History of the Boeing 717

For aviation enthusiasts worldwide, whenever the term “Maddog” pops up it’s generally associated with the former aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas (a.k.a DC, MD) and its line of t-tail aircraft such as the Dc-9, MD-80’s & 90’s family. However, some people don’t know that Boeing developed their own t-tail “Maddog” known as the B717 (with help from MD). In this article, we will delve into the Boeing 717.

The 717 came out of the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 program, a program which saw MD looking for a Dc-9 replacement.

Source: AAP

The program had specific characteristics they wanted the new aircraft to have:

  • 100-125 passengers
  • T-tailed
  • Re-engined,
  • Up-gauged
  • More modernised than its predecessor.

M.D started talks and designs for the MD-95 around the late ’80s to early ’90s but had to be put on hold due to other factors. However, this all recommenced in the mid-’90s as well as a significant order by AirTran Airways for 50 confirmed aircraft with 50 options.  In 1997 MD was bought and acquired by Boeing who then marketed the aircraft as we know it now, the B717. Production would be at Boeing’s Long Beach plant with AirTran becoming the first 717 operator by 1999. The aircraft’s primary competition was with the Airbus A318, A220, Bombardier’s CRJ family, Embraer’s ERJ family and Boeing’s 737-600.

Let’s launch straight into its characteristics as there is only the one variant of the Boeing Maddog: the B717-200. It’s 37.8 metres long, with a width of 28.4 m and a height of 9.0 m tall. The planes range comes in around 3,800 km and can seat anywhere from 110 passengers in 2 class layout to 130 passengers in an all-economy configuration. The 717s flight-deck is fairly modern and has 6 Multi-Function Display Units (M.F.D.U’s) which display all information and has an Advanced Common Flight-deck (A.C.F). The A.C.F features allow pilots to have a common type-rating with the MD-10 & MD-11 with some additional training. It is powered by two 18,500- to 21,000-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce 715 high-bypass-ratio engines.

Source: Tomás Del Coro

The 717 production line operated from 1998 and ultimately finished up in 2006 with 156 units produced. Due to factors such as passenger demand in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and newer competitors after mid-2000s the aircraft was sadly never profitable for Boeing. The operating economics however have proved quite ideal for the airlines that still continue to operate this particular aircraft.

Let’s see where we can find the B717 operating today. Of the 156 units produced, 91 are operated by Delta Airlines on mainland U.S routes, 20 are operated by Hawaiian Airlines on inter-island Hawaiian routes. A further 20 are operated by Qantaslink in Australia and 14 are operated by the carrier Volotea which uses it on European routes. Volotea, however, has announced that they will be phasing out the 717’s and getting A319’s to replace them causing the aircraft to permanently depart European skies. The remainder have been retired and scrapped which includes the prototype.

Personal Note:

While I haven’t had the chance yet to travel on the 717, I plan to with Qantaslink as they have had the aircraft for a while and don’t seem to be in any hurry to retire them yet. For anyone else wanting to fly on Boeing’s Maddog, The U.S mainland, Hawaii and Australia are your choices


Vik Singh

Vik was born in Auckland, New Zealand, however he currently lives in Sydney, Australia. He absolutely loves aviation and works as a ramp agent in the aviation sector. When he is not working, you'll often find him flying from one place to another or collecting model aircraft!

1 comment