9/02/1998: Maiden Flight of the Boeing 717

This is the story of the Boeing 717, which took to the skies for the first time from Long Beach, California in 1998.



September 2, 2023

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, the Boeing 717 took to the skies for the first time from Long Beach, California, in 1998.

The type began life as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 and was first launched at the Paris Air Show in 1991. The aircraft, created as a replacement for the popular Douglas DC-9, was specifically designed for the 100-seat, short-haul, high-frequency market.

The Boeing 717 was originally marketed as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 before the company merged with Boeing in 1997. Image: The Airchive

Initial Orders

In October 1995, US low-cost carrier ValuJet (J7) placed an order for 50 of the type, with options for a further 50. However, further orders were slow to emerge.

When Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged in 1997, many in the industry believed this would spell the end of the type. However, Boeing decided to press ahead, re-designating the MD-95 and the 717.

The type remained in production for just eight years, with the last example rolling off the Long Beach production line in 2006. 156 had been built.

Hawaiian Airlines' Boeing 717. Photo: redlegsfan21 from Vandalia, OH, United States - N489HA, CC BY-SA 2.0

Aviation's Best 'Little Secret'

It proved incredibly popular with both airlines and passengers alike. Hawaiian Airlines (HA) CEO Mark Dunkerley was quoted in 2017 as saying, "It's a great little secret. For what we do here in Hawaii, there's no better aircraft built today or even on the drawing board."

Delta Air Lines (DL) remains the largest operator of the 717, which first joined its fleet in 2013. At its peak, 91 of the type were in the fleet. It is configured for 110 passengers: 12 in first class, 20 in premium economy, and 78 in economy.

Delta and HA are the only remaining operators of the 717. This is after Spanish carrier Volotea (V7) retired its final example in January 2021 and Qantas Link (QF) retired its last example in May 2023.

Featured image: Delta Air Lines Boeing 717. Photo: Delta Air Lines