MD-88s - they are awesome

So the whole MD-80 series are slowing disappearing from the airports and skies here in the United States. I was holding short of the runway in Augusta, GA a couple days ago and had the pleasure of watching a Delta MD-88 departing in front of us. I don’t know why the lines of the MD-80 series aircraft are so appealing to me, but I really do think they are one of the prettiest planes ever fielded.

I always enjoy watching them takeoff. They roar down the runway and those engines are so loud you can hear them even in a noisy, but well insulated business jet. Something about the MD-80s seems unique in how the go from speeding down the runway to becoming airborne. I know it it just my imagination, but I love the way they reach rotation speed, and you can clearly see the high pitch angle set, and then paused, and then the aircraft just sort of has to keep speeding up and make itself fly. Once in the air, deck angle is further increased and the plane really seems to just plow through the air. It is incredible to watch and mesmerizing.

Even after it gets up to a few hundred feet and the gear is retracted, it still has that distinct nose up attitude as it plows ahead further and sometimes you almost wonder if something is wrong…why is it not climbing faster? Why does it not seem like it is accelerating? But all is good…it is just going through some configuration changes, hitting speeds, and giving the passengers a good look at the city they just departed from before being swallowed up in the clouds.

Anyway - I love the plane. I’ve flown on them a few times…and I don’t know how pilots feel about them, but I like them. Time to fire up the Rotate MD-80 I think…

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Lol,. first time I saw a plane climbing that looked like it was falling at the same time.

Wheels

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The MD-80 holds a special place in my heart too.

My parents used to save up each year for us to go to a holiday somewhere warm, Mediterranean or similar.

Finnair DC-9 / MD-80 range must have been the first jet I ever flew on - and they were Finnair’s holiday workhorse through the 80’s and much of the 90’s, so it was basically the only jet I flew on until much later.

I remember going to the cockpit each time once we were at cruise altitude (different times), the slight machine smell of the cabin etc.

A little story: In 2005, I was in Kosovo as a peacekeeper as part of the KFOR operation and every few months you’d get to go home for a fortnight.

The usual rotation flight was a Finnair Airbus that picked us up from Pristina and flew back to Finland via Tusla, Bosnia, to pick up and drop off liaison officers there.

One time we had just landed and were still rolling down the runway when we heard a loud “woooosh” sound from under the plane and wondered what happened.

The pilots taxied off the runway and asked everyone to exit, as they had had a brake fire. I still have the photo of the blackened wheel covered in foam somewhere.

We sat around in an empty hangar for a while as the pilots figured out what to do.

When it became clear that repairs were required before the jet could fly back, we arranged transportation to a nearby UN base - it wasn’t ideal to have a plane load of soldiers with no weapons sitting at an empty airport with minimal security on an area where hostile factions were still quite active at the time.

Finnair acted very quickly, though - they had a jet in the air with a repair crew onboard in less than an hour after our landing.

We drove back to the airfield when the replacement jet arrived and sat around for a while, watching the jet burn fuel against its brakes on the otherwise deserted airfield as the sun was setting. It was quite memorable.

Eventually the aircraft was light enough to load everyone onboard and we left towards Helsinki - we left the Airbus, the repair crew and all our luggage behind. They followed us the next day.

What was the plane that came for our rescue? An old MD-80. The workhorse had been retired from frontline duties but was standing by at Helsinki-Vantaa airport ready, in case something like this happened.

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The DC-9/MD-80 was the mainstay of the SAS fleet, when I grew up. That’s what I wanted to fly! Sadly, when I finished flightschool and joined them, the 80 was already being phased out. Some of my danish friends got to fly on them, though, for a short while.
It’s really sleek and good looking. And as loud as those engines are, you can’t hear them from the cockpit. You do hear them sitting between them in the aft cabin section…!

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The MD-80 is the first airplane I ever rode on as a child. I definitely have a soft spot for it. Especially in the American Airlines livery:

Easily, my favorite jetliner.

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Perfect description…

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The DC-9 (I still call them this way) has always been my favorite single-isle airliner. When I grew up, the Swissair DC-9-80 were dominating the traffic in Zurich where we spent days spotting at the fences. We made a few joyrides with them when I was a kid too. Swissair had a program called Ping-Pong flights. On Saturday you would call a number between 16:00 and 17:00 and if you got through to get one of few slots, you could show up on Sunday morning 07:00 at Zurich airport and they would put you on a random flight that still had free seats left. Usually it was a DC-9 to Frankfurt or Milan and you would return with the same plane. I think it cost CHF 100 per person, which was a great price to fly then. Today that would be ridiculous with the prices of EasyJet and the like. But it was a different time then (early 90s), flying Swissair still had style. Perhaps I am looking at this with rose-tinted glasses because I was still a kid and these were my first flights, but I think these were the last years of a more classic era of air travel. So lots of great memories associated with the DC-9.

Sad to see them go, but frankly surprising that they have still been in service for so long in the USA.

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I think the world was harmed a tiny little bit when Boeing bulldozed MD. The track that the modern DC-9 derivatives were on made them truly valid answers to the B-737 and A320. Nothing was gained and (arguably) something was lost when a competitor was taken out of the market. [edit…still angry]

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I wish we could get the TFDi 717 into X-Plane. It is a remarkable airplane for P3D…I just don’t find myself playing P3D very much anymore.

That’s a great story and memory…

Yes…they have definitely served well here. I wonder if they will be bone-yarded or if they will find their way to other countries. It has to be hard to find parts and maintain them now…

Delta will fly the MD-90 until late 2022 apparently…

“The carrier operated 34 MD-90s with an average age of 22.2 years at the end of June, its latest fleet plan shows. It plans to remove nine aircraft by year end.”

Didn’t TWA’s demise help along the demise of McDonnell Douglas?
It was a long time ago now but I thought at one point TWA gave MD a huge order that their, TWA’s, final bankruptcy helped to push MD over the cliff too?

Wheels

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