On 4 September, American Airlines retired the MD-80 family of aircraft from its fleet after 37 years of service. Named the Super80 by American, the airline operated more than 360 of the aircraft at its peak. On Wednesday, the final 26 were retired and 23 of them flown to the desert in Roswell, New Mexico.
One for the money
Our day began at DFW Airport headquarters to travel to the ramp for a look at the final American Airlines MD-80 revenue flight. Flight AA80, from Dallas/Ft Worth to Chicago, was operated by N984TW, the last MD-83 produced.
Prior to departure, we made our way to the runway for a view of the take off and then back to the terminal to prepare for our flight to Roswell.
Two for the show
The next flight to depart was the employee retirement flight to Roswell. American Airlines employees were able to enter a drawing for a ticket aboard the flight, operated by N970TW, an MD-83 delivered in 1999. After their departure it was time for our flight to board.
Three to get ready
Our retirement flight from DFW to Roswell was operated by N9615W, an MD-83 originally delivered to Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1997. The aircraft joined the American Airlines fleet in 2001.
About 40 journalists and invited guests were aboard our flight, including a few former long-time MD-80 pilots. The captain for our flight was Bruce Taylor, the chief pilot at DFW, who first flew the MD-80 in May of 1989. One of the cabin crew members working the flight was also a veteran employee with 43 years of service at American.
Now go go go
Prior to departure, the captain announced that the crew would be hand-flying the entire flight to Roswell out of respect for the aircraft. Upon landing he also mentioned that it was out of respect for the dual-inoperative auto pilots. The hand-flying of the aircraft was most notable during changes in altitude or speed throughout the flight. It was especially apparent when the pilots adjusted the throttles. As we lifted off the runway, the Captain gave a wing wave, which you can see in the video above.
On the taxi in at Roswell, we saw the variety of retired American Airlines aircraft stored at Roswell, including other MD-80s, 757s, and 767s. We also passed by a few other aircraft of note, including Elvis’ former Lockheed JetStar and a portion of the grounded American 737 MAX 8 fleet.
One of the most unusual experiences of the flight, other than the nearly empty aircraft, wing wave departure, and hand flown flight, was exiting via the rear staircase.
Once on the ground we had a chance to explore some of the aircraft and listen to remarks from current and former members of American Airlines with strong connections to the MD-80. One speaker even had a large MD-80 tattoo on his forearm commemorating the last MD-80 flight he ever took with his father.
You can see more of the photos from our day at the Super80 Send Off below.