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Aircraft History of the MD-80

History of the Mad Dog

The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 is a mid-size, medium-range jetliner. It was designed in the 1970’s as a stretched replacement for the DC-9. It featured a longer fuselage (14 ft 3 in), larger wing, two rear fuselage-mounted Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofan engines and a T-tail. It was designed with a longer range for carrying more passengers in mind. 

Built in Long Beach, California, it made its first flight as a DC-9 Super 80, was certified by the FAA in August 1980, and entered service three months later. Between 1980 and 1999, 1,191 MD-80s were delivered to airlines around the world, including American Airlines. 

The Pilot’s Airplane

The Mad Dog is fondly remembered by the pilots who flew her. From her quirky characteristics like viewing the compass via a mirror above the main controls, to its sea of round dials and gauges, everything about the MD-80 gave pilots a challenge and a certain thrill to fly it. It could be a challenge, without the computerized cockpits of today, to land or even to fly at higher altitudes. It was noisy and the controls were unergonomic, but it was reliable and it allowed pilots to have control and feel every aspect of the flight. Many pilots have a story or two of its most annoying quirks, but just as many claim loyalty to the MD-80 and express a sadness that flight will never be experienced that way again. 

American Airlines Super 80

American Airlines was the first major U.S. carrier to order the MD-80, receiving twenty 142-seat planes in October 1982 and replacing its fleet of Boeing 727-100s. Calling it the Super 80, they inaugurated a new era of service at six airports on May 15, 1983.  By 1984, the fuel-efficient planes had proven a cost-efficient replacement for the oldest and least efficient aircraft in their fleet. They then made the largest airplane order in commercial aviation history with a purchase of 67 more, with an option to purchase 100 additional twin jets. The Super 80 was a perfect fit for American Airlines’ growth plan of sustained profitability.

By 2002, the American Airlines fleet boasted roughly 30% of the 1,191 MD-80s produced - 360 of the Super 80s which had seen AA through its decades of growth. American Airlines flew its final MD-80s in September 2019. 

MD-80 Retirement

MotoArt owner Dave Hall was invited to participate in a CBS story about the American Airlines MD-80 retirement. Here is Dave in his own words. 


MD-80 Furniture by MotoArt

With access to American Airlines’ retired MD-80 fleet, MotoArt has envisioned a new line of aviation furniture. The first in the new MD-80 line will be the Mad Dog Wing Desk. It will feature a more natural finish, with the shiny silver that is true to AA’s tri-color livery, but with options to customize with a satin or mirror finish. It is made from the rear horizontal stabilizer and will be available in January 2020. Subscribe to the newsletter for updates.