American Airlines confirmed this week that the last flight with the MD-80 jet, which was its workhorse in the 1980s, will take place on September 4. Currently, the airline has 26 aircraft of the MD-83 and MD-82 versions, but it did fly with more than 360 jets in 2001, when it incorporated the airline TWA.
Dubbed “Mad Dog,” the jet created by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) flew for the first time almost 40 years ago, in October 1979. At the time, the aircraft was called the DC-9 Super 80, an evolution of the twin-engine single-aisle aircraft created by the planemaker in the 1960s.
With longer wings, a new tail cone and a longer fuselage capable of accommodating up to 172 passengers, the new jet also made use of JT8D-200 engines more economical than the first series.
But despite the reference to the model being MD-80 there has never been a variant with that designation. The first plane was the MD-81, followed by the MD-82 with more powerful engines and the MD-83, which received extra fuel tanks and turbofans with even more power.
In the late 1980s, McDonnell Douglas decided to launch two new variants, the MD-87, with shorter fuselage and medium range, and the MD-88, with dimensions similar to the MD-82, but with EFIS displays in the cockpit.
Common vision in the USA
The MD-80 turned out to be the most successful generation of Douglas single-aisle jets, with almost 1,200 airplanes produced by 1999. The company even released the MD-90, an upgrade with IAE V2500 turbofans and even longer fuselage, and also the MD-95, a successor to the MD-87 and which eventually became the 717 when Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas in 1997.
If it was a rare commercial jet all over the world, the MD-80 was used by the major US airlines. In addition to American Airlines, Delta was also a major carrier and to this day maintains 76 MD-88 and 35 MD-90 in its fleet.
With five-seat (3 + 2) rows, the jet was given tougher competition in the market when Boeing launched the second generation of the 737 and Airbus introduced the A320 in the 1980s.
But it will not be so soon that the silhouette with two engines in the T-tail will disappear from the airports. Produced under license in China, the American aircraft gave rise to a local jet, the ARJ-21, which has been produced since 2007 by COMAC.