Delta Air Lines has accelerated its timeline for retiring its remaining MD88 and MD90 aircraft. Although subject to change, the airline’s recent schedule filing shows the final flights taking place on the 2nd of June. Both aircraft types were due to retire within the next few years, but the crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak has led to a swifter timetable.
The final flights
With over half its fleet grounded due to lack of demand, Delta is making plans to streamline and upgrade its fleet by retiring its MD88 and MD90 aircraft sooner than planned. The planes, affectionately known as Mad Dogs, were introduced to the airline over 30 years ago. Delta described the planes as the “workhorses” of its domestic network in a statement last week.
Now, it seems the airline has officially scheduled their final flights. Although subject to change, as many things are in the current climate, the planes are due to return to the airline’s home base in Atlanta for their final commercial flights.
According to Routesonline, the final MD88s will arrive in Atlanta airport on the 2nd of June from Hartford, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Sarasota, and Washington Dulles. All the flights arrive in Atlanta before 09:00 local time. The final MD90 comes from Houston and arrives in Atlanta at 08.58 local time.
Delta’s fleet changes
Delta described its decision to bring forward the retirement of the Mad Dogs as “Coronavirus-driven fleet reduction.” The inefficient, aging aircraft simply will not cope in the post-virus world. Delta is looking to replace the plane with ones from its current orderbook. These include Airbus A220s, A321s, and A321neos.
The airline previously had a fleet of 65 MD90s and as many as 80 MD88. As of February this year, Delta had just 47 MD-88s and 29 MD-90s still operating. But the aircraft had an average age of well over 20 years. The airline started removing them from service several years ago with the remaining aircraft due to retire later this year.
The Mad Dogs
When Delta’s final flights are complete, this will be the first time since the early 1980s that no US carrier will be flying Mad Dogs on commercial flights. At one stage, there were hundreds of MD80 family aircraft crisscrossing the US on domestic routes for most of the US carriers. Many will be sad to see the last of these vintage classics from the 80s, although economically speaking, they are best left behind.
But the legacy of the Mad Dogs lives on in the Boeing 717, at least for a while. Although production stopped on the 717 in 2006, there are plenty still operating. The aircraft was initially designed as the MD95 but was rebranded after Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Delta is the largest operator of the 717. The McDonnell Douglas Mad Dogs are not gone just yet.
Although the schedule may still be adapted as circumstances change, we will likely see the final flights of these classics within the next few months. For many, it will be a sad day, and we’d love to hear your stories of flying on the MD80s and MD90s. But as time and technology move on, so the Mad Dogs are left in the past. The planes will probably be scrapped or parked in an aircraft graveyard, but some may be leased. Perhaps we will see them fly again. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.