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Saying Goodbye To The DC-9 on its Final Scheduled Flight With Delta

Delta Flight 2014, the final scheduled DC9 flight, pushed back from the gate at MSP. (Photo: Chris Spradlin)

Delta flight 2014, the final scheduled DC-9 (reg N773NC) flight, pushed back from the gate at MSP – Photo: Chris Spradlin

It was a cold day in Minneapolis, the coldest in decades. Despite the bitter temperatures, spirits were high at Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport (MSP) as Delta Air Lines was preparing to operate their final scheduled McDonnell Douglas DC-9 flight. As the aircraft touched down after the first flight of a two-leg ceremonial routing, the sendoff began and the DC-9 would soon be history.

A small gathering of Delta pilots, flight attendants, and tech ops were on hand to say goodbye to an old friend. A banner commemorating the DC-9 was hung on the wall for all to sign as passengers and employees indulged in the decorative DC-9 cakes. Before boarding, a ground operations employee shared some final thoughts about the DC-9, slipping up and saying “on behalf of Northwest Airlines,” which really sums up the history of the DC-9 at Delta.

Born 48 years ago, the DC-9 has outlived many other fleet types since its introduction with Delta in 1965. The DC-9 was once before retired from the Delta fleet in 1993, but was introduced again in 2008 after the merger with Northwest Airlines. Northwest also inherited their DC-9s via a merger, this time with Republic Airlines in 1986. The airframe which operated the final flight, N773NC, started its life with North Central Airlines in 1978.

As flight 2014 rolled to the runway at MSP, its replacements lurked around every corner. The DC-9 is to be replaced with more fuel-efficient aircraft, such as the Boeing 717, which you may call the great-great-grandchild of the DC-9. Before takeoff, the flight crew made a few brief announcements about the special flight, and the DC-9 rocketed into the sky once more.

BONUS: Delta Begins Receiving Boeing 717s

The flight itself was rather low-key as there were only a small handful of media and aviation enthusiasts on board. Most passengers had no idea of the significance of the flight they were on. Towards the back of the DC-9, enthusiasts peered out the windows to the roaring Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofan engines as the sun set. Throughout the flight, the crew made a few special announcements about the history of the aircraft, and had a surprise waiting for passengers before approaching Atlanta – champagne for all! Sipping champagne in a real glass in the economy cabin of a DC-9 was a real throwback, and the passengers clearly enjoyed this perk.

As the flight touched down at Atlanta, a few passengers gave the DC-9 three cheers and a round of applause. Further applause was heard as the cabin crew announced that as this was the final flight of the aircraft, passengers were free to take all the safety cards they wanted. Needless to say, I cleared out my row.

Once at the gate, the flight crew opened up the flight deck for a peek at just how old school this aircraft really is. The DC-9 is about as far from a glass cockpit as you can get. Despite the aircraft’s old age, Delta has done an amazing job keeping the interior up to date. Most passengers would never be able to tell the difference between a newly delivered 717 and a 36-year-old DC-9. Delta even installed in-flight WiFi on the DC-9 fleet a few years back, which is amazing considering “internet” wasn’t even a word when the aircraft was built.

In Concourse A at ATL, the crews said their final goodbyes, and went home to prepare for a day of work on a different aircraft. Some will go to the MD-88, others will find themselves in in a much larger aircraft such as the 757 or 767-300ER. The DC-9 will remain on standby with Delta through the end of the month to assist in irregular operations as needed, but scheduled flights for the DC-9 at Delta are no more. So long, old friend. Take a break, you’ve earned it.

    Jason Rabinowitz – Senior Contributor 

Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true "AvGeek", he enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft.

 @AirlineFlyer | Facebook 

15 comments to Saying Goodbye To The DC-9 on its Final Scheduled Flight With Delta

  • Still a poorly designed cockpit. Who would hide the DG directly behind the yoke?

    As several pilots have told me, they thought the perfect commercial plane would’ve been designed by Lockheed, built by Boeing and marketed by McDonnell Douglas….

