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Why are iconic MD-80 jets being converted to freighters?

Passenger airlines phased out the MD-80 aircraft because they were old, loud and inefficient. But some cargo carriers see them as cheap options for moving freight. ( More...

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The author states that the MD-80's are NOT sleek. I'd love to see his definition of a sleek aircraft!
MD-80s look like hotrods of the sky. Nothing is sleeker than the rear engined, T-Tail MD-80.
George Pepe 1
I like the reverse thrust cups too
Sam DeMars 6
Not at all surprising. A Sinaloan air freight carrier found converted 727's to be highly profitable. Anybody who complained about the noise was silenced.
I love the old “Mad Dog”
DGR Rathborne 9
i get the impression that Capt J Buck has made himself the sole expert on all things Aviation , and doesn't like any differing views or opinions . Must be damn hard to fly with you when your calling all the shots . But thats just my humble opinion . Like , what do little people like me , know ?
Right there with you.
10-4 on THAT
steve nye 0
md80 series aircraft were a sleek, decent aircraft; the thing that plagued them was their "crap and whitney engines-noisy and in-efficient
Jasper Buck 4
Read the article. Contrary to the author's statement that the MD-80"...can be challenging for pilots to fly." I never found that any of the DC-9s (DC-9, MD-80, MD-88, MD-90 or B-717 (all the same type airplane) was a challenge to fly. Not sure where the author got his information.

Capt J Buck

ATP DC-9 B757 B767
Flight Instructor
Ground Instructor
Aircraft Dispatcher
A&P Mechanic
Air Traffic Controller
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ops & Aws) ((Ret.)
FAA certified accident investigator (Ret.)
ICAO Panel Member
Aviation Safety Consultant
rebomar 4
I loved the Super 80. Great airplane. Easy to fly. Yes it was older technology but not hard to learn. And easy to land. Should make a great freighter.
Eric Kulisch 5
I'm hearing many fond memories flying the MD-80. That's great.
John D 3
I am not an aviator, just a passenger, but been on enough MD's that made me think the MD is a plane that couldn't wait to get off the ground. Glad they are getting a new lease on life.
Jasper Buck 1
"... but not hard to learn."

Agreed. RMIs, ADFs, VORs, TVMDC, all pretty easy stuff once you learned it. Never have gotten lost. Thanks Nathaniel Bowditch.

Eric Kulisch 2
Thanks for all the feedback. I'm definitely learning more about this plane. I think bottom line, it didn't have all the comforts and automation of newer planes, but was fun for many to fly.
DGR Rathborne 6
Is this Capt Jack Buck ( Retired ) ? I come from an airline family . My dad was a Director , of a specific Department , and was the airlines rep to IATA . We flew a lot . Holidays, we had many airline people over , including Flight deck crews . In their life long time with the Airline they may only have had the privilege to be Captains of 2 or 3 aircraft types . And may be allowed to be instructors and Line check staff on certain types .They seldom had time to fix flat tires . The other trait they had was a modesty . They would share their stories , but didn't blow their horn and brag . They would Never get on a site like this and brag about how Great they are . They where modest men and women , who would never dis-grace the airline they worked for , in such a shameless manor . Beside that point , the airline brass would have called them in for , lets say a talk . Why don't you reveal All the different airlines you worked for ? Because i doubt it was just one .
I feel kind of bad for the guy. He is always on here posting stuff. He’ll probably put his credentials on his tombstone too. Unless, he goes for cremation and has his ashes blown through a JT8D at T.O. thrust. lol


ATD DC-69 “giggity”, B575, B676
Flight Dude Teacher
Ground Impactor
Aircraft Dispatcho guy
A&W root beer float
Pushing tin
Federal pension collector
Certifiably an accident
U.N. Blackhawk helicopters!!!
Safety first
Lmao i feel bad for him too. Clearly very lonely with nothing better to do.
Eric Kulisch 5
Capt. Buck, I think many pilots loved the plane, but it also wasn't ergonomically great, instrumentation wasn't very automated, it wasn't easy to learn to land it and wasn't good at high altitudes, some pilots say. Various accounts to that effect.
Jasper Buck -6
"Some pilots say"

Really? Which pilots and what did they say, exactly? One airline I know of upgraded their MD-88/-90 aircraft to full glass cockpits to provide those aircraft with full RNP, RTA, and GPS capabilities. As an aside I never found any DC-9 to be hard to "learn to land." Nor takeoff for that matter.

How many hours of DC-9 (any model) time do you have? Takeoffs? Landings? And I'm not talking about Microsoft Flight Simulator time. Real time, in the airplane?

Eric Kulisch 2
Big articles in L.A. Times, SimpleFlying had commentary on pilot attitudes toward the MD-80.
Jasper Buck 1
I don't think I would trust the LA Times or Simple Flying to give me any technical advice on how to fly a MD-80. Or any other airplane for that matter. That said I do find Simple Flying ( a great news source an usually visit the site at least a few times a week.

