Today we have ten operators of the early 747, both 100 and 200 series. We also have six operators of the DC10. As we prepare to introduce the next operator of these aircraft (Seven Seas Air Cargo), let's do a little classwork to fully understand the limitations of these big beasts.
Both aircraft are excellent freight carrying aircraft. They do have their limitations though. If we do not pay attention to these limitations, then we are not being true to our hobby! With a heavy aircraft, typically the most limiting factor is the maximum landing weight (MLW). You can't just load it up to maximum takeoff weight and go fly. You will need to stay aloft long enough so that you burn enough fuel that allows you to land at or below your maximum landing weight. The manufacturer gives you the maximum takeoff weight for the aircraft. For the 747200F it is 833,000 lbs. For the DC1030CF the weight is 555,000 lbs. This is a structural limitation. You must determine what your performance limitation is.
You cannot land at a weight greater than your maximum landing weight. This figure is a structural limitation too. Land too heavy and the landing gear may just pop right up through the wings! The 747200F has a maximum landing weight of 630,000 lbs. Now while you are enroute to your destination, only one thing changes the amount of fuel on board. Let's say you will burn off 100,000 lbs of fuel. Adding 100,000 to your max landing weight (100,000 + 630,000) gives you your performance limitation for maximum takeoff weight (730,000 lbs). This is well below your structural limit of 833,000 lbs. If you were to takeoff at 833,000 lbs and only burn 100,000 lbs of fuel, you would be landing at 733,000 lbs, or 103,000 lbs over your maximum landing weight.
The airplane needs to land at a speed 30% above stalling speed (1.3xVso). Vso is stalling speed in the landing configuration. 1.3x Vso is also known as reference speed, or Vref. As the weight of the airplane increases, so does the stalling speed. If you were to land 103,000 lbs overweight, you may be landing just a knot or two above Vso! The tires have a limitation as well as the aircraft structure. To land at 630,000 lbs, the tires must be this big and be inflated to this pressure. If you land faster than normal, you will most likely blow the tires. Also, heavier aircraft need more room to land and more braking to stop. You may overheat the brakes and this can cause the tires to overheat. Blamo! Flat tires. So the maximum landing weight is a firgure we need to understand, respect and adhere to at all times.
For flight planning we can get very specific. There are plenty of old 747 and DC10 pilots out there who have posted typical fuel burns for flight planning. Here is what I found on the web:
747200F 
fuel burn in lbs 


DC1030F  fuel burn in lbs 

TAXI OUT  2,000 


TAXI OUT  1,500 

CLIMB  33,000 


CLIMB  25,000 

CRUISE  28,000  1ST HOUR 

CRUISE  20,000  1ST HOUR 
CRUISE  21,000  2ND HOUR 

CRUISE  15,000  2ND HOUR 
CRUISE  21,000  3rd HOUR 

CRUISE  15,000  3rd HOUR 
CRUISE  21,000  4th HOUR 

CRUISE  15,000  4th HOUR 
CRUISE  21,000  5th HOUR 

CRUISE  15,000  5th HOUR 
CRUISE  21,000  6th HOUR 

CRUISE  15,000  6th HOUR 
CRUISE  21,000  7th HOUR 

CRUISE  15,000  7th HOUR 
DESCENT  3,000 


DESCENT  2,000 

TAXI IN  2,000 


TAXI IN  1,500 

RESERVE  40,000  1+30 

RESERVE  30,000  1+30 
Total  234,000 


Total  170,000 

For the 747200F, the maximum fuel capacity is 362,240 lbs. The DC1030F is 245,935 lbs. So let's run the numbers for a trip from Miami, Florida to Lisbon, Portugal. This is a seven hour trip for either aircraft (Actually, the 747 cruises faster than a DC10, but lets assume they are equal for this problem).

