They call it the Mad Dog. Nope, it doesn’t foam at the mouth, randomly bite people or answer to the name “Cujo.”
It’s just because the first two letters of its name are MD … as in MD-80. It’s a pilot’s airplane – kind of noisy, but with a reputation for real flying and handling. Passengers? Few love ‘em – but others see some beauty in these roaring beasts. Soon, you’ll see fewer varieties of the MD-80 flying people around. Quieter, more-efficient planes are taking their place.
I have mixed feelings on this. I like that the odds are only 1 in 5 that you’ll get a middle seat on an MD. But fuel efficiency is a good thing. And I’ve always thought Mad Dogs are kind of ugly … like its mother was a 727 that drank too much during her pregnancy. Of course, the even more-bland 737NGs and Airbus A320s will fill the void. So no win there!
That said, I’ve had some really cool flights on Mad Dogs. Here are two that stand out.
Chicago – Phoenix (American Airlines, July 2011): It’s hard to beat a flight in first class. Especially when your air miles account picks up the tab. Not only do I get a tasty salmon salad, but I’m far from the back row and the roar of the engines. I know flight attendants know almost everything about passengers when they get on … so they know I was just some stooge who used his air miles for the flight. But they’re exceptionally nice, anyway.
Darwin – Gove – Cairns (Qantas, September 2009): Ah, the Top End of Australia – the place where adventure starts. I hated leaving Darwin. It’s not a great town, and it’s expensive. But there’s something fun about being right on the Timor Sea. We boarded a 717 (the modern, post-Boeing version of the MD series) for our flight to Cairns. Almost immediately, the flight attendants have a hot breakfast on our trays. A short time later, we descend into a tiny town called Gove (we didn’t read the reservation carefully enough, I guess). The crew herds us off the plane (on a rolling staircase!) and into the airport’s tiny terminal. We drop a few people off to go fishing and bring a few new passengers aboard. Shortly after, we are airborne and headed for Cairns. Too cool.