MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the Boeing 717 took to the skies for the first time from Long Beach, California in 1998.

The type began life as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 and was first launched at the Paris Air Show in 1991. Created as a replacement for the popular Douglas DC-9, the aircraft was specifically designed for the 100-seat, short-haul, high-frequency market.

The Boeing 717 was originally marketed as the McDonnell-Douglas MD-95 before the company merged with Boeing in 1997. (Image: Airways Library/The Airchive)

Initial Orders


In October 1995, US-low-cost carrier ValuJet (J7) placed an order for 50 of the type, with options on a further 50. However, further orders were slow to emerge.

When Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged in 1997, many in the industry believed this would spell the end of the aircraft. However, Boeing decided to press ahead, re-designating the MD-95 and the 717.

The type remained in production for just eight years, with the last example rolling off the Long Beach production line in 1998. 156 had been built.

The MD-95 was redesignated the Boeing 717 following its merger with McDonnell Douglas in 1998. (Photo: Airways Library/The Airchive)

Aviations Best ‘Little Secret’


It proved incredibly popular with both airlines and passengers alike. Hawaiian Airlines (HA) CEO Mark Dunkerley was quoted in 2017 saying, “It’s a great little secret. For what we do here in Hawaii, there’s no better aircraft built today or even on the drawing board.”

Delta Air Lines (DL) remains the largest operator of the 717, which first joined its fleet in 2013. At its peak 91 of the type were in the fleet. It is configured for 110 passengers: 12 in first class, 20 in premium economy, and 78 in economy.

Today DL, HA and Qantas Link (QF) are the only remaining operators of the 717. This is after Spanish carrier Volotea (V7) retired its final example in January 2021.

As of January 2021, Hawaiian Airlines was operating 19 Boeing 717s. (Credits: Aero Icarus)

Featured image: Delta-Boeing-717-N896AT. Photo: Delta Air Lines