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MD-80 series
Iberia MD-88
Role Airliner
First flight October 25, 1979
Introduction 1980 with Swissair and Austrian Airlines
Primary users American Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Allegiant Air
Produced 1979-1999
Number built 1,191
Unit cost US$41.5-48.5 million
Developed from McDonnell Douglas DC-9
Variants McDonnell Douglas MD-90
Boeing 717

The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series are twin-engine, medium-range, single-aisle commercial jet airliners. The MD-80 aircraft were lengthened and updated from the DC-9. The MD-80 series can seat from 130 up to 172 passengers depending on variant and seating arrangement.

The MD-80 series was introduced commercially in October 1980 by Swissair. The MD-80 series was followed into service in modified form by the MD-90 in 1995 and the MD-95/Boeing 717 in 1999.


Design and development



Douglas Aircraft developed the DC-9 in the 1960s as a short-range companion to their larger DC-8.[1] The DC-9 was an all-new design, using two rear fuselage-mounted turbofan engines, and a T-tail. The DC-9 has a narrow-body fuselage design with 5-abreast seating, and holds 80 to 135 passengers depending on seating arrangement and aircraft version.

The MD-80 series was the second generation of the DC-9. It was originally called the DC-9-80 series and the DC-9 Super 80[2] and entered service in 1980. The MD-80 series was then developed into the MD-90 entering service in 1995. The last variant of the family was the MD-95, which was renamed the Boeing 717-200 after McDonnell Douglas's merger with Boeing in 1997.

The DC-9 family is one of the most successful jet airliners with a total of over 2,400 units produced; it ranks third behind the second place Airbus A320 family with over 4,000 produced, and the first place Boeing 737 with over 6,000 produced.

MD-80 series

The MD-80 series is a mid-size, medium-range airliner that was introduced in 1980. The design was the second generation of the DC-9 with two rear fuselage-mounted turbofan engines, small, highly efficient wings, and a T-tail. The aircraft has distinctive 5-abreast seating in coach class. It was a lengthened DC-9-50 with a higher maximum take-off weight (MTOW) and a higher fuel capacity. The aircraft series was designed for frequent, short-haul flights for 130 to 172 passengers depending on plane version and seating arrangement.

SAS MD-81 taking off

The development of MD-80 series began in the 1970s as a growth version of the DC-9 Series 50. Availability of new Pratt & Whitney JT8D higher bypass engines drove early studies including designs known as Series 55, Series 50 (Re-fanned Super Stretch), and Series 60. The design effort focused on the Series 55 in August 1977. With the projected entry into service in 1980, the design was marketed as the "DC-9 Series 80". Swissair launched the Series 80 in October 1977 with an order for 15 plus an option for five.[1]

The Series 80 featured a fuselage 14 feet 3 in (4.34 m) longer than the DC-9-50. The DC-9 wings were redesigned by adding sections at the wing root and tip for a 28% larger wing. The initial Series 80 first flew October 19, 1979.[1]

It entered service in 1980. Originally it was certified as a version of the DC-9, but was changed to MD-80 in July 1983, as a marketing move. New versions of the series were initially the MD-81/82/83 and the shortened MD-87, even though their formal certification was DC-9-81/82 etc. Only the MD-88 was given an "MD" certification, as was the later MD-90.

Spanish airline Spanair MD-83 at Leeds Bradford Airport, UK.

The MD-80 versions have cockpit, avionics and aerodynamic upgrades along with the more powerful, more efficient and quieter JT8D-200 series engines, which are a significant upgrade over the smaller JT8D-15, -17, -11, and -9 series. The MD-80 series aircraft also have longer fuselages than their earlier DC-9 counterparts, as well as longer range. The MD-80's production ended in 1999. Notably, customers such as American Airlines still refer to the planes in fleet documentation as "Super 80". This model is still flown extensively by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Comparable airliners to the MD-80 series include the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

Derivative designs

The MD-90 was developed from the MD-80 series and was a 5 feet longer, updated version of the MD-88 with a similar electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) (glass cockpit), and improved, and quieter IAE V2500 engines. The MD-90 program was launched in 1989, first flew in 1993 and entered service in 1995.

A number of other variants were proposed that never saw production. One proposal was the MD-94X which was fitted with an unducted fan engine. The MD-81 was used as a testbed for unducted fan engines, such as the GE 36 and the Pratt and Whitney/Allison 578-DX.[3]

The MD-95 was developed to replace early DC-9 models, then approaching 30 years old. The project completely overhauled the original DC-9 and reinvented it for modern transport. The aircraft is slightly longer than the DC-9-30 and is powered by new Rolls-Royce BR715 engines. The MD-95 was renamed Boeing 717 after the McDonnell Douglas—Boeing merger in 1997.

