DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Boeing rebranded the twin-engine, single-aisle jet airliner McDonnell Douglas MD-95 as the Boeing 717-200 in 1998, following the merger of the two manufacturers on August 1, 1997.
The MD-95 can trace its history back to 1983. McDonnell Douglas conducted a study to fill the gap between the DC-9-30 and the new, larger Super 80 series.
Known as the DC-9-90, it would compete with the newly emerging -100 seat airliners. Sadly, MD dropped the project and shrank the MD-80 to create the MD-87.
The MD-95 is Born
In 1991 MD unveiled the MD-87-105, the last number representing the number of seats. The name was updated to the MD-95 when the airliner was unveiled at the 1991 Paris Air Show. The jet would be used to replace older DC-9s.
However, Boeing’s acquisition of McDonnell Douglas threw the project’s future into question. The MD-95 had yet to reach production and had only received a single order from ValuJet (7J), later AirTran (FL), for 50 airframes plus 50 options.
Right Aircraft, Right Time
But Boeing saw the potential in the new airliner and committed to the long-term production of an MD product under the new owner’s branding.
Speaking at the time, Tom Schick, executive vice president of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group said, “We feel this plane has tremendous potential…the timing is right for this airplane.” Boeing also committed to building the first 50 MD-95s for FL, which may have swayed the decision.
The first Boeing 717 took to the skies on September 2, 1998, before entering service with AirTran a year later. The jet proved a hit. Airlines and passengers were impressed, and Boeing even looked at introducing other versions, such as a larger -300X or the shorter -100X or -100X lite.
Sadly, the impact on the industry following the 9/11 terrorist atrocities led Boeing to look at its aircraft portfolio. Competition in the -100 seat market led to the program’s cancelation in January 2005. The final 717 rolled off the production line in April 2006, after 156 examples had been built.
Featured image: Delta Air Lines N939AT Boeing 717-200 Golden Hour. Photo: Johann Heske/Airways