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

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.’

The first model was delivered to launch customer Swissair (SR) on September 13, 1980. It entered service a little over a month later. The carrier ordered 15, plus five options at the type’s launch.

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 would go on to produce a number of variants of the airliner: MD-81, MD-82, MD-83, MD-87 and MD-88. The variants saw improvements to performance and range, mainly through upgrades to the types Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines. The MD-87 was the shortened version, capable of carrying between 114 and 130 passengers.

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

After proving to be an effective and cost-efficient replacement for its older airliners. AA went on to order a further 167, 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.

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

Featured image: Swissair was the launch customer of the MD-80. HB-INT is pictured at Birmingham Airport (BHX) in 1990. (Photo: Rob Hodgkins, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)