On American Airlines slowly retiring its MD-80s

It is nearly the end of the era for American's Super 80s. Photo: Dylan Ashe, via Creative Commons.

It is nearly the end of the era for American’s Super 80s. Photo: Dylan Ashe, via Creative Commons.

If you haven’t already seen it, the article to read from the weekend is Terry Maxon’s excellent piece on the MD-80s now being retired by American Airlines.

Even if you’re not an avid aviation follower, you know the plane if you’ve flown American at all in the past decade. It has been the workhorse of the fleet, perhaps best known among casual fliers for its 2-3 seating configuration and the two smallish engines mounted near the tail. And if you have ever taken a peek in the cockpit, you’ve probably noticed that it lacks some of the modern equipment you see in other 21st century jetliners. (Of course, it’s very safe, and pilots say they like flying it.)

Yes, it’s just an airplane. But Maxon, who follows the retirement of one plane — N7530, which joined American’s fleet in 1990 — tells a nice story about the changing economics of the airline industry.

At one time, American operated more than 370 MD-80s, which it dubbed the Super 80. Now there are fewer than 160 left, and the fleet will shrink to under 140 by year’s end. By the end of 2018, if plans aren’t changed, the last MD-80 will be out of American’s enormous fleet.

Almost every American pilot of the last three decades has spent time in the MD-80 cockpit. Billy Parker, hired at American in 1989, logged 13,250 flying hours in the plane, which he described as “just a good, reliable pair of blue jeans.”

“It’s not as sexy as the newer airplanes,” he said, “but man, it has been a workhorse.”

A bit of trivia for you. The MD-80s operated by American go by a few nicknames. Can you name any?

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  • Mark

    The easy one is Mad Dog but I always liked Noodle.

  • Brian Sumers

    The ‘Noodle’? Never heard that one before. What does it come from?

  • Mark

    I think more from it’s narrowness – like spaghetti. I had only recalled it’s use but not the background. I just found a list that references it (along with many others that I had not heard of before – Who knew? http://www.md80.net/site/index.php?topic=1910.0

  • Brian Sumers

    Wow. That list is awesome. Thanks for sharing!