In terms of durability, the McDonnell Douglas-80 has more than held its own.

Also known as the Super 80, the MD-80 began flying at American Airlines in 1983, serving six cities. American was the first of the large United States-based airlines to introduce the aircraft to its fleet, and by 2003 it was operating 362 of the planes, representing about one-third of all MD-80s ever produced by McDonnell Douglas.

“That allowed us to use it all over the country, all over to Mexico and into the Caribbean and into Canada,” said Craig Barton, vice president of technical services for American Airlines. “We were flying well over 1,000 to 1,500 flights a day just with this one airplane. Very reliable. Very safe. Very well-maintained.”

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On Wednesday, American Airlines retired the last of its MD-80 fleet, with more than two dozen planes across the country taking their final flights to Roswell (New Mexico) Air Center for storage. At American’s Tulsa Maintenance Base, scores of maintenance facility workers watched as the last MD-80 here taxied through a ceremonial water cannon salute and made its way west.

“I was hired in 1995 to work on the airplane,” Barton said. “Some of these folks have been working on it since 1984, ’85.”

With the aging out of the MD-80, American will segue to a more modern fleet with passenger amenities such as high-speed Wi-Fi, more in-flight entertainment and access to power.

“Things like fuel efficiency and modern maintenance programs and things have just sort of made the airplane a little less economical to fly than things like the new (Boeing) 737s or the Airbus family of A320s,” Barton said.

American recently jolted the local economy when it announced that it planned to add 400 jobs to Tech Ops-Tulsa. News on the national level, however, hasn’t been as good for the airline.

The company still is seeking a labor contract for its union workers, and American canceled thousands of flights this summer because of the Boeing 737 Max grounding after two fatal crashes. Recently, the airline pulled the plane from its schedule for another month, until Dec. 3.

Also, American had the highest number of canceled flights among U.S. carriers in June, the most recent month for which government statistics are available. Its 4% cancellation rate was roughly double that of Southwest and United and almost seven times Delta’s rate.

“We’ve disappointed a lot of customers this summer,” American’s president, Robert Isom, said Wednesday at an investors conference. “I do think that we sent quite a bit of revenue to competitors this summer. That’s something that we’re going to put a halt to.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395

rhett.morgan@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @RhettMorganTW