RALEIGH, NC – On Monday July 8, 2019 a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta to Baltimore made an emergency landing in Raleigh, North Carolina, after the nose cone of the left engine came loose. The MD-88 with 154 people on board landed safely without any passengers or flight crew being injured.
Safe emergency landing
The Delta McDonnell Douglas MD-88 – registration N906DL – was on route to Baltimore, when the crew decided to divert to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in North Carolina, due to a problem with the left engine. The aircraft landed safely about 30 minutes later on runway 23R.
In a statement to Storyful, Delta confirmed the incident in a statement writing: “The flight crew of Delta Flight 1425 from Atlanta to Baltimore elected to divert to Raleigh, North Carolina, after receiving an indication of an issue with one of the aircraft’s engines.”
In Raleigh the 148 passengers on board the Delta aircraft continued their flight on another aircraft, according to Delta. Delta added that the aircraft’s engine had been replaced and the damaged engine would be examined by their maintenance team in Atlanta.
Aviation expert John Cox of Safety Operating Systems told Storyful that an engine losing its nose cone, or “spinner,” was “extraordinarily rare.”
“I have been around this type of engine (a Pratt and Whitney JT-8) since 1980,” Cox said. “I have never seen or heard of a spinner coming off.” According to John Cox the airplane was not in danger “as all airliners can fly with one engine inoperative.”
A passenger on board said that she saw smoke inside the cabin, describing it as a “completely terrifying situation.” She praised the actions of the crew, saying they “did an amazing job in staying and keeping us all calm, while preparing us for an emergency landing.”
The McDonnell Douglas MD-88 – aka Mad Dog – is the final variant of the MD-80 twin-engine single-aisle jet. Its the oldest plane in service with any major U.S. airline. Introduced in 1988, pilots call the jet ‘Mad Dog.’ The cockpit is like a cage with no room to stretch. The aircraft controls are outdated and require pilots to relearn checklist procedures. The Mad Dog is also considered uncomfortable to fly and it’s a very loud aircraft.
The MD-88 might be old and loud, but according to Bloomberg, young pilots can rise through the ranks quicker if they are willing to fly in the Mad Dog, because Delta has had trouble finding pilots to fly the MD-88 the past years. A pilot hired in January 2017, graduated to captain in an unprecedented 6 months by flying the MD-88.
Delta plans to retire the Mad Dog to the boneyard next year. Delta currently has 79 MD-88s and 37 MD-90s. They will be replaced by Airbus A321-200s and Boeing 737-900ERs.
Delta wants to retire the old and expensive Mad Dog quick for a good reason. The Delta MD-90s have an average age of 22 years, while the MD-88s have an astonishing average age 28 years (!). Delta is planning to retire up to 40 MD-88s this year.
(Top photo: randomduck [CC BY-SA 2.0)