6. Vanguard Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-11 "1988-2002"
By the late 1980s, Vanguard was in a wide-body aircraft deficit in comparison to its competitors, operating a reputable fleet of DC-10s, 747s and 767s, but not much else. Despite being the largest operator of the 747 in the United States, Vanguard was in need of smaller-yet-comparable jets to expand its global reach.
In 1990, McDonnell-Douglas approached with the MD-11, successor to the DC-10 and the first airliner of the new impending decade. The airline selected the MD-11 and the Boeing 767-300ER for flexibility on its international routes. Vanguard planned for the MD-11 to operate initially in the Pacific region from San Francisco, and later to Europe from Detroit, Washington DC, Memphis and limitedly from Houston once the fleet had been delivered. After signing a firm order for 18 airframes, the first one arrived in Memphis in May of 1994. The inaugural flight flew on May 10th, 1994, from Memphis to San Francisco. Vanguard went international with its MD-11 on July 6, 1994, flying VG21 from San Francisco to Tokyo. After the introduction of the 777-200ER in October 1998, Vanguard Airlines would shift the MD-11 to shorter international routes, primarily South American and European markets. Vanguard would operate its last MD-11 flight on December 19th, 2007, from Paris to Newark, ending the era of the Emerald Trijets.
After retirement, the MD-11 was sold to various operators, with some remaining in service in 2022 as freighters.