Background- Our love is an old love
In these tough times, we often cling to things that remind us of ourselves. Cars we’ve driven. Baubles that decorate our houses. Books on our shelves. For me, it’s the MD-80 series, a plane that, for many of you reading this, has interwoven itself deep into my life, from my first flights as a child, taking me to see relatives, to college, and even at my job at Flight Service. So when I heard that Delta would have the final flights of any true MadDog, I had to jump on the opportunity.
You can bet that the venerable 5-abreast noise maker had almost become a friend in and of itself. A plane unique enough in today's airline environment to have its own distinctive personality and, some would say, a soul, through which it gained in the millions of miles it taken legions of people every which way.
Delta has published the final flights, and with the help of the [Md80 thread], was able to hone in on the final flight(s). I had initially angled for DAL88 IAD-ATL, but in the time it took to coordinate with the travel buddy, and a.net user UAL763, it had already filled. So it was DAL742 RIC-ATL, and return on DAL2287, a 717-a total t-tail day!Getting There
This was going to be a long one. Since the plane so wanted to take lie a mere mile away too engorged with pax to fit our party of two at Dulles, a 2-hour, 100-mile trek to Richmond it was. An early morning, we jumped into the 'ol VW at 3am to make it to an essentially empty Richmond airport.
Security was a breeze with TSAPRE, and only with a backpack, took all two minutes, the first time. Turns out, my camera fell out, so I had to make the roundtrip to my car, a journey that took all of 15 minutes, gate-car-security-gate. Soon, long walk down an empty corridor would yield the reason we'd gone so far…
Resplendent in the morning light.
It was a wonderfully (and unseasonable) chilly June morning, but the humidity was still there, yielding frost on the 29-year-old workhorse. Having arrived at 515, it allowed us to see the gate area slowly fill, mainly with folks who had no idea of the significance of what they were about to undertake. The Captain and First Officer came to the gate podium and gave a bit of a primer of the situation: that we are the last people to fly on this plane before its long-deserved rest. High time came at 625, and our dance with history.
The Flight DAL742: RIC-ATL
(Planned/Actual-All Times Local)
Departure: 0700/0655, Gate B14
Takeoff: 0710/0706, RWY 16
Landing: 0756/0816, RWY 08L
Arrival: 0836/0824, Gate A4 (Where the last, *last* MD88 flight would dock) A view of our routeBoarding, Pushback
Everyone got quickly seated, as mask compliance was completed at the boarding door in the terminal. The light load, and the ample time for boarding gave me plenty of time to appreciate the cabin of the well-maintained, but well-traveled ship.
Modern leather, older frame.
Used to be a galley.
Most airlines opted for the black PSU, but Delta kept it light. Amazing it’s this clean.
Been waiting a long while to walk down the aisle.
The flight crew gave an efficient safety demo, and the pilots came on once again with the announcement of our flight into history, being the final folks that N978DL would carry for pay. It was wonderful to hear the start of those mighty JT8D’s one last time (CLICK FOR VIDEO)
A quick taxi into history. Taxi and Takeoff
Taxi was a quick affair. A taxi is a taxi, but on an MD-80, it’s a loud and wonderful experience as could be. For the MD-80, however, it’s all about the takeoff (CLICK FOR VIDEO)
Man, what a takeoff, it was! A full-power, full-noise affair that was music to my ears! Flightaware show that when we first caught radar, we were already 90degrees into our 130 degree turn, and already 1,200AMSL (1,100FT AGL, roughly)-and that was at the airport fence. It was a takeoff like the best I remember from the MD-80: a 30-45 degree angle to the sky, and being joyfully pushed back into my seat.
Look at how much altitude we gained! Like, dang!
Downtown Richmond, from 7,000 feet already.Climbout and Cruise
Climbout was good and powerful as our mighty steed pierced through the cloud deck, and we arose to the vast, clear blue sky. Like many aviators before, we were to take our place in the great azure to enjoy the fruits of many people’s labor: the designers, to the laborers who made our ship (like my sophomore high-school bus driver, Mr. P, who riveted 978’s nose), the rampies, FAs, pilots and ATC. Yes, all those efforts cumulating to let us see the spectacular dreamland so many have yearned over the eons on this fine day.
Out from the first layer, now higher!
Reflecting on a long career and journey.
Admiring the modified flap hinge trailing edge. Basically the MD-90/717 ones that save drag.
