I have to disagree with you on your point. The decision was a smart move back in 1997 for various reasons:
1) Already undertaking a major fleet renewal program at the time. NW
was playing catch up back from the period in the early 90's and their financial melt-down. At the time they were taking deliveries of A320's, 757's, 747-400's, Saab 340's, ARJ
's, and also still acquiring used DC-10-30's for trans-Atlantic ops. NW
hadn't yet begun to receive A319's and CRJ's that were on order. NW
was undergoing a huge route expansion during this time also. Their fleet priorities were as follows: #1-retire the 727-200, #2 retire the DC-10-40's from domestic, #3 retire the DC-10-30's from trans-Atlantic. These 3 aircraft types had 3-person crews which was additional cost that could be eliminated. The 727's directly overlapped with the A320, an easy simplication. NW
knew they would have to order a DC-10 replacement soon. They also knew 742's were getting older and would likly need to be replaced shortly thereafter. They simply couldn't tackle the DC-9 fleet at the same time.
2) No suitable replacement aircraft at the time. NW
hadn't taken delivery of the A319 yet. The A318 was only a concept. Didn't want the MD
-90, nor the planned MD
-95, since the 717 wasn't named yet. Large RJ
'? No one had heard of them back then. To add to your above comment, NW
will never operate a 737NG since they already operate the A319/A320 family.
3) No resale value / second hand market. Who would want 170 DC-9's? Not only that, you would dilute what little resale value they had in the first place. Since you own them, its not like you can just turn them back to the lease company and it becomes their responsiblity to determine the fate of the aircraft.
4) Low cycles: The majority of aircraft were not that old and had low cycles for their age. The -50's are only sightly older than the oldest MD
-80's. These were some of the last -9's off the line in the late 70's and early 80's. In 1997, the -50's hadn't even turned 20 yet. The oldest of the 9's in the fleet, the -10's and 30's, were just turning 30.
5) Low operating costs: Unlike other aircraft of its timeperiod, the DC-9 only requires a 2-person crew. Fuel burn may be higher, but NW
has reduced the average stage length of DC-9 flights. Longer routes that were typically flown by -9's have been taken over by the A319. For flights under ~1000 miles, the DC-9 is still as economical as other aircraft. The DC-9 only costs about $1900 per block hour to operate.
People on here always knock NW
for their old fleet, but guess what, they have new aircraft too!!!!!!! like A319, A320, 757-200, 757-300, 747-400, CRJ
's, and even the Saab's are young. A330's are coming too. With only the DC-9's and the decreasing role of the 742 left, there is little to say for NW
having an old fleet.
The DC-9 "2000" plan was a smart and conservate move on the part of management, as after all things considered it proved to be the best option. Its alot better than having to deal with additional lease payments and financing for the time being.