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After four decades, Delta's DC-9 jets make final landing


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    Capt. Scott Woolfrey sits in Delta's DC-9 simulator. He will pilot flight DL2014 on Monday, Jan. 6th between Minneapolis and Atlanta. It's the last scheduled flight of Delta's DC-9 fleet.

    - Jim Burress

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    The cockpit of the DC-9 lacks many of the modern electronics of its counterparts. Pilots say it's a plane that keeps them busy, unlike other planes that almost fly themselves.

    - Jim Burress/Marketplace

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    Delta flight attendant Robin Barnes says she’s sad to see the DC-9 go. “It’s flight attendant friendly,” she says because of its size and layout.

    - Jim Burress/Marketplace

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    A Delta gate agent readies flight 2494 at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This flight to Akron/Canton is one of the last for Delta’s 36-year-old DC-9.

    - Jim Burress/Marketplace

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    The DC-9’s Pratt and Whitney JT8D engines make their presence known. The loud roar of the engines on take-off leave little question as to what aircraft they’re attached. 

    - Jim Burress/Marketplace

Delta Air Lines is the last domestic carrier to fly the DC-9, and one final Delta flight this Monday afternoon will mark the close of the plane’s nearly half-century run.    

Most passengers about to board Delta flight 2494 from Atlanta to Akron a few days ago had no idea their jet was built during the Carter administration.

When 44-year-old Scott Smith learns of the plane’s age, his face lights up.

“I think it’d be fantastic,” the Canton, Ohio native says.“I remember when I was a little kid I would get those -- they don’t do this anymore -- but you could go to the cockpit and they’d give you these little metal planes. And I’d collect them.”  

A lot’s changed in aviation since then. Like the planes. Today’s jets almost fly themselves, but the DC-9 definitely does not.

Delta Captain Scott Woolfrey will fly the airline’s final DC-9 flight. He said because pilots have to always be “hands-on,” most enjoy the plane more than other commercial aircraft. 

“A lot of pilots here at Delta have a sentimental attachment to the aircraft,” he says. “It was their first right seat check out or first left seat checkout.”  

The DC-9 was designed for short, frequent routes. It brought jet service to most U.S. cities for the first time. Delta launched the airplane 1965, but sold the fleet in the early 90s to smaller carriers. When Delta merged with Northwest Airlines in 2008, Delta got some of the DC-9s back

“It’s been a workhorse,” says Robin Barnes, a Delta flight attendant for three decades. She says interior upgrades mean most passengers can’t tell the plane’s vintage. “The give-away being if you look in the cockpit, the framework is still robin’s egg blue,” she notes. “But they still run great. I’m kind of sorry to see them go. I like working on them.”  

The DC-9’s final domestic passenger flight is number 2014. It takes off from Northwest’s former base -- Minneapolis/St. Paul -- and lands at Delta’s current headquarters in Atlanta.

About the author

Jim Burress is a reporter for WABE in Atlanta.
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Delta is also flying the Boeing 717 along with the MD-88 and MD-90 - all of which are DC-9 derivatives. They may no longer carry the Douglas Company name, but their reign is not over!

This is correct, technically, but Hawaiian Air is still flying the Boeing 717, a DC9 derivative that Boeing got and renamed when they bought McDonnell Douglas. Douglas built the finest, most durable airliners in the sky, and moved commercial airlines into the realm of every day life experience for millions of passengers. It lives on in the 717!

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