10/18/1979: McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Maiden Flight

10/18/1979: McDonnell Douglas MD-80 Maiden Flight

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 made its maiden flight from the manufacturer’s Long Beach, California, site in 1979.

The MD-80 was conceived in October 1977 as a stretched and upgraded version of the Douglas DC-9. Indeed, the type was initially known as the DC-9 ‘Super 80.’

With the type’s entry into service slated for 1980, the improved aircraft design was initially designated as the Series 80, which would be the sixth variant of the first generation.

In October 1977, Swissair (SR) became the launch customer for the Series 80 with the airline’s order for 15 aircraft plus an option for five.

The type was certified on August 25, 1980, and the first airliner was delivered to launch customer SR on September 13, 1980, which introduced it into commercial service on October 10, 1980.

The DC-9 ‘Super 80’ was rebranded as the MD-80 in 1983 for marketing reasons. Photo: SDASM Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Mad Dog’ Variants

McDonnell Douglas produced a number of variants of the airliner: MD-81, MD-82, MD-83, MD-87, and MD-88. The variants saw improvements in performance and range, mainly through upgrades to the type’s Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines. The MD-87 was the shortened version, capable of carrying between 114 and 130 passengers.

The launch dates of the next aircraft models followed in October 1977 for the Series 81 (MD-81), on April 16, 1979, for the Series 82 (MD-82), and on January 31, 1983, for the Series 83 ( MD-83); January 1985 for Series 87 (MD-87) and January 23, 1986, for Series 88 (MD-88), according to MD-80.com

American Airlines (AA) was the first US customer of the ‘Mad Dog’, as the aircraft was nicknamed. The airline received its first jets in October 1982, using the type to replace its Boeing 727-100s.

At its peak in 2002, the MD-80 made up 44% of the airline’s fleet, with 362 in service. Photo: American Airlines

American Airlines Order

After proving to be an effective and cost-efficient replacement for its older airliners, AA placed an order for a further 167 Mad Dogs, at the time the largest airplane order in commercial aviation history. Its final example was retired in September 2019.

In total, 1,191 MD-80s were delivered between 1980 and 1999, when production ended. Do you know why the type was nicknamed Mad Dog? Be sure to leave your comments on our social media channels.

Featured image: Im Hintergrund: Jurakette, hinten Bildmitte: Stockhorn. An MD-81 of the type’s launch operator, Swissair, was certified by the FAA in August 1980.
Photo: Herbert Maeder, ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, CC BY-SA 4.0

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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