American Airlines MD-80 Retrospective: The ‘Workhorse’ of the Fleet to Make Final Flight in Early September

American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft at the gate

By Paul Riegler on 25 June 2019
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America Airlines, at one time the world’s largest operator of the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, will accelerate the aircraft’s retirement.

The airline had previously announced plans to fully retire its McDonnell Douglas MD-80 fleet by the end of 2019

“On September 4, we will retire our last 26 McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft,” the airline said in a memo to employees. “The aircraft was the workhouse of our fleet throughout the 1980s and beyond.”

The final flight will be flight 80 from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. It will depart Dallas at 9 a.m. local time and arrive in Chicago at 11:35 a.m.

“They were the backbone of the airline,” said Captain Jay Kennedy, an AA pilot based at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, in a video distributed by the airline. “Everything you did in the cockpit directly moved something on the aircraft,” in an allusion to today’s fly-by-wire cockpits.

Once a mainstay at the nation’s airports, the MD-80 is one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world thanks to its T-tail and rear-mounted engines. The remaining Mad Dogs, as they are affectionately known, are based in Dallas and fly short- to medium-haul routes that are part of the airline’s hub-and-spoke system.

American had more than 400 MD-80s in its fleet at its peak. The first MD-80, which American branded the Super 80, was delivered in 1983, the last in 1999.

The MD-80 designation represents a series of twin-engine, short- to medium-range single-aisle jetliner, and is a lengthened and updated version of the Douglas DC-9. Depending on the variant and configuration, it can seat between 130 to 172 passengers.

The world’s largest airline’s Super 80s in their current and final configuration seat 16 passengers in the first class cabin, 35 in Main Cabin Extra, the airline’s premium economy lite section, and 89 in coach. Seats in first class are 21” wide with a seat pitch that ranges from 38” to 40”. Seats in Main Cabin Extra and in coach are 17.8” in width and are in a 2-3 configuration. The seat pitch in the Main Cabin Extra section is 34” while it is 31” in coach.

American was the first major U.S. airline to order the type. The first 20 to arrive at the airline replaced aging Boeing 727-100s. American eventually had over one third of the 1,191 MD-80s produced.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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