Air Transport World

Deja vu?

Boeing hopes the 717 can repeat the 1960s successes of McDonnell Douglas's DC-9

Boeing Commercial Airplane Group is counting on the combination of today's emerging Regional-airline market and replacement needs of larger airlines to develop a successful program from its Long Beach-based 717 program.

At this writing, Boeing had two 717s in its flight-test program at the former McDonnell Douglas Yuma, Ariz., facility, heading for certification and first delivery by June, 1999.

The 717 program officially got under way in 1995, when Atlanta-based ValuJet, now called AirTran Airlines with a new headquarters in Orlando, ordered 50 of the aircraft, then called MD-95, and took options for 50 more. Since then, Bavaria International Aircraft Leasing has ordered five more, but no additional orders have surfaced.

The Douglas DC-9 program had enough success in the 1960s to give present-day Boeing officials hope for a repeat performance with essentially the same airplane, with state-of-the-art power plants and cockpit systems.

Thirty years ago, a group of U.S. local-service airlines went through a metamorphosis from so-called "feeder" airlines for the large "trunk" carriers to something more ambitious. There were 13 of them headquartered in the contiguous 48 states, certificated mostly in the 1950s by the Civil Aeronautics Board to provide feeder service between trunk-line hubs and smaller communities that would have no air service otherwise. …

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