747  Maximum 

DC10  Maximum 
BASIC OPERATING WEIGHT  347,200 


238,036 

LOAD  242,800  242,800 

142,964  152,964 
ZERO FUEL WEIGHT  590,000  590,000 

381,000  391,000 
FUEL (POUNDS)  234,000  362,240 

170,000  245,935 
TAKEOFF WEIGHT  824,000  833,000 

551,000  555,000 
FUEL BURN  194,000 


140,000 

LANDING WEIGHT  630,000  630,000 

411,000  411,000 
First, the 747. The Basic Operating Weight (BOW) is the empty weight plus other things, like crew, crew baggage, unusable fuel, oil, etc.
We will load it to the maximum load limit. This is typically the load limit of the floors, both main deck and lower compartments. So let's add 242,800 lbs of moneymaking freight. Added to the BOW gives us the Zero Fuel Weight. This is also a structural limitation. In our example it comes out exactly the ZFW. So far so good.
We have computed that we want to carry 234,000 pounds of fuel. We add that to the ZFW and we come up with the Takeoff weight. Actually it's the ramp weight. The airplane has a maximum ramp weight, but to keep things simple let's just look at maximum takeoff weight. Maximum ramp weight is MTOW plus taxi burn. In this example, our takeoff weight computes to 824,000 lbs, 9,000 lbs below maximum. Good!
Now we subtract the fuel burn, which we have computed to be 194,000 lbs. This gives us our landing weight of 630,000 lbs, right at maximum. I haven't been able to confirm these figures, as my sim has a problem loading anything Boeing lately. Quite frustrating!
To sum up the 747200F, to carry maximum freight you must carry minimum fuel. Any more is called tankering, and if we tanker any fuel we'll be landing overweight.
The DC10 requires more careful consideration. We could add the maximum load of 152,964 lbs and be right at maximum zero fuel weight, but when you add the fuel required (170,000 lbs) we would be over the maximum takeoff weight by 6,000 lbs. We can't carry any less fuel, so we must reduce the load. At first it seems we only need to reduce the load by 6,000 lbs. The problem is when you figure landing weight. The math shows we would be 4,000 lbs over maximum landing weight. So guess what? We need to reduce the load further, by another 4,000 lbs. So, if we reduce the maximum load by 10,000 lbs, we end up landing in Lisbon right at our maximum landing weight.
Reality: I used a stock HJG DC1030CF for this flight. The sim said I would need 5+50 hrs and 98,016 lbs of fuel (16,900 pph). Actual results were 8+03, with a burn of 203,129 lbs of fuel. That works out to 25,233 pph total. I landed with just over two hours of fuel which doesn't look like much on the gauges! Bottom line is that with aircraft is FS9/FSX, you sometimes need to make adjustments to the aircraft.cfg file (fuel scalar) to get correct fuel burn rates.
So here's the bottom line: The 747 can carry 59% more cargo on this trip than the DC10F can. The DC10F however will burn 28% less fuel than the 747.
Freight comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you are carrying Cheese Doodles. The weight is much less than food parcels or machinery, so the 747F can carry more Cheese Doodles simply because it has more volume than the DC10F. If your customer simply has 140,000 lbs to ship, and it will fit in either aircraft, then the DC10F makes more sense.
Consider the DC863F on the same trip Miami to Lisbon.
DC863F 
Fuel 

TAXI OUT  1,000 

CLIMB  10,000 

CRUISE  15,000  1ST HOUR 
CRUISE  12,000  2ND HOUR 
CRUISE  12,000  3rd HOUR 
CRUISE  12,000  4th HOUR 
CRUISE  12,000  5th HOUR 
CRUISE  12,000  6th HOUR 
CRUISE  12,000  7th HOUR 
DESCENT  1,500 

TAXI IN  2,000 

RESERVE  20,000  1+30 
TOTAL  121,500 

I flew this trip using a stock HJG DC863F. When I flight planned the trip, it said I would need 64,504 lbs of fuel to complete the trip, and it would take 6+46. That's a fuel load of 84,504 including reserves. In cruise I flew at FL370, with fuel flow set to 3200 pph/eng. This gave me a speed of M.82. To better study the actual fuel burn I topped off the tanks and loaded only enough freight to put us at MTOW. Arriving in Lisbon, I parked having used 108,400 lbs of fuel, with an enroute time of 7+38. According to FS2004, I would burn 9486 pph. My trip averaged 14,263 pph, which is closer to the figure shown above from real world DC8 flying. So for flight planning I would use 9500 pph with 20,000 lbs reserve. Using that information, I could carry 77,000 lbs of cargo, 83% of maximum. Not too bad!
We would burn about one third less fuel than the DC10F, but carry half as much cargo. The DC8's were great freighters in their day, but the jumbos brought economy to the market. Of course, we are the classic virtual airline, so we will include the DC863F on our newest long haul markets.