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.
Design and development
Douglas Aircraft developed the DC-9 in the 1960s as a short-range companion to their larger DC-8. 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 a 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 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 3,000 produced, and the first place Boeing 737 with over 6,000 produced.
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 a 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.
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.
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.
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 later the MD-90.
The MD-80 versions have cockpit, avionics and aerodynamic upgrades along with the more powerful, 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.
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 more powerful, quieter and fuel efficient 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.
The MD-95 was developed to replace early DC-9 models, then approaching 30 years old. The project was a complete overhaul the original DC-9 and reinventing 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.
The MD-80 series has been used by airlines around the world. Major customers have included Aeroméxico, Alaska Airlines, Albanian 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, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), Spanair, Dutch Caribbean Airlines, and Swissair.
In January 2009, a total of 842 MD-80 aircraft (all variants) were in airline service, including American Airlines (271), Delta Air Lines (115), Scandinavian Airlines System (42), Allegiant Air (43), Iberia (26), Alitalia (20), Austral Líneas Aéreas (18), Meridiana (17), Spanair (17), Avianca (12), 1Time Airline (11), and other operators with fewer aircraft of the type.
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, and has accelerated delivery of new 737-800s, 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. The JT8D's comparatively lower maintenance costs due to simpler design help narrow the fuel cost gap.
Incidents and accidents
As of March 2009, the MD-80 series has been involved in 58 incidents, including 25 hull-loss accidents, with 1,177 fatalities.
Notable accidents and incidents
Sources: Official MD-80 specifications, MD-80 Airport report
Published - July 2009
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