Friday, January 14, 2005

The End of the Line

by Tom Bozzo

Boeing reports that it is taking a $340 million charge against earnings to wind down production of the Boeing 717 (note: Flash animation at the link) next year. This effectively extinguishes, after 73 years, the line of Douglas airliners.

The 717 (née MD-95), which Boeing inherited when it acquired McDonnell-Douglas in 1997, is a descendent of the venerable Douglas DC-9, now in its 40th year of airline service. As airliners are among the longest-lived producer durables there are, I expect a few newer models to be soldiering on when John and Julia are out of college.

I figure I've spent roughly a month altogether on DC-9s and successor models — mainly Northwest's in my late frequent flying career*, but also on Midwest, TWA, American, USAir(ways), and Eastern. The relative dearth of middle seats due to the 4/5-across seating remains a nice feature**, though the much wider A320 is a bit more comfortable overall. Vibration-canceling engine mounts installed by Midwest and Northwest in the late '90s also greatly improved the DC-9 experience.


* After five blissful years of Gold or better, I was only Silver Elite last year. Despite 996,748 career WorldPerks miles to date, I'll be a Non Elite flyer as of March 1st. Naturally, I anticipate heavy business travel for the upcoming summer and fall.

** More so since I can forget about First Class upgrades for a while.
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