s predecessor. The V2500 engines give the MD-90 a really stout and tough looking appearance (especially from a front three-quarter view), which unfortunately makes the MD-80 look absolutely weak and pathetic in comparison. Maybe it’s just because I’m a guy, but judging an aircraft based on how big the engines are and how strong it looks is…well…such a guy thing to do. Size matters!

MD-90 blueprint

Technical side profile line drawing of a McDonnell Douglas MD-90

Another difference which I didn’t know about is the fact that the MD-90 has the same squared-off vertical stabilizer as the Boeing 717. I had originally thought that it was Boeing who created that sharper vertical stabilizer, but it was actually McDonnell Douglas right before the merger. Oddly enough, that’s probably the most interesting tidbit of info that I learned from creating this template. There’s always something, and that’s what makes these templates so dang fun.

So there you have it. The MD-90 templates are now complete, which does make me feel pretty good for getting them done and out of the way. Not as good as realizing that it will stop the inflow of email and requests that I get for this aircraft though! I never could understand the fascination with this oddball aircraft, but I imagine these templates are going to make a lot of you happy. My sincere apologies for the long wait!

MD-80 side view blank

Next up in my series of blank side view airliner templates is this McDonnell Douglas MD-80. Technically, this is also an MD-82, MD-83, and MD-88 because they all look the same from the outside – the only differences between them are technical and under the skin. So that means I just created three templates for the time it took to do one! 🙂 Seriously though, I researched all three aircraft rather thoroughly while doing this illustration, but I’d appreciate clarification from the experts out there as to whether or not they truly are identical. From all that I could gather, there are no obvious external differences.

md-80 line drawing

McDonnell Douglas MD-80 technical line drawing

You might also notice that just like my Embraer 120 Brasialia template, I decided to spend a bit more time on this and accentuate the shadows more than I normally do for these types of illustrations. Stronger shadows help to make the aircraft look more realistic, but I purposefully left off the gloss and reflections. That kind of stuff just gets in the way when adding color to these things if you aren’t working with the layered source files, and it’s always best to apply the bling after everything else is done. I can still remember my college viscom (visual communications) professor getting excited when he added the white gauche highlights to his demo renderings in class. I get that same feeling today when doing the same thing!

I’d also like to point out that I’m not completely finished with this MD-80 set. One particular aircraft that is pretty high on my to-do list is an American Airlines MD-83 in the bare metal livery. I can’t use the all-white template attached to this post, so that means that I’m going to have to create a bare metal version (just like I did for the DC-10 and 767-200). Those take a long time to create though, so I didn’t include it as part of this basic template set. But it is coming, and I’ll add it as an addendum to this post when complete.

I may also create another minor version of these with the cone tip at the rear of the fuselage (under the vertical stabilizer). These illustrations feature the more common “screwdriver” tail, but to make this set complete I’ll need to do the other version as well.

Pan American World Airways DC-10-30 drawing

When it comes to vintage airlines and aircraft, anything Pan Am has pretty much been at the top of my “cool” list for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the 80’s, they were the pinnacle of what I considered to be a true international airline, with their huge fleet of (then) modern wide body aircraft, five star onboard service, and a really impressive global route network. This ultimately (foolishly?) led me to compare them to everyone else – never mind the fact that I was just a boy and I (nor anyone I knew) had ever once stepped foot on any Pan American aircraft. All I knew was that this was the airline that I saw all over TV and the movies, taking my heroes to destinations all over the world to fight crime and do amazing things.

While the Boeing 747 probably seems the most “Pan Am” to me, I tend to like this livery on the DC-10 just as much. This combination just screams “1970s” to me, which speaking in airline terms, is actually a good thing. Yeah, that was a time when air travel was still considered luxurious and somewhat extravagant – and I’m totally bummed that I never got to experience any of it. Does anyone have a time machine I can borrow?

Pan Am later switched to different livery in the 1980’s which featured larger PAN AM titles on the forward section of the fuselage, while retaining the original globe logo. That was one of the first “billboard” liveries ever done in the airline industry, and while nice, I don’t think it had the class and subtlety of the version depicted here. Gotta love the classics.

HA DC10 side view

Just like the Saul Bass United Airlines DC-10 illustration I recently made, this Hawaiian Airlines version is one of my favorites. The livery is very simple and highly iconic of the Hawaiian culture of the airlines, and was very attractive for it’s time. Heck, I still think it’s one of the most attractive airline color schemes in the history of this business! I’m also quite fond of their service – I’ve flown them a handful of times between San Diego and Honolulu, and they pretty much beat all the other carriers to the islands in terms of onboard product and Hawaiian hospitality. Especially with their new Airbus 330′s on the route – which is a huge step up from the 767-300′s they used to fly.

Anyway, I think what made this old work livery work so well was the fact that Hawaiian Airlines bought all their DC-10′s from American Airlines. As we all know, American is known for it’s smart-looking polished bare-metal livery. When HA acquired one of these birds from AA, all they had to do was remove the AA cheat line and tail logo and replace it with their own tropical version. It was a very easy conversion to make, and it looked very sharp at the same time. I remember seeing these HA DC-10′s cruising around LAX like ants in the late 90′s – and sadly, the aviation geek in me really misses them.

