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Delta’s last DC-9 retires at Charlotte museum

Charlotte added another retiree Thursday, one finishing a high-flying career after 35 years.

Delta Air Lines’ last DC-9 arrived about 12:30 p.m. at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and took up residence at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. Built in 1979, the aircraft is the latest addition to the growing fleet at the museum, which includes the fuselage of the “Miracle on the Hudson” jetliner that ditched five years ago without any loss of life to the 155 aboard.

Wally Coppinger, executive director of the museum off Billy Graham Parkway, said the plane donated by Delta will be on permanent exhibition and should open to visitors in a few weeks. Another DC-9 is on exhibit at Delta’s air museum in Atlanta.

“This is the last one we know of flying for a scheduled airline in the United States,” said Coppinger. It made its last commercial flight on Wednesday, carrying passengers from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to Atlanta, ending its career on a high note – it reached the gate three minutes early.

Charlotte welcomed the DC-9 to its retirement home with an arch of water from airport crash trucks. Its final crew was Capt. Scott Woolfrey, first officer Joel Schrader and flight attendant Patricia Ringness, all based in Atlanta. Joining them on Thursday’s final flight were two dozen Delta employees and family members.

Delta was the first customer for the Douglas twin-engine jetliners, which entered service in 1965. Because of their design, they could serve small and midsize airports with limited runway lengths, helping end the era of propeller-driven airliners.

Production of DC-9s ended in 1982, and more efficient jets replaced them.

“We’re seeing the retirement of the last of the early-generation jets,” said Shawn Dorsch, president of the aviation museum. “Most of them are being cut up for scrap.”

Dorsch said the plane is a key addition to the museum’s fleet because it’s an artifact that will tell a story about the development of commercial aviation in the 20th century. “This makes us a player in the commercial-aviation space as a museum,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of public demand to go into a jetliner and we haven’t been able to do that to date.”

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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