Aircraft By Type

Aircraft Make & Model:
McDonnell Douglas MD-90-30
156,000 lbs.
2,400 statute miles
509 mph
150 passengers (12 First Class, 138 Coach)
152 ft., 7 in.
107 ft., 10 in.
30 ft., 7 in.
2 International Aero Engines V2500
HP or Thrust:
25,000-28,000 lbs each engine
No. flown by DL:
65 (63 MD-90-30, 2 MD-90ER). Delta also purchased 2 MD-90-30s for parts only.
Primarily medium domestic routes.
First Delivery:
February 24, 1995
First Scheduled Service:
April 2, 1995
Reason Aquired:
Fuel efficiency, quiet operation and operating environment flexibility; replace the Boeing 727.
Last Retirement:
June 2, 2020
Reason Disposed:
MD-90 and MD-88 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-90 1995-2020

Technical Advances
"The MD-90 will improve our cost performance by saving fuel and carrying larger loads while minimizing environmental impact through less noise and reduced emissions." 

Russ Heil, Delta senior vice president of technical operations, March 1995.

In the midst of a difficult economic period, Delta welcomed the MD-90's cost efficiency, estimating that the airlines' annual fuel usage could drop by hundreds of thousands of gallons per aircraft, compared to the MD-88. Pilot training costs were minimized due to the MD-90's similarity to the MD-88. The engines, designed to reduce noise levels, made the MD-90 "one of the quietest aircraft ever built" in its class in 1995.

A thrust rating panel in the flight deck allowed pilots to choose from 25,000 pounds of thrust to 28,000 pounds, depending on the circumstances of each flight. Reduced thrust choices below 25,000 pounds were also available. The thrust rating panel allowed the option to make the flight more economical or use more power for high altitude airports—the less power used the longer the engines would last between overhauls.

The MD-90 offered Delta flexibility to provide passenger and cargo services in a wide variety of operating environments. "The MD-90 performs exceptionally well at hot and high-altitude airports, making it possible for us to schedule this aircraft for operations throughout North America—for short-haul and longer routes," remarked Russ Heil, senior vice president of technical operations. "That flexibility is crucial in an ever-changing industry."

World's First MD-90 Service
Delta was launch customer for the MD-90-30 in November 1989, placing an order for 50 aircraft with 110 options. Ship 9202 was the first delivered on February 24, 1995.

The next two MD-90s were delivered to Delta on March 24, 1995. One of the two, Ship 9203, with three Delta and 22 McDonnell Douglas representatives on board spent 10 days on a sales tour of Taiwan and China in February before delivery. "We were involved on all the demonstration flights," said Delta In Flight Supervisor Stephanie Smith-Clark, "I was on board for safety as well as distributing marketing materials, pamphlets and pictures. I was also a goodwill ambassador for Delta, handing out Mickey Mouse ears, Delta wings and cards."

Delta was the first airline to fly the MD-90 on April 2, 1995. First cities scheduled for MD-90 service from April to September 1995 were:

  • April 2: Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Reno, Nevada.
  • May 1: Austin, Texas; Houston, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Diego, California.
  • June 1: Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • July 1: Salt Lake City, Utah; Santa Ana (Orange County), California
  • July 15: Knoxville, Tennessee
Delta and McDonnell Douglas teamed up to create a new modification line for the MD-90 at Delta's maintenance center in Dallas/Ft. Worth in 1997. The mod line was a Delta first, as McDonnell Douglas worked with Delta to make system changes in-house. Recovery and Modification Services technicians from McDonnell Douglas worked the mod line from April 6-May 31.

Delta initially purchased the MD-90 to replace its Boeing 727's, but when McDonnell Douglas was bought by Boeing in 1997, Delta cancelled the rest of its MD-90s and began purchasing the Boeing 737-800.

Delta's MD-90 Fleet Expands
Seeking cost savings a decade later, Delta purchased and refurbished 49 used MD-90s in 2009-2013, including two extended-range models. Saving were estimated to be at least $1 billion on the MD-90 purchases, compared with buying new planes, making them about 10% cheaper to operate per seat than new Boeing 737s. [Source: Wall Street Journal, 11/16/2012] 

Delta's MD-90 fleet as of July 1, 2013:

  • 16 - Ships 9201-9216, Delta’s original "Sweet 16" MD-90 fleet
  • 3 - Ships 9217-9219, ex-Hello (airline)
  • 9 - Ships 9220-9228, ex-China Eastern Airlines
  • 5 - Ships 9229-9233, ex-Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)  operated by Blue1
  • 3 - Ships 9234-9236, ex-Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) operated by Hello
  • 16 - Ships 9237-9252, ex-Japan Airlines
  • 13 - Ships 9253-9265, ex-China Southern Airlines
  • 2 - Purchased for parts only, N501DN and N502DN, ex Lion Air

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.
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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