top of page
  • Writer's pictureAfrica Union Aviation

The Enduring Legacy of the MD-87

The McDonnell Douglas MD-87

The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series, a family of workhorse single-aisle jetliners, held a prominent position in commercial aviation for decades. Among its variants, the MD-87 holds a special place for aviation enthusiasts due to its unique blend of range, capacity, and efficiency.

In 1985, McDonnell Douglas identified a gap in the market. Airlines sought an aircraft with the passenger capacity and range of a Boeing 737-300, but with the lower operating costs associated with a smaller airframe.The MD-87 emerged as the perfect solution. By strategically stretching the MD-83 fuselage by 10 feet, the MD-87 could comfortably seat 130 passengers while retaining the fuel efficiency prized by airlines.

This stretch not only increased passenger capacity but also improved baggage hold space, further enhancing its appeal.

The MD-87 was not simply an elongated MD-83. It incorporated a revolutionary new feature at the time: the Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS). This precursor to today's ubiquitous glass cockpits significantly reduced pilot workload by replacing traditional analogy instruments with digital displays. EFIS provided pilots with a clear and concise overview of critical flight parameters, enhancing situational awareness and overall safety.

Despite facing competition from newer models later in its production life, the MD-87 remained a favourite among pilots and airlines for several reasons. Its Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217C turbofan engines offered excellent fuel efficiency, translating to lower operating costs for airlines. In terms of handling, pilots consistently praised the MD-87's responsiveness and stability, making it a joy to fly. This combination of efficiency, performance, and pilot-friendly characteristics solidified the MD-87's reputation as a reliable and capable workhorse.

Production of the MD-87 ended in 2000, but the aircraft continued to serve airlines for many years after. Today, a select few MD-87s remain operational, primarily with cargo carriers or smaller passenger airlines seeking a balance between performance and operating costs.

While its reign as a dominant passenger aircraft has ended, the MD-87's influence on commercial aviation is undeniable. Its emphasis on fuel efficiency and advanced avionics paved the way for the development of future single-aisle jetliners that continue to shape the industry today.

The MD-87 stands as a testament to the ingenuity of McDonnell Douglas and serves as a cherished reminder for aviation enthusiasts of an era of innovation and progress in commercial aviation.

5 views0 comments


bottom of page