Delta Air Lines will be the last US passenger airline to retire its MD-80 fleet in June. Take a look back at the all-American 'Mad Dog' jet.

Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.comA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-88.
  • Delta Air Lines is advancing the retirement date of its McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft to June 2.
  • The Long Beach, California-built jets joined the Delta fleet in 1987 and also flew for Trans World Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.
  • Delta is the last US passenger airline to operate the aircraft with American and Allegiant having retired theirs over the past two years.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Delta Air Lines has given an early retirement date to its McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft as the carrier seeks to swiftly move forward with a fleet renewal plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

June 2 will be the last day that the iconic T-tailed aircraft produced in Long Beach, California will fly for a US passenger airline with the final MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft descending upon Delta’s Atlanta hub for the last time. For the MD-90, the final flight will arrive from Houston at 8:58 a.m. while the final MD-88 will arrive from Washington, DC at 10 a.m.

After flying Delta passengers one last time, the jets will head to Blytheville, Arkansas for retirement, 350 miles away from Delta’s headquarters in Atlanta. Replacing the aircraft will largely be Delta’s newest arrival, the Airbus A220.

The retirement plans put an end to a 33-year era of the iconic aircraft flying for Delta. Dating back to the 1980s, Delta’s ageing McDonnell Douglas fleet features some of the oldest aircraft still flying for the airline, made by a manufacturer that no longer exists.

Take a look back at the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series.


The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series was the successor to the smaller Douglas DC-9, with McDonnell Aircraft and Douglas Aircraft Company merging in 1967.

Getty ImagesA McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Source: New York Times


Its predecessor, the DC-9, was a tried and true short-haul aircraft with typical seating of fewer than 140 passengers.

APA Douglas DC-9.

Source: Delta Museum


The MD-80 expanded on the design and offered better range and a longer fuselage to seat more passengers, as well as improvements in the cockpit, avionics, and engines.

GettyA McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Source: Delta Museum


Powering the aircraft would be two rear-mounted Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines.

Bettmann/GettyA Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine.

Source: Pratt & Whitney


Mounting the engines at the rear of the aircraft instead of under the wings offered a quiet cabin for those seated towards the front but a noisy ride for those in the last few rows.

John Gress/ReutersAn American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

The same engines were used on the Boeing 727, a tri-engine jet with a similar T-tail design.

Reuters/Mike SegarA Delta Air Lines Boeing 727.

Airlines like Delta had opted for the MD-80 as a replacement to the 727 since the former was able to offer better economics with only two engines.

AP Photo/Chris O’MearaA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Source: Delta Museum


The MD-80 series was built at McDonnell Douglas’ Long Beach, California facility on the grounds of Long Beach Airport.

AP Photo/John HayesMcDonnell Douglas’ Long Beach facility.

Source: Boeing


It was the main production plant for the newly-combined company and produced the likes of the Douglas DC-10,

APA McDonnell Douglas DC-10.

McDonnell Douglas MD-11,

Ilya Naymushin/ReutersA Lufthansa Cargo MD-11

And C-17 Globemaster III, the last plane to be built in Long Beach.

US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Michael D. MathewsA C-17 Globemaster III on a flight line at Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado.

Production began in the late 1970s with the jet taking its first flight in October 1979.

AP Photo/John HayesMcDonnell Douglas’ Long Beach facility.

Source: Boeing


Swissair took delivery of the first model one year later in 1980.

STR News/ReutersA Swissair McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Source: Boeing


The all-American jet became popular with airlines around the world including Trans World Airlines…

AP Photo/Tom GannamTrans World Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80s.

American Airlines…

Eduardo Munoz/ReutersAn American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Alitalia…

Etienne DE MALGLAIVE/Gamma-Rapho/GettyAn Alitalia MD-80.

Volotea…

InsectWorld / Shutterstock.comA Volotea McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Alaska Airlines…

ReutersAn Alaska Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Allegiant Air…

ReutersAn Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83.

Avianca…

Ivan Cholakov/Shutterstock.comAn Avianca McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

And Spirit Airlines.

Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock.comA Spirit Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Following the original MD-80, McDonnell Douglas kept the series going by introducing incremental variants, each with their own improvements but with the same overall design.

