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Images and a special video: A Nostalgic Goodbye to the American Airlines MD-80

Fredoh

Sept. 17, 2019

It was 1983.  Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was at the top of the charts, the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series, and, most importantly: McDonnell Douglas debuted its new MD-80 in the United States with its first American customer…American Airlines.
The MD-80 would become the new short-to-mid-range workhorse for the growing airline.  It had unique features from the DC-9 which go back to the beginnings of the modern era in aviation.  It was comfortable and unique in the face of more modern jetliners and their boring 3-3 seating configurations.
And now it’s 2019.  Old Town Road something or other is at the top of the charts, nobody really cares about the World Series anymore, and tomorrow will be the last day that American Airlines flies the MD-80.
I mean, just think of how much the world has changed since American started flying the MD-80: the internet, world-shaping events like 9/11, and the 1996 mega blockbuster The Rock (there are probably more/better examples than The Rock but it’s my favorite movie of all time leave me alone).  All of the change that’s happened in the world and the MD-80 has just kept on flying, it’s bare-metal livery now an aged beacon in a sea of corporate airline liveries.
A very special tribute video to the MD-80
I wanted to put together a video explaining what made this old airliner so special to so many people.  American Airlines was kind enough to give me access to one of their last MD-80s out at DFW a few weeks ago, and I’m proud to release this video to you today:
I hope you enjoyed it and maybe even learned a thing or two!
The best images from my MD-80 collection
Like I said in the video, I’m going to miss the MD-80 because of how unique and/or peculiar it is, especially compared to today’s jets.  Photographically, there’s really not a bad angle of the jet!  I’ve loved all the random moments I’ve had with this special bird over the years with my camera in tow.
From getting to spend some time in an MD-80 which had just finished maintenance during my tour of American’s overnight operations …
…to the many times I’ve photographed the MD-80 while planespotting, it’s just a special aircraft to me.
From time to time I’m lucky enough to have some resources available to charter a helicopter and go flying around the DFW area.  One of my favorite stops is DFW Airport.  Just yesterday was one of my favorite flights of all-time because I realized it was probably the last time I’d see DFW so full of MD-80s.
Just as the flight was winding down, we saw an MD-80 being pushed back from the gate, a perfect metaphor for its retirement tomorrow.  The rest of the American fleet stood at the ready while the MD-80 was taking its leave after a long career.
I convinced the pilot to stay in the air just a little bit longer (ok in truth I was chartering the heli so I could really do whatever I wanted, was just trying to keep costs down) and we followed the MD-80 as it made its way to runway 17R at DFW, lined up, and began its takeoff roll.  My pilot put me in the perfect spot to capture the takeoff, it was one of the coolest experiences of my photographic life!
The Final Goodbye
Tomorrow is the day.  American’s final revenue (meaning “paid-passenger carrying”) flight is AA80 from DFW-ORD.  I have plenty of friends making their way to Dallas today in anticipation of the flight tomorrow…but I won’t be joining them on that flight.
American is hosting a retirement celebration for employees, special guests, and media at the boneyard at Roswell, New Mexico, tomorrow afternoon.  After the AA80 flight leaves, there will be two last MD-80 flights out to Roswell…and I’ll be on the very last passenger-carrying flight!  I look forward to covering the event and taking lots of pictures and video so we can watch together how American says goodbye to a member of the family.
I will miss the MD-80.  Like I said in the video, I’ll miss it much more because it represents a significant portion of my flying life and now that will be in the past.  Much like my old middle school being demolished years ago, watching something move from our present to our past can be bittersweet.  Instead of being too sad, though, I will choose to be happy and grateful for all the memories aboard this beautiful jet and the memories from the special places to which it brought me.  May it always have clear skies and smooth air.
What is your favorite memory flying the MD-80?  Are you going to miss it?  Tell me in the comments below!
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