Operational history

A Delta MD-88 at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, USA.

The MD-80 series has been used by airlines around the world. Major customers have included Aeroméxico, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Austral Líneas Aéreas, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, China Eastern Airlines, China Northern Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Air System (JAS), Korean Air, Lion Air, Reno Air, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), Spanair, Dutch Caribbean Airlines, and Swissair.[4]

Due to the usage of the aging JT8D engine, the MD-80 is not fuel efficient compared to the A320 or newer 737 models; it burns 1,050 gallons of jet fuel per hour on a typical flight, while the larger Boeing 737-800 burns only 850 gallons per hour (19% reduction). Many airlines have started to retire the type in the 2000s. Alaska Airlines' tipping point in using the 737-800 was the $4 per gallon price of jet fuel the airline was paying by the summer of 2008; the airline stated that a typical Los Angeles-Seattle flight would cost $2,000 less, using a Boeing 737-800, than the same flight using an MD-80. American Airlines has announced plans to retire at least 20 MD-80s,[5] and has accelerated delivery of new 737-800s,[6] while Midwest Airlines announced on July 14, 2008, that it would retire all 12 of its MD-80s (used primarily on routes to the west coast) by the fall.[7][8] The JT8D's comparatively lower maintenance costs due to simpler design help narrow the fuel cost gap.[9]


MD-81 (DC-9-81)
Originally the Super 81, basic production variant with two 18,500 lb thrust JT8D-209 engines.
MD-82 (DC-9-82)
Originally the Super 82, variant for hot and high operations with 20,000 lb thrust JT8D-217 engines and increased maximum take off weight.
MD-83 (DC-9-83)
Long-range version with 21,000 lb thrust JT8D-219 engines.
A Spanair MD-87
MD-87 (DC-9-87)
Short fuselage variant of the MD-80 with electronic flight instrumentation first flown in 1987.
An MD-82 with updated glass cockpit of the MD-87.
Stretched variant with updated glass cockpit and two V2500 engines, also Extended Range (ER) version as the MD-90-30ER.
Replacement for the earlier DC-9-30, built as the Boeing 717.


In July 2009, 886 MD-80 aircraft (all variants) were in airline service, with American Airlines (306), Delta Air Lines (117), Allegiant Air (47), Alitalia (45), Scandinavian Airlines System (44), Austral Líneas Aéreas (26), Spanair (20), Iberia (18), Meridiana (18), Avianca (12), 1Time Airline (11), and other operators with fewer aircraft of the type.[10]

Incidents and accidents

As of November 2009, the MD-80 series has been involved in 60 incidents,[11] including 27 hull-loss accidents,[12] with 1,177 fatalities.[13]

Notable accidents and incidents

  • On December 27, 1991, SAS Flight 751, an MD-81, OY-KHO "Dana Viking" crash landed at Gottröra, Sweden. In the initial climb both engines ingested ice broken loose from the wings (which had not been properly de-iced before departure). The ice damaged the compressor blades causing compressor stall. The stall further caused repeated engine surges that finally destroyed both engines, leaving the aircraft with no propulsion. The aircraft landed in a snowy field and broke in three parts. No fire occurred and all aboard survived.
  • On June 1, 1999, American Airlines Flight 1420, an MD-82 attempting to land in severe weather conditions at Little Rock Airport overshot the runway and crashed into the banks of the Arkansas River. Eleven people, including the captain, died.
  • On January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines Flight 261, an MD-83, crashed in the Pacific Ocean, due to loss of horizontal stabilizer control.[15] All 88 people on board were killed. Following the crash, the acme nut and jackscrew recovered from the aircraft were found to be excessively worn[16] and found to be the cause of the crash due to inadequate maintenance. The FAA ordered airlines to inspect and lubricate the jackscrew more frequently.[17]
  • On October 8, 2001, Scandinavian Airlines Flight 686, an MD-87 (SE-DMA) collided with a small Cessna jet during take-off at Linate Airport, Milan, Italy. The Linate Airport disaster left 118 people dead. The cause of the accident was a misunderstanding between air traffic controllers and the Cessna jet, and the SAS crew had no role in causing the accident. Also the ground movement radar was inoperative at the time of the accident.
  • On November 30, 2004, Lion Air Flight 538, an MD-82 crash landed at Adi Sumarmo Airport in Surakarta and overran the end of the runway. There were 25 fatalities.
  • On March 4, 2006, Lion Air Flight 8987, an MD-82, after landing at Juanda International Airport reverse thrust was used although stated to be out of order, this caused the aircraft to veer to the right and skid off the runway coming to rest 7,000 ft from the approach end of RWY10. No one was killed but the aircraft was damaged with a repair bill of $3 million.[19]
  • Between March 26, and March 27 then again between April 8, and April 12, 2008 an FAA safety audit of American Airlines forced the airline to ground its entire 300 MD-80 series fleet, to inspect the aircraft's hydraulic wiring. American was forced to cancel nearly 2500 flights in March and over 3200 in April.[23] In addition, Delta Air Lines inspected its own MD-80 fleet to ensure its 117 MD-80s were also operating within regulation. This prompted Delta to cancel 275 flights.[24]
  • On August 20, 2008, Spanair Flight 5022, an MD-82 registration EC-HFP from Madrid's Barajas Airport crashed shortly after takeoff on a flight to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. The MD-82 had 162 passengers and ten crew on board, of whom 18 survived. The crash was caused by an attempt to take off with the flaps and slats retracted. The flight crew omitted the "set flaps and slats" item in both the After Start checklist and the Takeoff Imminent checklist.[25]