skylab72 1
I think he was paid by the word...
Why? They are plentiful, and cheap. What did I win?
DGR Rathborne 1
There is a lot of back and forth as to how sleek or not MD-80's are . Personally they get my vote too . But if i may toss a wrench into the discussions , if one believes the rear engine T-Tail formate looks great , does any-one have an opinion of a B.O.A.C Super VC-10 ? For me , it was a DC-9 taken to the Max . Have a good day .
Only got to fly the Mad Dog twice, both in April 2019 for Delta Airlines. Despite their age, they were incredibly smooth and the seats were large and comfortable. The FO let me in the cockpit on the second flight and I'll remember that forever. The MD-80 is one of my favorite planes and I'm happy to hear they'll be continuing their lives as freighters. Long live the Mad Dog!!!
Jesse Carroll 1
One of the sleekest airplanes made! right upyhere with the 757! Can't wait to see the TRUMP 1 show back up? Anybody know where it is ?
rbt schaffer 1
It is derelict at KSWF with one engine removed and likely flat tires. Doubt you'll see it move anywhere except the scrap heap or if the maintenance and ramp fees get paid. He paid like 10 million for it and it will cost probably 1 million to get it to fly once to a maintenance facility.
George Pepe 1
Doesn’t he keep it in Dulles or something near there?
trentenjet 1
This was a terrible article it couldn’t be more wrong about the MD-80 (A challenge to fly) you couldn’t be more wrong I have Boeing 737 time it’s not an impressive aircraft.
George Pepe 1
I miss them being passenger planes. WHY AMERICAN AND DELTA WHY!!!?
jptq63 1
I would thing this info the main reason, as standardization makes training the "monkeys or robots" (and the "brains"), which ever may be less costly..., --- Many MD-80s are in long-term storage and have plenty of use left on their engines. The main reason the MD-80 hasn’t been more successful in air cargo is that its cross-section is too narrow, preventing it from carrying standard “A”-type containers, he added.

Instead, the plane accommodates a dozen nonstandard 88-by-108-inch containers or pallets. ---
Jasper Buck 2
Although narrow body aircraft are more limited in their cargo carrying capabilities the DC-9-15 and MD-80 freighters (as an example) can hold a fair amount of 88x108, 88x125 and 96x125 cargo containers. Those sizes of containers ARE industry standards by the way and in use on DC-9 -15 -32s, DC-8 -62 -63, and MD-80 freighters. As well as all the wide bodies. Not sure why you said "nonstandard" but that's not the case. See as an example.


Capt J Buck
Aviation Safety Consultant
jptq63 1
Do not mind (and appreciate) any corrects to my errors. I am referencing the article’s comment about -- the "A" –type containers – with it inferring these are used in as “standard” or maybe better stated as – used in aircraft not based upon the DC-9 / MD-80 airframe. I do think there are significantly more aircraft NOT of DC-9 / MD-80 airframe in use by the major air cargo (Fed Ex, UPS, others… ?), and as such, they do not tend to have these containers,nor would want to add any additional variants to limit logistic issues; i.e. same container works in ALL their aircraft. Thinking a bit like why railroad tracks are the width they are… well at least a very popular and somewhat possible reason; not saying any one size is BEST…. Also, I am NOT as knowledgeable as you here (and willing to admit I do not know everything, usually…), so, again, please correct if errors / wrong here; not trying to any hero. Just do desire reasonable discussion and hope to learn a bit more. I do note how FedEx input on the Cessna 408 Sky Courier design; i.e they wanted a specific desire for this aircraft for their use...
Jasper Buck 1
"Thinking a bit like why railroad tracks are the width they are..."

4 feet 8.5 inches on center between the rails. I do know that.

Can't really speak to the "A" type of containers. The FAA has no rules or guidance on cargo containers being of a certain type. My last encounter with a cargo flight was in 1991 when Ryan International tried to takeoff with ice and snow on the wings of a DC-9-15 on a cold January night in Cleveland OH. They went of the side of the runway, wrecked the airplane, both pilots died, and the U.S. Post Office had to retrieve as much of the scattered mail it could. The accident report does not talk about containers except there were 6 of them, 5 stayed together, 1 broke apart. But since the subject has come up I will research the "Type A" issue and make myself more knowledgeable.


Paul Hurford 1
Railroad Track dimensions were that dimension because the new railroads used Stage Coaches, and horse driven wagons to run on their rails. It was a lot less expensive to flange the inside of the wheel and put it on tracks, than to build new coaches. Though it was a solution at the time, that 'default,' standard should have been thought out a lot better. Oh! B.A.R.T. rapid transit in the SF Bay Area has a distance of 5 feet between the rails. Just FYI.
Eric Kulisch 1
Good point. I changed wording to non-customary.
Feel free to stay in touch or reach on topics [email protected]. Thanks
Chase Tompkins -6
Do you just sit on your computer all day long trying to prove your gods gift to aviation. News flash! No one cares about you or your flying experience. Buck Off!
ImperialEagle 0
LA Times is not-so-big, loud, inefficient and inaccurate and uninformed. Imagine that from the LMSM.

Clearly they never heard about freighter conversions of the DC-8-30 series, or the Convair 880!
Reminds me of one strange trip when a pilot announced that this was his last flight as he was retiring the day after, and then he told us "let me show you what this plane can do". And for the next 10 minutes, he was doing all sorts of acrobats with the plane, sharp turns, sharp ascends and declines. We were not scared, but it was unsettling. I don't know how he got away with this with air traffic control. But it was a great plane, I took too many trips on them during my career commuting between cities.
Rich Boddy 1
This literally did not happen and you should feel bad for even posting it.
Chase Tompkins -1
This did happen. I remember it specifically cause I was on this flight with your mom. We joined the mile high club that day before I sent her up to the cockhouse to take care of Captain Buck.



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