The Story Of American’s MD-80s And The Future Of The Airline

American Airlines retired the last of its iconic McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft yesterday. The aircraft took its last ride from Dallas-Fort Worth before reaching its final destination at Chicago O’Hare.
American Airlines - MD-80
The iconic American Airlines MD-80 has been retired after 37 years. Photo: American Airlines
American Airlines was the first of the major airlines in the United States to introduce the “Super 80”. The jetliner had served AA for 37 years before its emotional retirement. After a relationship of nearly four decades, the story of AA’s MD-80s had eventually come to an end. The icon will now be laid to rest in the middle of the New Mexico desert.

Long-term relationship

American first leased this aircraft in October 1982 to replace the Boeing 727-100. The first revenue MD-80 flight was on 15th May 1983. This was between LaGuardia, New York City (LGA) and Nashville International Airport. By 2003, AA was operating 362 units of the airliner, holding around a third of all MD-80s ever produced.
The aircraft was introduced with 144 seats. 12 of these were in first class and 130 in the main cabin. Throughout its service, more than 10,000 American Airlines pilots have trained and been qualified on the MD-80.
Since 1979, McDonnell Douglas, and later Boeing, built 1,191 MD-80s until 1999. Affectionately called the “Mad Dog”, American acquired additional planes through mergers and acquisitions. The variants of the MD-80 include the MD-81, MD-82, MD-83 and MD-87. 26 of the remaining AA MD-80s in use were all retired this week.  More than 87 million customers been flown on these workhorses.
AA MD-80
The “Super 80” has had 10,000 pilots take charge of it. Photo: American Airlines

End of an era

The MD-80 was one of the most fuel-efficient airliners when it was introduced. The aircraft used 37% less fuel than the Boeing 727-200. However, over the years, the aircraft’s efficiency was overtaken by newer jets. Airbus A320 series, A220 series and the Boeing 737 MAX have become the preferred option for airlines.
McDonnell Douglas produced the aircraft from their Berkeley, Missouri headquarters. This plant was just outside of one of the state’s largest cities of St. Louis.
All through the 1980s, AA and St. Louis-based Trans World Airlines procured new MD-80s to compete with each other. AA then bought the assets of TWA out of bankruptcy in early 2001, seeing the former rivals joined together. Ultimately, the MD-80s that had flown against each other became then part of the same fleet.
AA shared some heartfelt quotes from staff members at the St. Louis workplace regarding the MD-80s.
“Over the years, I probably took more than 100 flights on the TWA MD-83s, which are now part of our fleet,” Customer Service Agent Scott Dixon said. “I think they have been a loyal workhorse for our company.”
AA MD-80 at runway
The MD-80 has been retired in favor of aircraft with better fuel efficiency and newer technology. Photo: American Airlines

Future planning

Delta Air Lines has also announced that it will be retiring the aircraft by next year. Like AA, Delta has decided to retire the historic aircraft in order to upgrade its fleet. AA stated that they are focusing on planning for the future with modern technology.
“Looking to the future, American continues to modernize its fleet with newer fuel-efficient aircraft that offer customers more highly sought-after amenities like industry-leading high-speed Wi-Fi and more inflight entertainment and access to power.” the statement read.
AA also shared some footage from the final voyage, including the takeoff shown below.
We say goodbye to a fallen hero at the end of this decade. We look forward to further aviation revolutions that 2020 will have in store for us.