Travel Scene: The end of the line for the workhorse DC-9

A Delta Air Lines DC-9 taxis on the tarmac at Minneapolis�Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, before its final scheduled flight. Delta Air Lines is retiring its last DC-9s, the oldest passenger plane in the fleet of the big U.S. airlines. (AP Photo/Josh Freed)

The workhorse of America's commercial aviation fleet — the seemingly ageless DC-9 — is no more. At least as far as hauling passengers is concerned.

Delta Airlines, which inherited Northwest Airlines' fleet in its 2008 purchase, retired the last DC-9 several days ago on a historic flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta.

The flight came nearly 50 years after the first DC-9 was built and some 30 years after the last craft rolled off the McDonnell-Douglas assembly line. All told, 976 DC-9s were built, and many of them were delivered to Northwest Airlines, the last major carrier in the U.S. to use them.

Thousands of Rochester air travelers were passengers on the twin-engine aircraft because the DC-9 were the standard of service provided by NWA when it was the major carrier to serve the Rochester airport.

"That's about the only aircraft that landed here for years," recalled Steve Leqve, who recently retired as manager of Rochester International. "During the good times of the 1970s or so, when we had some 20 flights a day or more here, the DC-9 was about the only aircraft you would see. In addition to Northwest, they were used by other regional carriers, which served us at times, like Ozark, Republic and North Central airlines."


The Associated Press notes that the jet plane was noteworthy at the time because it was small enough to fly to airports in smaller cities that previously had been served by propeller-driven planes. Its low-to-the-ground profile put its cargo-door at about waist height, so ground crews at smaller airports could load it without special equipment.

The plane that Delta operated on the aircraft's final scheduled flight was built in 1978 for North Central Airlines. A merger of North Central and other airlines formed Republic Airlines, which became a part of Northwest Airlines in the 1980s.

Most airlines, notes the AP, retired their DC-9s in the 1990s, and the planes' demise was hastened by the inauguration of smaller and more efficient regional aircraft — the likes of those used by American Eagle, which serves Rochester.

Northwest continued to use the plane, however, and refurbished their interiors to squeeze more flying time out of them. At one time, the DC-9 made up one-third of Northwest's fleet.

There are no federal regulations that limit how many years a plane can fly, only how many takeoffs and landings. As long as it stayed under those limits, the DC-9s could fly, the AP reports.

The last DC-9 in regular service (Delta is keeping a couple of planes on its rolls as spares) flew in to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from LaGuardia airport in New York.

The final flight to Atlanta prompted dozens of aviation enthusiasts to buy tickets, and they lined up at the windows in the terminal to watch the plane land, reports the AP.

Here and there


• Iran's tourism industry is booming, with more foreign travelers visiting the country than ever before. So much so that Iran's President, Hassan Rouhani, is hoping to attract 10 million international tourists each year, an increase from 4 million, reports Global Travel News.

The country attracts predominantly medical and religious tourists, although this is all expected to change as Iran develops new relationships with foreign nations.

The Iranian government has announced infrastructure projects in the coming year that will attract more tourists.

• Travel Weekly reports visitor figures for Americans traveling to Cuba in 2012 topped 98,000, up from 73,000 in 2011, according to figures released by Cuba's national Statistics Office.

The increase, twice the number reported in 2007, is due, in part, to the reinstatement of the people-to-people cultural and educational travel programs by the Obama administration in early 2011.

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