October 7, 2022
Today in Aviation: Maiden Flight of the MD-90
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: Maiden Flight of the MD-90

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the McDonnell Douglas (MCD) MD-90 aircraft took to the skies for its maiden flight in the year 1993. 

The longest of the DC-9/MD-80 family, development of the -90 had begun back in the early 1980s. The single-aisle medium-range jet had an advanced flight deck. This included “an electronic flight instrument system (EFIS), a full flight management system, a state-of-the-art inertial reference system, and LED dot-matrix displays for engine and system monitoring.”

Pictured here is the Pratt & Whitney/Allison 578-DX prototype propfan hybrid engine. (Photo: Ron Kawai, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

‘Propfan’ Engine Proposal

Initially, McD looked at powering the MD-90 with two ‘propfan’ engines. Also known as open rotor engine or uneducated fan, the ‘propfan’ was a hybrid engine, half turbofan, half turboprop.

But it soon became evident that this engine choice would not be viable for the new airliner. Thus MCD opted for the International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500 turbofan.

An estimated US$1m cheaper than the propfan engine, the power plant change allowed MCD to secure its first order just six weeks later. 

Delta’s final MD-90 flight appropriately numbered DL90, arrived in Atlanta from Houston on June 2, 2020. The type had carried more than 750 million passengers. (Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

Launch Customer

Delta Airlines (DL) placed an order for 50 of the type, with options on a further 110 on November 14, 1989. DL planned to use the type to replace its aging Boeing 727 fleet. This allowed MCD to launch the project formally. 

Delta took delivery of its first -90 on February 24, 1995. Two further examples followed for the type’s entry into service, which took place on April 2, 1995. The jets were initially based at DL’s Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) base. The type would remain in service with the airline until June 2, 2020.

Production of the type ended in 2000 after 116 examples had been built. 

Featured image: N908DA. Photo: Eddie Maloney from North Las Vegas, USA – N908DA, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31881653

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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