Mention the name “Mad Dog” around a person who presently has, or who has ever had, any type of involvement in the aviation industry and that person’s reaction can cover any part of the scale, all the way from “A wonderful old aircraft” down to “Airborne junk!”
Not being a pilot or an aircraft mechanic, my feelings about the McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 flock of birds are based on my “IN” and “OF” experiences with it: 1) as a passenger who has flown several times IN it and 2) as a photographer who has snapped many hundreds of photos OF it.
I love the old gas guzzler, so the news earlier this year that American is “putting down” the remaining 370 MD-80s in its Dirty Dog fleet at the rate of one a week made me very sad. I’ve heard the “whys,” the “wherefores,” and the “whatnots” concerning the ongoing demise of American’s Dogs, but I’m still saddened by the news and I’m going to miss them.
Here in the city that is famous for the annual event known as “Hot August Nights,” old cars and music are fondly remembered as goodies. For me, the MD-80 series falls right smack dab into that same category: an “oldie but a goodie.”
I’m not a pilot, so I know virtually nothing about how air density and air temperature affect an aircraft’s “lift.” What I DO know, gleaned almost entirely from many years of firsthand observation of takeoffs of American MDs (and Delta Dogs until 2010), is that the hot summer temps here in the Truckee Meadows, when coupled with the 4,415 foot elevation of Reno Tahoe International, worked together to make Mad Dog departures very exciting.
On a toasty summer day when the mercury would be flirting with the century mark, watching an “80” thundering down RNO’s 11,000-foot-long runway 16R-34L was a sort of “hold your breath” situation as those two P&Ws did everything they could to get the old dog up to rotation speed.
Prior to 2011, I snapped several (ie: more than one) head-on shots of Mad Dogs just beginning to lift their muzzles toward the sky as they roared past the 9,000 foot marker. (On a couple of those occasions, I vividly recall having fleeting thoughts that perhaps I should stop shooting pictures and start running, but I knew I’d never be able to outrun an angry canine, so I just kept clicking the shutter … and I’m still here to write about it. lol)
About five years ago, the number of MD flights to Reno began decreasing … dramatically. After 2009, Delta discontinued the use of its MD-80 equipment here at Reno entirely, and two years later American made its five daily MD visits here a “seasonal” situation: from mid-June until early September, AA used Boeing equipment in place of the Dogs.
Now, with AA putting its canine fleet to sleep, I have the sorrowful feeling that Allegiant Air’s MD fleetbirds(*) are the last commercial MD-80 series jetliners that northern Nevadans will see at their airport and any other future sightings may only occur during infrequent visits by either privately-owned or contractor-operated puppies.
* Allegiant provides twice-a-week MD service to Reno.
Of all the times I was a passenger on an MD-80 flight, only once did I find myself in an undesirable seat. On an evening flight from DFW to JAX, I ended up in the last row. On my left, only a few feet away, were Mr. Pratt and Mr. Whitney. My view was totally blocked (and also I found it very difficult to hear myself think). Somewhere over Mississippi I snapped what is most assuredly the most uninteresting aviation photo of my lifetime.
That flight was the one and only time I did not enjoy being on an airliner.
The next picture is one I took in 2008. At the time, I was standing on an airport service road adjacent to a taxiway and a runway. This beautiful MD-82 touched down so close to me I could not get the entire aircraft in the shot. At that time, it was the closest I’d ever been to a jet that was landing. This shining MD became my instant “fave” and every time I went back to do more spotting at Reno I’d cross my fingers in hopes of catching it again. Those hopes were dashed forever when it was WFU and sent to the boneyard a few years later. And now, each week, one of its siblings joins it in the graveyard.
As of this writing, Delta and Allegiant still fly their MD-80 series of fleetbirds. While passing through the Columbus, Ohio, airport last year, I caught some clicks of several Delta MDs.
But for Delta’s dogs too, the clock is ticking. The mutts are aging, and Delta is looking at replacement options.
In a previous post, I included photos of 727 models, and I commented that the popular Boeing T-tail tri would never truly disappear because aircraft model hobbyists would always keep it “alive.” Well, the same holds true for the McDonnell Douglas 80s. American may be erasing them from its fleet, but there will always be an American Airlines MD-80 model on display somewhere.
As for me, I’ve got hundreds of AA MD snaps to look at and to share with anyone who wishes to see them. (* I can be contacted at OldeCarl (at) gmail.com. *) And anyone who has ever viewed a scene such as the one below knows there’s no stopping a Mad Dog running full out. They may soon disappear from America’s skies, but American’s “red, white, and blue on silver” dogs will forever keep racing down the runways of our minds.
Thanks for viewing this post. I hope you enjoyed the snapshots. Don’t be afraid to contact me with your comments, pictures, or to relate your experience(s) with McDonnell Douglas’s angry pooch. And stop back to this Planeviz site again; especially you Navy vets. My next post is already in progress, and it will take you on a visit to NAS Fallon, home of TopGun, to view Bugs, Super Bugs, Hawkeyes, and helicopters proudly displaying their unit paint. You won’t want to miss this one.