Buh-Bye DC-9

Delta Airlines DC-9-50

Delta Airlines DC-9-50

Delta Airlines is retiring the remainder of its DC-9 fleet in January and the -9′s replacement is coming online in the form of 737s and 717s and even larger regional jets.

Delta actually wasn’t a DC-9 customer. Not exactly anyway.  The DC-9 came over in the merger with Northwest Airlines who was a big DC-9 customer.  Northwest got many of its DC-9s from the Republic merger.  Delta kept the aircraft on for several years because the capital costs were low and the aircraft are built so sturdy that their maintenance still wasn’t that expensive.  The remainder of the DC-9s are DC-9-50 aircraft with 120 seats.

This marks, as best as I can tell, the end of the DC-9 in the United States.  To all the DC-9 fans out there, I know you’ll hate me but I say good riddance.

It’s not that I hate the aircraft, it’s that I hate that the aircraft was around doing daily service even today.  This is one of the only places in the entire world where you will see a 35 year old aircraft still doing passenger work and its representative of the service levels that airlines deliver in the United States.

And the old DC-9s used to give me a headache from the cabin pressure.

It’s a sturdy airliner and they’ll never build them like that again and let’s just admit that we don’t want them to built like that again.  They were sturdy but they were also overbuilt and heavy for the service they performed.

They live on anyways.  The MD-80/90 series aircraft are just DC-9s by another model name.  In fact, their type certificates call them out as DC-9-8X’s and DC-9-9X’s.  So the DC-9 isn’t really gone.  Even the truly old aircraft aren’t gone because there are still a lot of MD-82/83 aircraft with steam gauge cockpits out there.

And the Boeing 717 aka the MD-95 aka the DC-9-95 not only still flies but flies efficiently.  I liked that aircraft and still do.  I would like the MD-82/83 aircraft of American Airlines if they had simply put a newer, more comfortable seat on it.  I always liked that you had only a 1 in 5 chance of getting a middle seat too.

But it is time for them to go and let’s pause and reflect on the fact that those aircraft were born mostly before airline deregulation and are only just now going to pasture in an era that doesn’t remotely resemble the industry they were originally built for.  That ain’t nothing.



7 Responses to “Buh-Bye DC-9”

  1. actually……….. delta was an original operator of the dc-9 series 10. here is a link to one in the original DL livery.
    while i do not miss the ‘nine’, i cut my teeth on her when i began my career with new york air. they were sturdy and i loved the sound of her PW JT8 engines. she lives on in my memory. now, hopefully, those dreaded md-80′s will be disposed of from the AA fleet soon. that is one plane i care to not work on again.


  2. That’s not correct. Delta had DC-9′s back in the 1960′s. They even had some where they experimented with their logo put on the tail sideways. And of course they inherited a lot from Northwest which inherited many from Republic which inherited them from North Central, Southern, and Hughes Airwest.

  3. Tom and Aaron: You got me. I did research to see if Delta had ever owned them previously and found no immediate mention of it. Ownership isn’t even mentioned in my airliner books.

    Does anyone know their history in the 60′s? Was it brief?

    @Tom: I considered the DC-9 lineage originally on the Republic (via North Central, Southern and Hughes Airwest) to be Northwest history. It’s hard to find the line sometimes but I try to draw it at merger points.

    @Aaron: The dreaded MD-80′s are leaving fast but . . . they remain concentrated on flights out of DFW due to the fact that they can fly all the domestic routes from Dallas. Which means we get punished here for a while longer.

    I did fly a new-ish 737-800 from Mexico to DFW recently and it was a genuine blessing compared to the MD-80.

  4. @Tom: Can you elaborate on the “sideways” logo?

  5. In the classic Delta livery the red triangle is usually at the bottom of the “widget” and they had a livery with the red triangle at the trail end of the widget, thus “sideways.” Google DC-9 sideways widget and you’ll see pics. Of course they are all “sideways widgets” in the new livery.

  6. @tom/@ajax, i believe the sideways logo is the one depicted in this pic that i posted in my original post. i love how we are all aviation weenies. makes me proud to be part of the ‘family’.


  7. There’s this thing called wikipedia which references the DC-9 entering service with Delta, who was the largest operator of DC-9s at several points in the late 60′s and early 70′s.

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