MD-81 MD-82 /
MD-83 MD-87
Cockpit crew Two
Seating capacity, typical 172 (1-class)
155 (2 class)
139 (1-class)
130 (2 class)
Length 147 ft 10 in (45.06 m) 130 ft 5 in (39.75 m)
Wingspan 107 ft 10 in (32.87 m)
Wing area 1,209 sq ft (112.3 m2)
Tail height 29 ft 7 in (9.02 m) 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)
Fuselage width 11 ft (3.35 m)
Cargo capacity 1,253 cu ft (35.5 m3) 1,103 cu ft (31.2 m3) 937 cu ft (26.5 m3)
Empty weight 77,900 lb (35,300 kg) 78,000 lb (35,400 kg) 79,700 lb (36,200 kg) 73,300 lb (33,200 kg)
Maximum take-off weight (MTOW) 140,000 lb (63,500 kg) 149,500 lb (67,800 kg) 160,000 lb (72,600 kg) 140,000 lb (63,500 kg)
Cruising speed Mach 0.76 (504 mph, 811 km/h)
Maximum range, fully loaded 1,570 nmi (2,910 km; 1,810 mi) 2,050 nmi (3,800 km; 2,360 mi) 2,500 nmi (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) 2,370 nmi (4,390 km; 2,730 mi)
Maximum fuel capacity 5,845 US gal (22,130 L)
Engines (×2) Pratt & Whitney JT8D-200 series
Thrust (×2) 18,500–21,000 lbf (82–93 kN)

Sources: Official MD-80 specifications,[27] MD-80 Airport report[28]

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c Norris, Guy and Wagner, Mark. Douglas Jetliners. MBI Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-7603-0676-1.
  2. ^ History - Chronology - 1977-1982, The Boeing Company, Retrieved 2007-12-14
  3. ^ Aviation Week: New-Generation GE Open Rotor and Regional Jet Engine Demo Efforts Planned
  4. ^ MD-80 production list.
  5. ^ Aerospace Notebook: MD-80 era winding down as fuel costs rise,, June 24, 2008.
  6. ^ American Speeds Jet Purchase, Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2008, p. B4
  7. ^ "Midwest Will Cut 110 jobs in Kansas City", Kansas City Business Journal, July 22, 2008, p.10
  8. ^ Midwest Airlines press release July 14, 2008
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "World Airliner Census". Flight International, August 18-24, 2009.
  11. ^ McDonnell Douglas MD-80 incidents., November 19, 2009.
  12. ^ McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Accidents.
  13. ^ McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Accident Statistics.
  14. ^ Wilkerson, Isabel (1987-08-22). "Crash Survivor's Psychic Pain May Be the Hardest to Heal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  15. ^ NTSB Number AAR-02/01 Executive Summary. NTSB, 2002.
  16. ^ NTSB photo of worn jackscrew
  17. ^ FAA Airworthiness Directive 2000-15-15
  18. ^ "160 believed dead in Venezuela jet crash". CNN, August 16, 2005.
  19. ^ Lion Air Flight 8987
  20. ^ "Search for clues after Thai crash". BBC, September 17, 2007.
  21. ^ "Survivors recount Thai jet crash". CNN, September 17, 2007.
  22. ^ "Plane crashes; no survivors found". CNN, November 30, 2007.
  23. ^ "Cancellation wave latest problem for airlines". MSNBC, April 10, 2008.
  24. ^ "American, Delta cancel more flights to inspect MD-80 aircraft". ABC News, March 27, 2008.
  25. ^ "Interim Report". 
  26. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 20 November 2009. 
  27. ^ MD-80 general specifications, Boeing.
  28. ^ MD-80 airport report, McDonnell Douglas, December 1989
  • Becher, Thomas. Douglas Twinjets, DC-9, MD-80, MD-90 and Boeing 717. The Crowood Press, 2002. ISBN 1-86126-446-1.

External links


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