Delta to Retire MD-88s and 90s

Published: 05-11-2020
Will you be the last pilot to fly one of these planes?

Retirement is coming early this year for both McDonnell Douglas 88s and 90s. The McDonnell Douglas, or MD, models were initially set to retire as of December this year, but given the global downturn in flights, Delta Air Lines has opted to speed up the timeline. Now, both airplane types will leave commercial airspace in June.

Let’s take a look at the history of these two airplanes.

History of MD-88s

Launched at the start of January in 1986, the MD-88s were one of the last MD-80s series to be manufactured. This line of aircraft were roughly 148 feet long and could carry about 155 passengers over 2,550 miles.

Compared to its predecessors, the MD-88 was in a league of its own thanks to the EFIS, or Electronic Flight Instrument System, cockpit. At the time, older models were still relying on analog instrument panels. If EFIS does not sound familiar, you may know them as a “glass cockpit”, as all instrument readouts were LCD screens.

Other minor changes the MD-88 had are listed below.

  • Interior with 12% more baggage space

  • Lights in stowage compartments that activate on door open

  • Drop-down LCD monitors

  • Wind-shear warning system included at purchase

  • An extra flight management system

While appreciated, these updates did not require a complete rework of the airport. As a result, MD was able to retrofit the updates onto older MD-82s and 83s should airliners decide to.

That said, Delta started thinning out its fleet by removing a good portion of the MD-88s at the end of 2019. According to Forbes, Delta currently has 18 MD-88s remaining. The news source also disclosed that the accelerated retirement may cost the airliner roughly $22 million, even with the pandemic going on.

MD-90s Story

Towards the end of 1989, MD manufactured the MD-90. This model is roughly 57-inches longer than the MD-88, and could house between 153-172 passengers. Under the hood, the new MD-90 was equipped with heavy IAE V2500 high-bypass turbofan engines.

If that engine name sounds familiar to you, but you have never flown an MD-90, you may still have experience with that engine. The turbine fan engine design was also utilized in the Embraer KC-390 as well as the following, more common Airbus models.

  • A320

  • Corporate Jet

  • A319

  • A321

Given how powerful this engine was at the time, MD likely designed the MD-90 to compete with the Boeing 757. That said, Delta ordered 50 MD-90s when the model design was announced. Unfortunately, the first one was not delivered until 1995, and production ended in 2000.

Siince the initial order was completed, Delta scooped up roughly 15 more by 2017. However, given changes in market demand, such as better fuel-economy, the airliner reduced the number of MD-90s down to only 27 as of 2019.

As of this year, only 9 MD-90s were actually in operation at Delta.

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