American Airlines retires its latest MD-80

Airline was the largest jet operator with periods when up to a third of production flew with its livery

American Airlines retired the last of its McDonnel Douglas MD-80 on September 4, while most of the remaining 26 aircraft made their final flights to Roswell, New Mexico.

The MD-80’s last flight with the company, “American Flight 80”, took off from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Then the plane was also sent to Roswell, where is the largest graveyard of commercial aircraft in the world.

Also known as the Super 80, the McDonnel Douglas jet (bought by Boeing in 1996) was the most versatile aircraft of the US airline in recent years. In 2003, after American Airlines acquired TWA, the airline’s fleet had 362 units, representing one-third of all MD-80s produced.

The company started “Super 80 era” in May 1983, when it introduced its first three MD-80s on six domestic routes replacing old Boeing 727-100 models. American Airlines was the first of the largest US airlines to receive the DC-9 Super 80 (as it was originally called), which at the time of its launch was one of the most fuel-efficient aircraft.

American Airlines MD-80s were configured with 144 seats, 12 of them in first class. Over nearly 40 years of operations, the company has transported more than 87 million passengers with the “Mad Dog”, one of the nicknames of the iconic twin-engine.

Common view in the U.S

Since 1979, McDonnel Douglas and later Boeing have manufactured 1,191 MD-80s until 1999. When it first hit the market, it consumed 37 percent less fuel than the Boeing 727-200, which in the 1980s was the most requested sigle-aisle aircraft by the companies until the popularization of 737.

Another major US airline that still flies the MD-80, but for a short time, is Delta Air Lines, with 76 aircraft in the fleet. The company, however, has already confirmed that it will withdraw its service models by 2020. Other major US aircraft operators were Northwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines and TWA.

Although known as the MD-80, there was never a variant with this name. The first model was the MD-81, followed by the more powerful MD-82 and the MD-83, which received extra fuel tanks and more powerful turbofans. The series also featured the MD-87, which was later renamed the Boeing 717 – the latest models operated by American Airlines were the MD-82 and the MD-83.