American Airlines celebrated an end of an era Wednesday with its final flight of an MD-80 passenger jet, a workhorse that once accounted for half its fleet.
Over the last 37 years, Fort Worth-based American carried 84 million passengers on 362 of the McDonnell Douglas-built aircraft, a third of all the aircraft ever built by the manufacturer. The jet, also known as the Super 80, or Mad Dog by aviation enthusiasts, carried about 140 passengers per flight and was the last aircraft to be flying the airline's polished aluminum tri-color livery.
The final MD-80 flight from DFW Airport left Wednesday morning and landed in Roswell, New Mexico, home of a plane "graveyard" for aircraft that will never fly again.
Retired pilot John Wilt, who was among the passengers, said the retirement was "very nostalgic."
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American's chief pilot, Capt. Bruce Taylor, guided the plane on its last trip. On board were a group of airline workers, reporters and retirees.
"Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck this is your captain," Taylor said. "We'd like to welcome everyone on board. How about giving me a big holler out for the MD80s."
The flight to New Mexico was short.
Inside a hangar at the Roswell airport, Wilt remembered all the MD-80 flights he piloted as the airline added cities and created the system of hubs it still uses today.
"Flying the Super 80, it was like an adventure," he said. "Each day was an adventure, each flight was an adventure."
The carrier's top executive spoke of the plane's importance.
"We're here to retire an airplane, but this airplane is about people and what this airplane has meant to the people of American Airlines," Doug Parker said.
Brian Kilian, a third-generation airline employee, agreed.
"It's a definitive symbol of my childhood," he said. "I've never existed in the world without an American Airlines Super 80 until now."
The MD-80 was manufactured by St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas at its facility in Long Beach, California.