Inflight and cruise –as all to brief it was—was a treat. Delta still serves a snack pack with water, so points there. They come in two flavors, one with the Biscoff and one with the KIND bar. It’s nice to see something still being served. While I love the thrum of the dual JT8D’s, they always became backup singers for whatever music I would play, and today would be no different. I walked around and talked with the two other AvGeeks and visited the lavatory one last time to say I was part of the last lav dump. It was one of the smoothest flights I’ve had, nary a bump or crosswind to sully an already sublime, sentimental and Super (80) experience.
Row 32 is best known for the double windows. Perfect for today!
Cleanest bathroom in a moving vehicle I’ve seen in a long time. Silver lining to Covid.
In-flight service and practicing for when Rocky Horror Picture Show
shadowcasting comes back.
Passenger Shaming usually keeps my feet off the seats, but today, I needed to remember how spacious the MD was. Decent and Landing
It seemed like too soon we began our decent into ATL from the northeast. The captain gave a nice little primer on how much our plane had flown, how many years old it was, and where it was going after. Many folks on the flight were quite surprised to hear just how elderly it is, but were also impressed at how well-kept it was, too. We swung in from the northeast, did a nice, long downwind to ATL RWY 8L, and began the final, which was hand-flown, and very smooth.
One last time over downtown Atlanta for this old girl.
Fulton County Airport (KFTY), one of many that lie claim to being an “Atlanta-area” aerodrome.
As if to be reaching once more for the sky it dominated.
Flaps get lower, engine gets more thrust. #induceddrag
You could seemingly reach that water tower.
The ground rushes closer, and so does the end of 978’s career.The landing was perfect (CLICK FOR VIDEO)
. Loud, full reverse thrust, and braking brought us to taxi speed. If there was a way to end a plane’s days flying, this was it. Behind us was N902DE, the flight from Norfolk, VA (DAL905)
, making us smack dab in the middle of the final parade of legacy McD planes into ATL. Taxi and Post-Flight
Taxi in was a non-event, as the airport was saving water for the final flight, DAL88. We, took the long way, down Bravo to the cement wall, and onto the Ramp 1 alleyway, to dock at gate A4 (CLICK FOR VIDEO)
. Our planes were the belle of the ball, with rampers and ops taking pictures, avgeeks looking at our parade from the terminal with their cameras.
The ORF flight.
I know the cement wall is safe, but it still makes me a bit anxious with the wingtip.
Onto the relatively unbusy 1 ramp.
Make way, 757. Sadly, your day shall come, as well.
The final marshalling in.
Info for the next outbound-the final MD-90, from IAH.
Well, that’s it. “She got is this far. That’s good enough.”
Finally! A look into the stilled turbojet.
While she didn’t get the biggest celebration before being done, she had many people aboard who appreciated her for the career, the millions of miles flown, and the stories in people’s like she helped create. So, that was it for dear 978, and a lifetime of memories onboard the MadDog for me. UAL763 and I, by the virtue of being at the back, were the last two off the plane, and visited the cockpit. Our pilots were most appreciative of the enthusiasm, and were more than willing to chat. Luckily, they are off to the 737, so other than the wait for class, they’re not out of the job, so I am thankful for that.
KLASM83 approves of this airplane!
Overhead panel detail.
Lower center pedestal, set up for the last flight.
Got some cool info cards!
One last parting shot before we left. An icon!
Thank you for the flights, the memory, and bringing the hope of “Summer”
to this year. Blue Skies and a tailwind, noble steed!
The Final MD-90 and MD-90 FlightsThe MD-90, N925DN
The year 2020, is much like an episode of Colombo, where the titular detective states “and one more thing”. Barring that being too old of a reference, it’s Billy Mays going “But wait, there’s MORE!” The last day of MadDog ops was no exception, but thankfully for the better. UAL763 and I watched the last MD-90 come in, and after deboarding, were graciously let on for a quick gander to explore, and climb into the flight deck there. That flight crew was equally accommodating and nice. Unlike our MD-88 crew, the MD-90 captain was retiring. He loved the stage lengths of the MD8/9 at Delta, and figured this was a good time to hang up his wings. He would later take ship 9225 to BYH. A stylish ride, indeed. Thank you Capt. Eifert for being gracious!
Delta OPS waiting for their last MD-90 to come home.
978’s tail, poking up above A2.
Waiting for the final 90. (We get it, you vape).Freshly in from IAH as DAL90
Looking into the IAE V2500 Engine.
