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

Jim Burress Jan 6, 2014
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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.

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