Friday, August 30, 2019

Chicago O'Hare, American Airlines to Bid Final Farewell to MD-80 Aircraft

This graphic, created by Chicago-One News consists of an MD-80 approaching O'Hare taken by Dani Hensley, and a tower photo by the same photographer shown at bottom. The American Airlines logo belongs to American Airlines. All other graphics used are courtesy of FlightRadar24

The McDonnel-Douglas MD-80, also known as the "Super 80" has served O'Hare International Airport for decades. McDonnel-Douglas manufactured the MD-80 series of aircraft for two decades from 1979 to 1999, and among the biggest purchases from the company came from American Airlines. 

The aircraft series consisted of the MD-81, 82, 83, 87, and 88. Swiss Air was the first to use this aircraft in commercial service on October 10th, 1980. American Airlines purchased 43. 
The final revenue flight will be flight AA80 from Dallas/Ft Worth to Chicago, departing DFW at 9:00 and arriving in Chicago at 11:35. The final ever flight of the AA MD-80 will leave Chicago O'Hare (ORD) at 1:30PM with a final destination of Roswell, New Mexico (ROW). 

The specific aircraft models in the MD-80 (Super 80) series flown by American Airlines throughout the airline's history were the MD-82 and 83. American Airlines will replace these aircraft with the troubled Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

History of The MD-80 at American Airlines

On August 12th, 2019, American Airlines released a three page statement, called, "Reflecting From The MD-80 Cockpit". That was only the first press release from American Airlines on the topic of the imminent retirement of this classic commercial aviation icon that will serve O'Hare International Airport's runways, taxiways, and the gates of American's O'Hare terminal 3 one final time on September 4th, 2019. 

American Airlines first flew the MD-80 (Super 80) on May 2nd, 1984 with Captain Tom Senning, and First Officer Doug Ebersole at the controls. Both of these fine, and now, historic aviators are from Santa Barbara, California.

I'll never forget that day, Capt. Tom offered me the take off," Doug said. "It was so clear and beautiful. I wanted to impress the crowds and allow the cameras to capture the perfect takeoff. In the midst of the excitement, I forgot one of my audible commands —'gear up' — until Tom reminded me after I was in the air and well into the turn. At that point, what would have been perfect photo, was a photo of the plane ascending with the landing gear still in its extended position."

American Airlines photo

The story of how American Airlines First Officer Doug Ebersole gained the historic honor of being the first AA Pilot to have the controls at takeoff is one every pilot dreams of. Doug admits that he had to pull some strings to obtain the honor to be included on that first flight, as staffing is based on seniority. At the time, he was a relatively new pilot and Tom was No. 23 among the 30 licensed MD-80 pilots, having more than 18 years of experience. 

Not all of today's pilots across the globe have flown an MD-80, and curious passengers, even regular American Airlines customers who have soared into the sky many times aboard this aircraft may ask of pilots what it's like to be in the cockpit. American Airlines says, "it's a pilot's airplane". 

American Airlines photo

"It is very old school, there aren't any modern computer screens affixed to the controls," said Flight Operations Director David Clark. "The steering columns are connected to a cable that goes directly to the flight controls. You can feel it give and pull throughout each flight, and it is a thrilling experience that pilots trained on newer aircraft may never experience."

American Airlines Check Airman, R.D. Johnson elaborates further on the MD-80 cockpit.
Customers usually don't get a firsthand view of the cockpit. And, to anyone who isn't a pilot, the sight can be overwhelming. The MD-80 cockpit interior is one of the last commercial aircraft primarily made of round dials to gauge every aspect of the aircraft. Check Airman R.D. Johnson said the manual operation of the aircraft was gratifying.

"Every captain has a special bond with the aircraft, as it's very much like watching an old movie. It's a sense of nostalgia that speaks to the rich history of our airline and the skill required of every pilot," said Check Airman R.D. Johnson. "In its prime, the MD-80 was very responsive and had what we considered state-of-the-art technology. Though it's now outdated in comparison, we perfected the craft of flying on this plane and enjoyed every minute of it."

For many seasoned American Airlines pilots, flying the MD-80 has been considered a rite of passage. To fly the airplane that played a pivotal role in the growth and expansion of the network was an honor in itself. After all, it was a game changer for the airline, and our pilots were navigating from the cockpit the entire time.

"As for parting words," said Greg. "We've had many highs and lows throughout the MD-80's history, and many of our customers and team members hold memories they'll never forget. Whatever we choose to remember about the aircraft, the last 36 years was certainly time well spent."

Call Me "Mad Dog" - The Unique Industry Moniker For The MD Super-80

The Boeing 747 was called "Queen of The Skies". The A340 was called "The Four Person Hairdryer", the 727 was "the triple chrome plated stovepipe", the 737 was known as "Baby Boeing", the DC-10 had a few choice nicknames with the friendliest being "Diesel-10". We can't forget the MD-11....this one also had a few inappropriate nicknames, but was known among friendlier pilots as "The Diva". 

American Airlines pilots have given their MD-80 the nickname, "Mad Dog". Giving this aircraft the proper send-off has to include letting the MD-80 speak for itself, which American Airlines, in their ever-so-creative talent, decided to do. The American Airlines News Room presents...."A Super Send Off From The Mad Dog".
Josh Smith photo

You may not know me that well. But if you fly American Airlines a lot, chances are we've met. My name is Mad Dog. Okay, it's more of a nickname, really … short for McDonnell Douglas MD-80. My parents liked to say I was a Super 80. I couldn't agree more.

You're probably wondering why an airplane is writing a magazine article. Well, for starters, we have a lot of downtime at night. But the main reason is … I'm calling it a career. On Sept. 4, I'll retire to Roswell, New Mexico, making way for some youngsters from Airbus and Boeing. My remaining siblings — about two dozen MD-80s in all — will also shine up their polished aluminum that day for one final flight into the sunset.

Leaving the rest of the fleet behind — with its fancy satellite Wi-Fi, bigger overhead bins and in-seat power — is bittersweet, the end of a journey that began in 1983. Throughout the decade, we helped launch American's hub-and-spoke system as the airline's workhorse. More than 350 of us filled the sky for American when we merged with TWA in 2001. And though we mostly flew domestically, we connected the biggest cities in the country, making meetings and memories for millions of customers.

In doing so, we made our presence known. Many of you loved the signature growl of our engines. Others liked the peaceful calm up front — none more than our pilots. To all of them for pointing us in the right direction; to the flight attendants who walked our aisles, caring for customers; to the mechanics who kept these old dogs feeling like young pups; and to the thousands of other team members who welcomed us to the gate, loaded bags and cargo, or simply came along for the ride — thanks for the memories, from the bottom of our hydraulic hearts.

Of course, without customers, we're never born. You're the reason we kept flying and why we can park for the final time with our tails held high. So on behalf of American's 130,000 team members, our entire fleet, and particularly my fellow retirees, I tip my wing. Thank you for flying with us for the last 36 years. In the words of my favorite '80s tune, I've had the time of my life. And I owe it all to you.

McDonnell Douglas MD-80

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