The face of a well-worn trav’ler
I’ll always be in awe of how well-kept they were (mostly lol)
I think I liked the MD-90 sidewall better.
Downgraded to First Officer, but for a great reason!
Know your limits!
Always wanted to look out an open MD window.
MD-90 center pedestal
UAL763 in the pointy end!
UAL763: “How does the standby mag compass mirror work?”
Standby mag compass mirror.
That leads to another mirror where you should be able to see the compass.
MD-90 Upper Overhead PanelThe MD-88, N900DE
Alas, time for the main event, the grand finale! Delta’s final MD-88 landed from Dulles (KIAD) as flight 88
. This would be the one where both pomp and circumstance would meet. Sadly, when docked at the gate, unless you’re getting deported, this is the end of all legacy MadDog ops in the US of A would be done. Gate A4, where 978 had docked, was to become the center of attention.
A large crowd gathered at the space between A4 and A6, with many a passer-by confused at unusually large gathering. After a bit of waiting, N900DE –fresh from a water salute—came into view, made her last turn into the gate, and shut down, surrounded on the ramp by tons of Delta folks on the ground and observed by an orbiting R44 above. As we waited for folks off of DAL88 to deplane, I overheard an announcement that they were going to have a ramp tour, and to line up by gate A6. Well, water is wet, and I’ll *never* miss a ramp opportunity, especially of my favorite (retired) aircraft.
It was an honestly a surreal experience, being on the ramp at a major international airport. Justin, our escort, was helpful and made sure we all had vests and earplugs. After a nice walkaround, we were put on a Delta van to south ticketing, to go through security again. Worth it.
Thanks for the ride, 978. Rest easy.
Freshly in from Dulles/IAD is Delta’s flight 88
Two of a rare, thinning breed.
The tail of ship 9000, the 100th MD-88 Delta got.
Wait, they’re letting us on the ramp? Wow. Justin seems like the chipper fellow.
She looks so clean and dignified!
Next destination: history.
ALWAYS boop the snoot.
Cheesy airplane pose. “Boy, do I have a LIKE NEW MD-88 to sell YOU" #tinderpic
They didn’t stop me from getting this angle, so, why not?
Leading Edge detail. Slat’s neat!
I’m all about that landing light detail.
The R44, soaking up all it can of the MD-88 as well.
Trailing edge looky-loo.
As my friend Sabrina says: “You chasing tail again?” Yes, lady, I am lol
A scene to be never replicated: ATL T-tails with MD-80s.
Looking up the aft of the right JT8D. Wouldn’t want to be here at takeoff thrust!
Thank you for the years of memories and miles, MadDogs. I’ll miss those ”Bygone Days
Another gratuitous airplane angle.
One last look before we step into the van.
I suppose that’s it, goodbye! As Paul Valéry once said: “Le vent se lève! . . . Il faut tenter de vivre!”… “The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!”
.The Rest of the Day
Once I was done being a sentimental fool, and through security very quickly (yay TSAPRE!), it was back airside. UAL763 and I had about 2 more hours to kill before we got back to a flight to Richmond, or so we thought. We setup camp in the F gates to planespot, and observe the last MD-90 flight depart. After, we headed for a snack, noting that the A gates were the only thing with food, after trying the C gates. From there, we got to see N900DE depart, and then went to our gate for the flight back to RIC.
I do IHOP after Rocky Horror
, why you gotta follow me here?
Not the same as being on the ramp, but still cool to be level with the airplane.
They’ll need this bar a lot less, now. In from Kennedy earlier today
, for a day-long sit in ATL.
Looking into the GE-90110B of N709DN
Who is that peeking through the haze? It’s the last MD-90.
Caught mid wing-wave, Capt. Eifert gives a nice show out to Blytheville
Back to terminal A to see N900DE depart. Had to run for this one.
The byone days of aviation, with two examples of the “now” of aviation in back.
Practice shot. I do like the 717’s.
Smokey and going up like an elevator, also to BYH
“Let's say goodbye, adieu.
