Following a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta on Monday, Delta retired the last of its DC-9 aircrafts after nearly 50 years of use.
The DC-9 was the oldest passenger plane left in service in the United States. It was originally constructed by McDonnell Douglas in 1965, and its production was halted in 1982. Throughout its run, 976 total DC-9 planes were made.
The small plane gained popularity due to its ability to take off and land on small runways in smaller cities, replacing older and less-efficient propeller-driven planes. Due to its use in smaller airports, it was mainly a passenger plane for smaller airlines, such as Delta, Northwest, and Continental. The plane that made the flight Monday was built in 1978 and flew for North Central Airlines before it was bought by Northwestern Airlines.
Delta originally retired all of its DC-9s in 1993, but after acquiring Northwest Airlines (who had a stockpile of DC-9s), it put the DC-9 back into commission.
The DC-9 had several distinctive qualities which made its appearance unique from other passenger planes. First and foremost, it was smaller than most other passenger planes. When Northwest put the DC-9 back into commission in 1995, it completely refurbished the interiors to create more room.
The DC-9 is also known for its unique T-tail design, a feature that was later adopted by such planes as the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 and Boeing 717. Along with its T-tail design, the cockpit of the DC-9 contains dials rather than more modern computer systems, making it a “pilot’s airplane,” according to pilot Scott Woolfrey, the man who flew the DC-9s last flight.
As it currently stands, Delta has put all 6 of its DC-9s out of commission. However, it has kept two in reserve to serve as “substitute” planes in case of emergencies or repairs.
“The DC-9 has been a workhorse in our domestic fleet while providing a reliable customer experience. The aircraft’s retirement paves the way for newer, more efficient aircraft,” stated Nat Pieper, Vice President of fleet strategy for Delta.