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DC-9, MD-80, B717: What’s the difference?

A look at the history of the DC-9 family and what makes each type unique. ( More...

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Deon B 7
The DC-9 family are some Beautiful planes. Never flown on the B717 but MD-80s (-82 and -88) and the DC-9-50 are very smooth rides. Have to admit DC-9-50 is my ALL TIME FAVE
AccessAir 1
I too love the DC9-50!!! My fave of the DC9 models...My second fave of the DC9s is the 10 series....
rholland97 12
Love them. Noisy, smoky, and loud. That's what a jet is supposed to be about. Tree huggers need not apply.
indy2001 4
Once you're on board, it's difficult to tell them apart. Although some 717's have IFE, the lack of TV screens anywhere is a clue. And the DC-9-50's are starting to show wear and tear, but that's mostly because Delta doesn't want to spend unnecessarily on an aircraft that is about to be retired. And they all share the 2-3 seating arrangement in coach that passengers have always preferred. Who wouldn't prefer an aircraft in which fewer than than 20% of all passengers are stuck in the dreaded middle seat? Of course, the airlines would much prefer the 3-3 arrangement that allows more passengers to be crammed onto the aircraft.

Being older and used mostly on short-to-medium-length flights, MD-80's don't have IFE and airlines haven't seen the need to add it. The explosion in personal entertainment devices really makes that a moot point as far as I'm concerned. We've flown AAL MD-80's on KDFW-KSEA and KDFW-KPDX roundtrip flights several times. Those flights are among the longest MD-80 flights, and they are great. My iPod provides plenty of entertainment for the 3-4 hour flights, and my wife loves the chance to read several chapters of her latest novel. And if you really need to use the Internet, most now offer inflight WiFi.

If you peek into the cockpit as you enter or leave, you'll see far more differences there. Although they've been updated somewhat, the DC-9 and MD-80 families were created in the analog 'steam gauge' era. Although they were long ago retrofitted with newer equipment to bring them into the digital age, you can still tell that they were created during a different electronics generation. The 717s' large multipurpose displays, however, tell you that they came into existence after the analog-to-digital revolution had taken place.

In my opinion, there isn't an airliner in existence that looks as good as an MD-80. Just sitting at the gate, it looks like it wants to fly. Luckily, Delta's decision to buy up AirTran's 717 fleet means the last edition of that very popular series is likely to remain active for many years. But it'll be a sad day when AAL and DAL retire their last MD-80's. I hope to have a ticket on one of those final flights.
Brian Bishop 3
The Allegiants of the world will keep em flying long after DAL and AAL retires their older models.
Matt Kladder 1
Hopefully those 717 fly for awhile, delta only bought up the lease that remained for air tran, so they still may be retired in a couple years if delta or someone else doesn't purchase them
Herb Green 4
The MD-90 should have also been discussed in detail in this article. It also has its roots in the baby, DC-9-10, introduced by Delta in 1965. There are really 4 main groups DC-9, MD-80, MD-90, and 717 (formerly MD-95).
EliteAirInc 2
Best planes ever!
aviationman8 2
Nice article. The MD-80 and MD-90 series aircraft were longer than the DC9, thus needing an additional door on the left side and rear of the fuselage. When the B717 was introduced, the fuselage length was reduced which eliminated the need for this door. You can tell the MD-80s from the MD-90s by the engine; MD-80s have a low bypass turbofan and the MD-90s have a higher bypass turbofan (larger engine inlet). The early DC-9s probably had turbojet engines which were smoky and noisey. You had to plug your ears for a DC-9, but not for the MD-90.
JT8Ds on the DC-9/MD80s: much, MUCH noisier than the RR BR715s on the 717. Also considerably less efficient. Still, though, the old 8Ds were great engines.
Joe Darmogray 1
Living near GRR, I get to hear those noisy Delta DC-9s take off. I love 'em. I have flown them quite a bit (DAL & NW). We have Airtran now and I think that the 717 is probably one of the smoothest birds that I've ever flown in..
David Stark 1
Very informative article.
Steader 1
Great article, thanks!
Navy65 1
DC 9 series industry nickname: the Reynold's Wrap rocket. It was a great airplane from the cockpit door forward. After 600 hours in various models, I could not wait to get back to the 727.
Peter Steitz 1
Don't forget the US Air version of the DC-9 called the Vista Jet. This put that old airline in the jet age. Many of the old pilots stayed in that aircraft instead of going to the 737 due to the fact (1) they were the most senior and had great domiciles and schedules. (2) they didn't want to go through the arduous upgrade and maybe have to switch domiciles and possibly loose seniority for bidding.
Engine, tail cone and strake config.
PacMan650 1
I think Delta should take all the Boeing 717's (because I am a SUPER HUGE Boeing fan and a fan of delta) and give them a complete body off fame overhaul. So you have all 717's in Delta's fleet : Give the air frame/structure a look over and a stress test. Or you can replace all fasteners(which includes all the metal or metal fasteners replacement with current technology/metals. Give the plane a fresh coat of paint. Replace engines with longer range, quite and less emissions turbines ( so Boeing can call the plane Boeing 717-200 ER)new seats and a sky interior.

What you have here is an 'investment': A small short or even mid range (7,111 miles to be exact, even more with today's engines) aircraft that can fit at most airports. Delta and Boeing can now get major/super credit for creating jobs, or even putting people back in business, creating small business's, lowering noise and going green and caring about the environment.

All this turns into profit for both Boeing and Delta, which turns into profits for airports, which turns into "simulating" the economy, which turns into hiring new pilots, ect. ect.... What do you people think?
Brian Bishop 1
Not to be rude, I like your thinking in fact, but you're dreaming. They'll be retired, sold off and replaced with -7 and -8 MAX's.
PacMan650 1
Now delta can make more options for passengers. An example would be Burbank airport to Lguardia Airport. Passengers can leave from Burbank because they live no where near LAX


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