N849AT - FINAL DC9 FLIGHT
Photo © Gregg Stansbery
Well the day had finally come, the last flight of the old AirTran DC9. I had found out about 2 days before, and just happened to have the day off, so this I could not pass up.
Arrived at the airport about 2 hours early. During check in the agent noticed I paid for business class, but I had a friend switch me to 22A so I could be behind the wing for photos. This poor guy had a nuclear melt down in front of me, he asked me about 5 times if I WAS SURE I wanted to be seated back there, I kept saying yes. Even as I walked away I heard him remark about it to a fellow co-worker....oh well! Security was a b!tch, I did't go off, but they still had to pull everyone aside and probe them and search their stuff....bags, wallets etc etc. Made it through, and stopped at McDonalds for a quick bite to eat. Headed over to my gate about an hour before, and noticed a 717 at the gate. The kicker was it said flight 744 to Atlanta. I started to panic a little, thinking they had cancelled the DC9. A bit later they began boarding, and I think a few others got confused as well with flight 744 on the board. I got in line because if what I thought had happened, I would not take the flight and get a refund. Luckily before I got to the agent, they made an annoucement that it was not flight 744, but they were behind, and did not change the screen. Not too long after the 717 left the gate, I saw the old smoker come lumbering along the taxiway and parked at the gate. Sadly AirTran in Orlando did not made any annoucements about the retirement, nor did they do anything special (not even a water salute! ). With a slight 45 minute delay do to flow control in ATL, we finally boarded the aircraft. In the galley they had some decorations up "Happy Retirement", and F/O Noel had made his own 'certificates' and taped them up front on the walls etc. Once we were about to pushback, Mad Dog came on the speakers and played the harmonica and briefed us about this being the final DC9 flight. We pushed back and quicky headed out to runway 17. Turned on the runway, throttled up to about 50% and held the brakes for a good 5 seconds before releasing and rocketing us down the runway at full power. Mad Dog made a 2 more annoucements inflight about the retirement, and talked about the DC9 for a bit which was cool. The 1 hour flight was pretty uneventful, despite the smell of....'death' (the girl next to me couldn't even describe what the smell was) during desent into ATL. I had been on some ratty AirTran DC9's, but this one was in somewhat OK shape. My overhead light didn't work, and I noticed the skin on the wing close to the fuselage was peeling (could see the green primer or whatever it is). Despite the craptacular weather in ATL, Capt. Mad Dog greased the landing and we made our way to C concourse where we were met by the fire department with a water canon salute (even in the rain! haha). I waited for everyone to deplane and took photos etc and chatted with the crew for a few, even got one of the unofficial last flight certificates Noel made.
Photo © Justin Cederholm
Photo © Justin Cederholm
IMHO, I'm glad to see the DC9 gone from the fleet. It helped AirTran grow after the VJ merger, but their time is done, long live the 717! Should have a few more pics up soon.