American Airlines Donates The Last Of Its MD-80 Aircraft

Thursday, December 19th 2019, 6:47 pm
By: Erick Payne

American Airlines is saying farewell to its final two MD-80 airplanes this week. It's donating them to CareerTech in Oklahoma City and Lewis University in Illinois.

This is the end of an era for American Airlines and the MD-80s after the planes served as the company's workhorse for decades. The MD-80 is wrapping up nearly 40 years of service for American Airlines.

The last of the fleet was retired in September.

It was affectionately called the "Super 80" by its pilots and mechanics, who say it was a reliable airplane.

"It probably takes a little bit more of the old flying skills," American Airlines Captain David Clark said.

Captain David Clark has been a pilot with American for close to 30 years. Much of that time was spent flying the Super 80. He estimates he has about 9,000 hours of flight time with just that aircraft alone.

Clark says it was an older technology, but that wasn't a bad thing.

"Some of us enjoy that, because there's a real seat-of-the-pants flying, you can feel the airplane," Clark said.

The MD-80s have been replaced by planes with more computerized cockpit controls, and interiors.

But Clark says it's a testament to the maintenance crews for keeping this fleet in working order.

That includes Aircraft Maintenance Technician Harley Thomas, who played a key role for more than 28 years. He's done just about everything on these planes.

"It's been a fantastic airplane," Thomas said.

He's out watching the final departures this week, and he was also among more than a thousand employees who flew on its last commercial flight.

"That was something that I'll always remember," Thomas said.

It goes without saying, it's a bittersweet moment for both Harley, and Clark, who said the trips may be over, but the journey isn't done just yet.

"It's not come to an end because it's going to an aviation mechanic school in Oklahoma, so certainly it still has purpose which is great. Anytime you're in Oklahoma you'll be able to see an American MD-80 for years to come," Clark said.

There will be special dedication ceremonies for the planes at both schools early next year.