Delta retires last DC-9, oldest aircraft in US fleet

Delta Air Lines is retiring its last DC-9s, the oldest passenger plane in the fleet of the large US airlines. McDonnell Douglas delivered the first DC-9s in 1965, and eventually built 976 of them.


Delta retires last DC-9 oldest aircraft in US fleet


Delta Air Lines is retiring its last DC-9s, the oldest passenger plane in the fleet of the large US airlines. McDonnell Douglas delivered the first DC-9s in 1965, and eventually built 976 of them. The aircraft was noteworthy at the time because it was small enough to fly to airports in smaller cities that had previously been served by propeller-driven planes.

Its lowto the-ground profile put its cargo door at about waist height, so ground crews at smaller airports could load it without special equipment. The aircraft flew for Delta, Continental and several smaller regional airlines with the final one slated to fly with Delta having been built in 1978 and going originally to North Central Airlines. The fate of that carrier mirrors the merger wave that rolled through the US airline industry which in this case saw a combination of North Central and other airlines to form Republic Airlines, which merged with Northwest Airlines in the 1980s. Delta bought Northwest in 2008.

In an era where all aircraft have digital instruments, the DC-9 cockpit stands out for its dials. The plane doesn’t have a flight management computer that handles many of the routine flying tasks on newer planes, said Delta’s DC-9 chief line check pilot Scott Woolfrey, who specifically asked to pilot the plane’s last flight. “It’s a pilot’s airplane,” he said before the flight.