    Awesome story!

  • Rob

    I loved working the DC-9’s at RC MSP. We had them all from the DC-9-10, -30, -50 & -80

  • Pete Chestnut

    I flew all models of the DC-9 in passenger and freight versions. I first met the DC-9 at Eastern Air Lines then instructed and was a check airman on it at UA Jet Airlines. I have accumulated around 9500 hours on this fine aircraft. To Jamess who commented about the ADI or flight director directly behind the yoke either has never flown the DC-9 or any onther airline aircraft. the location never presented any problems. My only comment was either Northwest or USA Jet removed the Collins FD-109 flight director and replaced it with the FD-108. The DC-9 had good flight characteristics except the -14 & -5 models tended to float if too much speed was carried on approach.
    Great airplane!!

  • Rick

    Flew the DC-9 as a frequency flyer for many years between Pennsylvania and Atlanta on Delta. It was my favorite plane, especially liked the way it handled turbulence. On one flight, it was so smooth and the winds were just right. The captain got on and stated “welcome to the corvette of airliners, and we’re going to show you when we get to Atlanta in record time !!!!”. He was right, and he greased the landing.

    Since then, been on all the grandchildren, like the MD80, the MD88, MD90, and the 717, but I like the original the best.

  • dan

    by far the DC-9 was built to last, way more than 737-200, amazing in 2013 we saw the last ever passenger DC-8 flight (ATI) the last DC-10 passenger flight (Bangladesh air)and the last ever MD-11 passenger flight (KLM)…and apparently the last passenger 707 flight in IRAN…

  • Andrew

    What was the final flight (MSP to where)? You mentioned the “two leg ceremonial routing,” but I didn’t see specific cities mentioned…seems like the most important piece of information!

  • I belive the final 2 legs were DTW-MSP, Then MSP-ATL. Flt 1965 and Flt 2014

  • John G

    Not to be a wet blanket, but in reality, Delta still flies hundreds of DC-9s. They’re just called MD-88’s, MD-90’s, and Boeing 717’s.

    Look at this picture, an MD-88.

    http://www.airplane-pictures.net/photo/300409/n906dl-delta-air-lines-mcdonnell-douglas-md-88/

    It’s the same plane. It’s just that the company that made them was bought out, then that company was bought by Boeing. The plane’s appearance isn’t any different. That DC-9 is the same basic plane as a 717…just like a 737-200 built in 1969 is the same basic plane as a 737-800 or 900.

    I tend to wax nostalgic when plane types disappear, such as when the last old DC-8 freighters went away…or as airlines retire their 747’s. But not when it’s just one variant of the same airplane.

  • Jeff Mueller

    Great Story, when I was refueling aircraft for Signature Flight Support at MSP, the DC-9 was my favorite aircraft to refuel. The fuel gauges in the wing were analog and stopped on a dime when I released the fuel pump handle, unlike the digital gauges on the A320 and B757.

    I always loved delivering the fuel slip to the cockpit and marveling at the old school flight deck.

  • Carlos

    The DC-9 family of aircraft were built to last. The airframes built in Long Beach are among the strongest in the world. Had a chance to work on these aircraft when Northwest was refurbishing the North Central/Republic fleet via what was called an “M” check and the 2000 interiors. They also purchased and refitted DC-9 30’s and 50’s from defunct Midway and Eastern. N402EA, a DC-9-50 was recently retired by Delta and was the last Eastern DC-9 to ever fly.

  • Kevin

    Was proudly in seat 14A on DL2014. What a wonderful celebration and a proper send-off! Thanks for sharing the article, video, and photos.

  • Walter

    Delta DC-9-50s are still flying the line until either Jan 22nd or Jan 26th. The recent “final” flights 2014/1963 were for ceremonious events.

  • those beautiful old jets.we had them in australia and flew on them quite a few times,that engine sound ,i ccan still hear it and they looked so good,

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