American Airlines Retires Last of Legendary MD-80 Fleet

26 “Mad Dogs” get massive sendoff after decades of service.

American Airlines MD-80 fleet wore the carrier’s signature polished aluminum tri-color livery.American Airlines

One of the most prolific aircraft types to ever fly for American Airlines, the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series, reached the end of the line on September 4 when the carrier sent the last of its fleet on a major “sendoff” that saw 26 of what many call the “Mad Dog” on their last flights to be retired in Roswell, New Mexico.

Called the “Super 80” or “S80” by American since introduction to their fleet in May 1983, the model was known as the carrier’s workhorse and, by 2003, there were 362 MD-80s in the American fleet, representing about one-third of all MD-80s ever produced by McDonnell Douglas. In 2004, the MD-80 made up 49 percent of the airline’s fleet, and throughout its service more than 10,000 American Airlines pilots have trained and been qualified on the type.

During its 36-year run in service for American Airlines, the MD-80 served many of American’s domestic and near-international destinations. The carrier said that more than 87 million customers have flown on the 26 American Airlines MD-80s retired in the last day of their service.

The legendary polished aluminum tri-color livery of American’s MD-80 fleet was introduced in the late 1960s as a way to cut fuel costs. “Paint adds extra weight to an aircraft, and extra weight means more fuel. So only the red, white and blue stripes were added to the fuselage,” the carrier said. “Since today’s aircraft have more composite parts than in the past, the polished aluminum tri-color livery is only seen on one other American Airlines aircraft–a retro Boeing 737-800.

American chose to retire the MD-80s prior to extensive routine maintenance that would need to be performed on the aircraft in the future. “We’d rather invest this money in new, state-of-the-art aircraft,” the carrier said.