The “Mad Dog”, A salute to the MD-80 family of Jetliners, Part 1


The MD-80 series of aircraft once a workhorse of the world’s airlines is rapidly slipping into aviation history with the recent retirement of the type by Delta Airlines. The MD-80 series has become a victim to more fuel-efficient types and the drastic downturn in traffic since the COVID-19 pandemic affected the world. The MD-80 project was officially launched by McDonnell Douglas in October 1977 as the DC-9-80, as a follow-up design to its predecessor the McDonnell Douglas DC-9.

The MD-80 series is a “T” tailed, twin engine, single aisle, 5 abreast seating configuration, short to medium haul airliner. The DC-9-80 would first fly in October 1979 with Swissair taking delivery of the first production model designated the MD- 81 in October of 1980.

The MD-80 family all share the same engine type that being the Pratt and Whitney JT8D-200 series, can seat from 130 to 155 passengers and has a range of up to 2,900 nautical miles. A total of 1,191 MD-80s in five different versions those being the MD-81/82/83/87/88 would roll off production lines in Long Beach CA and in Shanghai China built under license. The final MD-80 would roll off the Long Beach production line in December of 1999 when TWA took delivery of an MD-83.

American Airlines once operated a fleet of MD-82/83’s that peaked at 360 when American acquired TWA in 2001. Delta Airlines once operated a fleet of MD-88’s that numbered 120 at its peak. However today fewer than 150 remain in service around the world, with both American and Delta having retired their entire fleets. The MD-80 series of aircraft also see limited service as corporate/executive transports, air tankers, and freighters.

The MD-80 family also includes the MD-90 which first flew in February of 1993 and shares the same lineage as the MD-80 series. The MD-90, however, can seat up to 171 passengers, is powered by a pair of more fuel efficient IAE-V2500 high bypass turbofan engines, and has a maximum range of 2237 nautical miles. A total of only 116 airframes would be built, with Delta Airlines taking delivery of the first aircraft in February 1995, with a production run that ended in 2000. Delta Airlines would be the largest operator MD-90’s with 65 in service at its peak, and would also be the last operator of the MD-90.

Forty-one years ago, the aircraft that carried several different names in its illustrious career including the DC-9-55, DC-9-60, DC-9-80, Super 80, MD-80 and those who knew it best the “Mad Dog” took to the skies. Today the MD-80 series has all but vanished from the skies in the United States with no MD-80’s left in scheduled service. The MD-80’s that are left flying in the United States fly charters, fly freight, and serve as air tankers. The majority of the other passenger carrying aircraft are operated by airlines based in the Middle East. The MD-90 has completely vanished from the skies, with none left in service anywhere across the world. If you get a chance to catch one of these now rare aircraft do it, as its days are now surely numbered. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”

Scott Jankowski

Scott Jankowski - Franklin, Wisconsin Like so many others my love of aviation started when I was young, very young. I was only three years old when my Parents took me to my first air show here in Milwaukee, the rest you could say is “history”. I would read aviation magazines instead of Comic Books. I would prefer my Dad take me to the airport to watch airplanes instead of throwing a Football around. I grew up watching Convair 580’s, DC9’s and 727’s from the terminal here in Milwaukee, no Stage Three noise compliance back then! I started to seriously take pictures in the Mid 1980’s , for my birthday that year I finally had my first decent camera. I would head down to the airport with my pockets full of Kodak Film and take pictures of anything and everything. It did not matter if it was a Air Wisconsin Dash-7 or a 128TH ARW KC-135E if it had an engine I took a picture of it. I would drop those rolls off to be developed and three days later tear into the envelopes to see the results, which to be honest were not that good but there were a few keepers every once and a while. Fast forwarding to today with much better equipment and skills I spend as much time as I can at both General Mitchell International and Chicago O’Hare which are my Hometown Airports. While times and aircraft have changed the excitement is still as great as it was back all of those years ago. It makes no difference if it is 737, P-51, F-16, or Lear 35 I will not pass on any photo opportunity as you may not get that chance again. Even though my primary focus is on Commercial Aviation I still frequent as many Air shows as I can in the short Summer Season. I am fortunate enough to have EAA Air Venture in my backyard only being only an Hour and Half from my home. I routinely attend Air shows here in Milwaukee, Rockford, Chicago, Ypsilanti and the Quad Cities. I am very fortunate to be part of the Photorecon.Net and PHX Spotters Team and am looking forward to bringing everyone some Air show and Airliner action from the Midwest Region!

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