Aircraft By Type

Aircraft Make & Model:
McDonnell Douglas MD-88
149,500 lbs.
1,800 statute miles
574 mph
142 passengers (14 First Class, 128 Coach)
147 ft., 10 in.
107 ft., 10 in.
30 ft., 6 in.
2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219
HP or Thrust:
40,000 lbs.
No. flown by DL:
120 + additional MD-82, -83, -87 purchased for parts only
Primarily short to medium domestic routes.
First Delivery:
March 9, 1987 (delivered as MD-82)
First Scheduled Service:
April 1, 1987
Reason Aquired:
Able to cruise at Boeing 727 speeds with good fuel economy.
Last Retirement:
June 2, 2020
Reason Disposed:
MD-88 and MD-90 fleets replaced with newer, more efficient aircraft: Airbus A220s, A321s and A321neos. Retirement accelerated by several years due to the COVID-19 downturn.

Narrative:  McDonnell Douglas MD-82/MD-88 1987-2020


MD-88's Technical Advances & Amenities
  • Developed from the original Douglas DC-9, with twice the passenger capacity of the first version, and modernized engines and avionics.
  • Updated "glass cockpit" with digital displays powered by cathode ray tubes (CRTs). It also featured aerodynamics improvements found on the earlier MD-82 (DC-9-82), including a redesigned tail cone.
  • Wider than usual 22-inch aisle in the coach cabin, which allowed passengers to pass by serving carts unobstructed. 
  • Handrails along the edge of the overhead bins offered additional comfort and safety for passengers moving through the cabin.
First MD-88s Delivered as MD-82s
Delta placed its initial order for 30 MD-88s in January 1986, with options for 50 more. Eight of the planes were delivered as model MD-82, the forerunner to the MD-88. 
Ships 901-908 (N901DL-N908DL) were delivered in March-May, 1987, and modified by Delta to MD-88 configuration with the more advanced flight deck in 1988.

Initial Service
Delta had four MD-82s in service with its April 1, 1987 schedule. First cities served from Atlanta: Austin, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Jackson, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Shreveport, and Washington, DC.

Ship 905 The "Wally Plane"
Delta's newest MD-82, Ship 905 (N915DL), was the symbolic centerpiece of merger ceremonies for Delta and Western Airlines in April 1987. It carried a decal showing a thumbs-up version of "Wally bird" logo, a long-time Western Airlines marketing symbol, fixed just beside the Delta widget logo on the forward part of Ship 905.

"It is only fitting that Wally is going to join Delta on a Douglas plane, because just a few weeks short of 61 years ago, Western Airlines began operation with an M-2, an open cockpit aircraft also manufactured by the Douglas Company." Gerald Grinstein, Western Airlines chairman on April 1, 1987

Ship 915 was on view at Delta/Western employee merger ceremonies in Los Angeles on April 1, and the next day for employees in Salt Lake City.

MD-88s began arriving at Delta with Ship 909 (N909DL) in December 1987. Delta placed its first MD-88 into service on January 5, 1988. The final MD-88 was delivered in December 1993.
Delta retired its MD-88 and MD-90 aircraft on June 2, 2020. An accelerated retirement schedule for the "Mad Dog" fleet was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic as Delta reduced capacity systemwide. Delta had initially announced plans to retire the MD-88 by the end of 2020.
Both aircraft operated across much of Delta’s domestic network and had been workhorses for the airline for several decades, carrying more than 750 million customers during their operating lifespan. As of February 2020, prior to the coronavirus-driven fleet reduction, there were 47 MD-88s and 29 MD-90s operating.
Delta was the last U.S. passenger airline to operate the MD-88 and MD-90 on June 2, 2020:
  • MD-90 flight—aptly numbered DL90—arrived in Atlanta from Houston at approximately 9 a.m.
  • MD-88 flight, DL88, arrived from Washington-Dulles at about 10 a.m.
  • Final "Mad Dog" to fly in scheduled service was Delta MD-88, N900DE, Ship 9000.

More Information

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  • McDonnell Douglas MD-88
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  • Delta Air Lines MD-88 Takeoff from Atlanta (1990)
  • Incredible Delta MD-80 Takeoff!!