Big plane, short route: ATL-TPAGoing Home-Delta 2287
(Planned/Actual-All Times Local)
Departure: 1416/1550, Gate A9
Takeoff: 1426/1604, RWY 26L
Landing: 1530/1714, RWY 16
Arrival: 1545/1719, Gate B14 (how full circle) A View of our route
T-tail triple play, today!Boarding, Pushback, Delay
This was the part of the day what was a blur. I work mids/graveyard, and had been up about 24 hours at this point. Our 2002 717-2BD was still in good condition, except for one thing-some random plastic panel that couldn’t fit right. A 15 minute delay became 30 minutes, and after that I passed out, the hum of the APU lulling me to sleep for another 30-45 minutes while we sat at the gate. Luckily, they figured out the problem, and we didn’t have to change planes, however the flight, which was blocked for 1.5 hours, had been delayed for 1.5 hours. I didn’t mind that, honestly, because I got to sleep, and more t-tail time is good, even if you are passed out for a good part of the delay (bonus!). Multiple passes of water were given by flight attendants, very helpful in the dry airplane.Ship 393 to MIA.
The A321 is a handsome airplane. Not MD-80 cool, though.
Very light flight.
The 717 interior. Very much like it!
Just in from Fort Lauderdale as Delta flight 2086
The auto-dock things are cool!!
*passes out* *wakes up* Well, it’s been 30 minutes, might as well get an aisle shot.
Oh wow, we’re going now! Yay!Taxi and Takeoff
A silver lining to COVID is that traffic is way down, so the taxi was quick. Takeoff was the usual MD-like: lots of uumph and point her to the sky. Even at a derate, it’s still a wonderful ride into the heavens. Southwest, heading Southeast
.See you in Saint Louie, Screwy!
To Valdosta, GA for this stubby little CRJ
I love the ATL runway dip.
I’ve done plenty of that!
Man, the departure deck angle never fails to impress.
Stereotypical ATL shot.Climbout and Cruise
Delta is a good airline from a service perspective. They gave us the snack packs on boarding, which is a good idea, especially for the light load this airplane had. Once again, it was a clear day when we got to altitude, giving a nice perspective of the Southeast US. I listened to music, and pondered as the world went by.
In-flight service, pre-served!
Legroom for a almost-6-foot person. Definitely dig the in-seat power.
Yes, I listened to Bob Marley’s ”Sun Is Shining”
I do like these two-window rows.Decent, Landing and Parking
Very soon, the power was pulled back on the dual BR715’s. It was going to be a landing on our RWY16 that we leapt off of this morning. ATC swung us west and north of Richmond and we got into RIC. Of note, we flew over the I95/295 interchange, where the new hotel for RavenCon 2021
will be. A welcome sight, seeing it got cancelled like most things have this year. I guess they’re doing some work, as they had us do a taxiback on the runway to cross RWY20 and into our gate-basically mirroring the way we left some 9 hours before.
Getting close to ground again!
Checking out the western suburbs of Richmond.
Those brown-roofed buildings near bottom center left? New home of Ravencon 2021
Richomd is very flat. Kinda reminds me of North Dakota/Minnesota.
No rest at this hotel.
Looking through the spoilers to the runway.
Just before our 180 turn.
Swing your plane, dosey doe, bring ‘er around, and off we go!
Interesting place for vortex generators. Probably to energize airflow into the engines at high AOA, perhaps?
Weird place to catch a bus. In from Hunter AAF
, and unloading, N596NW turns to Wheeler-Sack, next.
Ending it where it all began-B14.
Empty Richmond Terminal[/img]Epilogue Our paths have crossed and parted
It was bittersweet. While COVID certainly sped up what was probably going to happen either later this year, or next year, the abrupt moving up of the MD retirement adds to the growing list of things/events this Black Swan of an event has claimed, outside of the actual human toll.
As with beloved pets, anyone who grows an affinity for a vehicle tends append any number of human-like qualities, if only to contextualize its existence in our lives. Some would go as far to say it has a soul, or a personality. From cars to planes, to boats, and many other vehicles, we deeply think on where they have taken us, and where we will go, reflecting on our own lives as we do. The Mad Dog is no different, and one can say it acquired a unique soul via the millions of people it flew.
Jessica Harper, in her song ”Old Souls”
from Phantom of the Paradise
captured my feeling of the day quite well, in that “They gave us a new life to live and learn/ Some time to touch old friends and still return.” Getting one last flight on a plane that has taken me coast to coast, life event to life event, birth to now, and be the last folks on ship 978 was certainly special. Understandably, there was no cake, no certificates, but rather, memories to last a lifetime. Thanks for making the finale of your workhorse special, Delta. It was special to us, too.All souls last forever so we need never fear goodbyeThe End
My many thanks for reading! Have a nice day!