Unfortunately, this livery didn’t stand up so well to the scorching sunlight over the years. Nearly all of those Hawaiian DC-10′s were fading pretty badly and looked downright rough by the time they started being phased out in the early 2000′s. But no worries, this illustration depicts what a freshly-painted HA DC-10-30 would look like back in the 80′s and 90′s. And I actually learned a thing or two about this color scheme as I was drawing it. First, that cheatline must is more complex than I thought because of the way it turns up at the tail of the aircraft. It took a while to get that curve to look just right as it wrapped around the cylindrical fuselage. Second, the colors are much more PINK than I thought they really were. I couldn’t believe it when I was mixing up the colors in Adobe Illustrator. My color palette looked completly wrong until I started applying the colors in the appropriate places on the aircraft. It was very deceiving.

United Airlines DC-10-30 side view drawing

I just recently finished a blank McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 template, and it’s no surprise that I chose the United Airlines Saul Bass livery as one of my first painted versions of it. This color scheme, combined with this aircraft, is pretty much exactly what I think of when I think of United Airlines to this day. Gee…can you tell that I am a child of the 80′s? I remember the sight of what seemed like an entire terminal at DEN (Stapleton) full of United Airlines DC-10′s during a stopover there during a family trip out west back in 1989, and that image has stuck with me pretty well. It was a pretty cool sight to see, but I was super-bummed that we didn’t get a ride on one of them. Instead, we got a lowly ‘ol 727 for our connecting flight to BOI. It totally bummed me out.

Anyway, I think this is a great livery. The cheat line is so 1980′s, and the colors are borderline tacky by today’s standards. But that’s what makes it so great! It’s iconic, highly representative of it’s time, and it helped build a strong identity for one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s a significant part of Untied Airlines history.

That’s precisely the reason why I was am disappointed in the latest United livery. To me, they missed a great opportunity to pay tribute to the United brand and evolve the tulip design forward into the future. Instead, we got the old Continental color scheme with United titles plastered on the front.

But at least I had fun creating this illustration. I love doing stuff like this!

Airline livery design is a fascinating subject for me. I’ve been interested in travel, airplanes, and design since I was a wee lad so it’s only natural – right? With that said, I thought it might be fun to create my own illustrations of some of the brands that have caught my interest over the years. I’m also planning on creating some of my own custom liveries too. Watch for some of those over the coming months…

Anyway, I grew up about an hour away from a Northwest Airlines hub so it was only fitting to feature that brand in my first aircraft illustration. It doesn’t really matter that they don’t exist anymore – they will forever be my “hometown” airline.

This particular livery is known in the aviation circles as the “bowling shoe”. Does it really  need to be explained? I didn’t think so. It was introduced in the early 90’s, and at the time, I thought it was a really clean evolution of the previous color scheme. The red/gray/black colors of Northwest were retained, but they were arranged in a slightly more stylish way which accentuated the circular cross section of the airplane.  An example of this would be the black “cheat line” which extended the entire length of the aircraft. Instead of keeping it a constant width all the way across, the designers chose to increase it’s thickness towards the rear. This created a nice wrap-around effect on the tail section and it was a very nice detail and unique for the time. Also unveiled with this livery was a new Northwest Airlines logo – which is still one of my favorite corporate marks today.

By the way, here’s a version of the same illustration without a background:

NW DC-10 drawing

Two side profile illustrations of a Northwest Airlines McDonnel Douglas DC-10-30 with and without the landing gears over a white background

On a side note, this illustration was created entirely in Adobe Illustrator. I’m normally deeply entrenched in Form-Z and Photoshop, so it’s pretty rare for me to step out of that world and use a new tool for something as complex as this. But hey – I’m always eager to  learn new techniques.

A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to try my hand at doing some aircraft illustrations. I’m not really sure why, but I think the thing that attracted me to this kind of art was the fact that 1). it’s a highly technical kind of art (which I enjoy), and 2). it’s a nice break from doing 3d stuff all the time. Yeah, sometimes its nice to work on other things every now and then!

Once I got into it, I quickly realized how difficult creating accurate side profile art really is. Do you know how hard it is to find high-quality reference material for perfectly side-on views of commercial aircraft? It’s not as easy as you’d think. Of course there is a lot of stuff floating around on the internet, but trying to find high-res detail shots showing the little details of these aircraft is a total pain. Some aircraft are more popular than others, and I quickly discovered that the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is not one of them (compared to the newest stuff like 777s and A380s, that is). So – many of the details in these illustrations may not be totally accurate.

In addition to the all white template at the top of this post, I created a few more to complete the set. First up is a detailed line drawing (below). This is actually how I start these illustrations – the line art comes first, and then I can go in and add in all the color and shadow afterwards.

Detailed line drawing

Detailed line drawing

Once I had the line drawing and an all white blank template created, I thought it would be a good idea to create a bare metal version. After all, a large majority of airline liveries of the 1970s and 80s featured a bit of exposed aluminum in their design, so I figured I might as well take care of that knowing that I’d have to recreate this bare metal texture in the future as I apply liveries to these templates.

Bare metal version

Bare metal version

So there you have it – three blank templates of the DC-10-30. Feel free to use these for your own livery projects, and you can be sure that I’ll be posting some of my own!