The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 was launched in October 1977 as the DC-9 Super 80 with an order from Swissair. The initial DC-9-81 version first flew on 18 October 1979 with the first delivery (to Swissair) on 13 September 1980. This aircraft was a DC-90-50 with a 171-inch (4.34-meter) fuselage stretch, larger wing, higher bypass ratio Pratt & Whitney JT9D-209 engines, and other improvments. Further engine and range upgrades led to the DC-9-82 and DC-9-83, then in 1983 the family was renamed MD-80. Officially these aircraft remain DC-9s since they were certified under an amendment to the DC-9 type certificate. (Subsequent derivates were no longer listed as DC-9s.)
Orders for the MD-80 were relatively slow until 1984, when American Airlines placed an order for 67 MD-82s, which the airline called the Super 80. American ordered 260 examples in all, including 224 orders for the MD-82 and another 26 for the longer-range MD-83. With additional aircraft coming via the acquisitions of Reno Air and then TWA, American eventually operated 378 MD-82s and MD-83s, nearly one third of the 1,191 MD-80s built.
The final MD-80 was delivered to TWA on 21 December 1999. Now over 18 years old, this aircraft is still flying for American, but American has been retiring its MD-80 fleet as the airline acquires newer, more efficient aircraft. Only 45 remain, with retirement of the last ones planned for next year.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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