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!”