Aging Airliners: American retires fleet to the desert

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Have you ever wondered what happens to aging airliners?

Last week, American Airlines retired its entire fleet of MD-80 airplanes on a single day.

American began flying MD-80s in 1983.

The jet in this story had logged more than 61,000  hours in the air on 31,092 flights and is estimated to have carried more than 3.5 million passengers.

After the planes dropped off their final passengers in Chicago and elsewhere, two dozen planes flew off into the sunset and retirement in the desert.

WGN’s Ben Bradley went along for the ride to Roswell, New Mexico.

The town known for space aliens is now working to land another spectacle: old airplanes. Everything from Elvis’ 1962 JetStar to a Saudi Arabian 747 missing its door and more than a few aircraft missing a nose are on the grounds. The planes are in various states of disrepair but they’re not necessarily grounded for good. Some will fly again as cargo plane but most will sit idle as they’re scrapped for parts in the airplane boneyard.

The desert’s hot dry air is good for storing planes which can be susceptible to mold and other problems in higher humidity.

Roswell is so committed to the airplane retirement home, the town’s mayor gave the CEO of American Airlines a “key to the city” just for parking his planes there.


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