Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Farewell to the DC-9

Dateline: 2:52 pm October 15, 2010 Filed under:

OK, I am a confessed plane geek. See for yourself in this 2007 post. Those of you out there who also like airplanes (come on, admit it) will appreciate this….

Knowing that Delta Airlines was retiring the oldest of their DC-9s (the series 30 and 40), built in the late 1960s, in April I used frequent flyer miles to fly one last trip on the old birds. I boarded a DC-9, ship number N8928E, built in 1967 for Eastern Airlines, and flew to Sioux Falls and turned right around and flew back. Just for the hell of it. That was my last flight on that era of airplane, and as far as I know, the series 30 and 40 are now gone from the fleet. Delta retains the DC-9 series 50, so there is still time to fly a DC-9, but the 30s and 40s are the real deal. They predate me, they were the workhorses for 40 years, acquired through mergers and the used plane market by Northwest Airlines, and now they are gone. Even Northwest is gone. When Delta bought Northwest, they did not paint the exterior or refurbish the interiors of the 30s and 40s, signaling the end. I had to make one last flight.

Growing up a couple miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, as a kid I’d watch an airplane on approach out my front window, then run to the back of the house to watch it continue on its descent to the airfield. Flying that DC-9 to Sioux Falls in April of this year, it struck me that I probably watched that plane out my window as a kid, flying for Eastern Airlines at the time, just as I did the DC-9 series 50s, purchased by North Central Airlines in the 1970s and still in service with Delta today. That is remarkable to me. They are a part of me.

I will miss the old DC-9s as they gradually, and literally, fly off in to the sunset.

What does any of this have to do with urbanism? An airport is critical to any well-connected metro area, and a quality rail link to the airport is hugely beneficial to a region (see San Francisco, Portland, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago, and now Seattle). But really, who cares? Planes are cool.

As an added bonus, those of you super geeks (you know who you are) can watch and listen to the DC-9 engine starting, takeoff and landing one last time at YouTube.

And you can see a short photo montage of DC-9s on which I’ve flown, including year built and original airline.

Long live the DC-9!

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