Chaiwat Subprasom/ReutersA McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

The MD-82, for example, featured higher performance engines to utilise airports at high altitudes in hot conditions.

STR New/ReutersA McDonnell Douglas MD-82.

Source: Delta Museum


The MD-83 was a long-range variant with additional fuel capacity for longer flights.

ReutersA McDonnell Douglas MD-83.

Source: Airliners.net


The MD-87 had a shorter fuselage and offered greater range.

Photo by JOKER/Hady Khandani/ullstein bild via GettyAn Iberia McDonnell Douglas MD-87.

Source: Airliners.net


The MD-88, one of the two types being retired by Delta, had a more advanced cockpit.

Tami Chappell/ReutersA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-88.

Source: Delta Museum


The MD-90 series then came in the 1990s offering greater fuel efficiency, new engines, and cockpit improvements.

AP Photo/John HayesA McDonnell Douglas MD-90.

Source: Delta Museum


Powering the MD-90 were two International Aero Engines V2500 engines, similarly rear-mounted as part of a T-tail configuration.

AP Photo/Kin CheungAn International Aero Engines V2500 engine.

Source: Delta Museum


Delta Air Lines took the first delivery of the aircraft in 1995.

Mike Blake/ReutersA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-90.

Source: Delta Museum


The MD-80 series also included rear air-stairs, a typical feature on larger T-tails like the DC-9 and 727.

AP Photo/Matt YorkA McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

And they could seat around 150 passengers in a 2-3 configuration typically split between first/business class and economy.

AP Photo/Matt YorkInside a McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

The cockpit was also a favourite among pilots due to its quirks. For example, pilots would have to look through a mirror on the dashboard to check the compass which was located behind the co-pilot’s head.

Sorbis / Shutterstock.comA McDonnell Douglas MD-80 cockpit.

Source: YouTube – Kent Wien


The jet also earned the nickname “Mad Dog.”

Tami Chappell/ReutersA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-88.

American Airlines was one of the MD-80s largest operators, having nearly 400 at its high point. The airline received an influx of MD-80s, known as Super 80s at American, following a merger with TWA.

John Gress/ReutersAn American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Source: Planespotters.net


Once a staple of American’s short-to-medium haul fleet, the MD-80 could be seeing flying regularly from its bases in Chicago and Dallas. Key routes included New York-Chicago and Chicago-Dallas.

John Gress/ReutersAn American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

American Airlines retired its MD-80 fleet in September 2019, replacing it with the Boeing 737 and Boeing 737 Max.

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesAn American Airlines Boeing 737 Max aeroplane.

A year earlier, ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air retired its MD-80s.

Jim Urquhart/ReutersAn Allegiant Air MD-80 in Ogden, Utah.

Delta Air Lines then remained as the final MD-80 series operator with the MD-88 and MD-90.

Tami Chappell/ReutersA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-90.

The two are set to be retired from Delta’s fleet on June 2, flying their final flights to Atlanta, Georgia, and all arriving before midday.

Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.comA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-88.

Source: Delta Air Lines


The aircraft will then be sent to Blytheville, Arkansas for retirement, ending Delta’s 33-year history with the aircraft and leaving no scheduled US passenger airline to operate the jet.

Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.comA Delta Air Lines McDonnell Douglas MD-88.

Source: Delta Air Lines


The aircraft’s legacy lives on with the Boeing 717, which carried on the T-tail’s legacy after a merger between McDonnell Douglas and Boeing with a near-identical overall design.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/GettyA Delta Air Lines Boeing 717.

Delta similarly operates the 717, having acquired the fleet from AirTran, but is likely retiring that fleet soon as well.

APAn AirTran Airways Boeing 717.

With most US and European airlines retiring the aircraft, the largest concentration remains in Asia and particularly, Iran.

EvrenKalinbacak / Shutterstock.comAn ATA Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

World Atlantic Airways, a US charter airline that also operates removal flights for the US Department of Homeland Security, will become the largest American operator of the series.

Lukas Wunderlich / Shutterstock.comA World Atlantic Airways McDonnell Douglas MD-80.

Source: The Aviation Herald and Planespotters.net


Though it outlasted its manufacturer, the MD-80 couldn’t last forever. Another iconic American airliner is retiring from American skies.

aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via GettyA McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft.

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