MIAMI — After nearly a month’s delay, Delta is scheduled to launch Boeing 717 service this coming Friday October 25, 2013. Atlanta-Newark will be the first route with 3 daily round trips replacing DC-9-50 and Airbus A320 equipment. The first flight date has slipped from September 19th due to certification issues and the federal government shutdown, and could still shift again. Last week, Delta’s first 717 was delivered from AAR Aviation in Miami. The second 717, N988AT Ship 9541, is due to be delivered in days from Miami. The aircraft, built in 2001, was originally delivered to AirTran in April 2002. In related news, Delta’s last DC-9-50 flights are currently scheduled at this time to occur on January 5, 2014 between Atlanta, St Louis, Birmingham, and Savannah. Delta was the original launch customer for the DC-9, which entered service back in 1965, nearly 50 years ago. Though Delta retired the last of their original DC-9s years ago, the current crop of the DC-9s came over from Northwest in the 2008 merger. MD-90s and MD-88s, descendants of the original DC-9, will soldier on for a number of years, particularly the newly acquired MD-90s.
The long awaited day has finally come; Delta has taken delivery of their first Boeing 717. The official date was earlier this week on October 7th, when the first of 88 airplanes officially changed hands from Southwest to Delta. The airplane wasn’t flown home to Atlanta, however, until yesterday. The first delivery hopefully signals a coming end to a long string of delays Delta has faced while trying to bring the 717s online.
Delta has been forced to repeatedly delay the 717s entry into the fleet due to unspecified issues. Unconfirmed rumors have centered on certification issues. The current date is set for November 1st. still on ATL-EWR though this could change, due to a variety of factors including the government shutdown. The aircraft have been getting overhauled from their former AirTran interiors to Delta’s at a third-party maintenance facility in Miami where Delta is installing new seats and cabin fixtures from B/E Aerospace among other suppliers.
Ultimately the 717 will function in part as a replacement for the venerable Douglas DC-9s, which the airline acquired via their merger with Northwest. The staunch ‘dirty niners’ are expected to make their last runs on January 5th or 6th. The rest of the airplanes will replace other 50 seat regional aircraft as part of an ongoing fleet renewal program. Delta’s 2nd 717, pictured here undergoing final conversion in Miami, is due for delivery next week.
Delta expects to have sixteen airplanes in the fleet by the end of 2013, with the remainder due to trickle in through 2015. 10 of the 717s are owned by Southwest through its subsidiary AirTran, but the 78 are leased from Boeing Capital Corporation, BCC.
Fun fact: Delta will be the only carrier to operate all major variations of the original DC-9 at the same time: DC-9, MD-80, MD-90, and 717. The good times will last about two months, so make sure to collect them all while you can!
The 717 is the first of two aircraft Delta will is scheduled to have entered into their fleet in the first week of November.