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Name MD-81
Body Narrow
Wing Fixed Wing
Position Low wing
Tail T-tail
WTC Medium
Type code L2J
RFF Category 7
Engine Jet
Engine count Multi
Position Both sides of rear fuselage
Landing gear Tricycle retractable
Mass group 4

Manufacturered as:





Short to medium range airliner. A stretched and improved development of the DC-9 Family which first flew in the early 1980s.

The MD81 is the first of the generic MD-80 series which includes the MD-82 (more powerful engines), MCDONNELL DOUGLAS MD-83 (extra fuel and more efficient engines), and the MD-88 (MD-83 with EFIS flight deck).

Technical Data

Wing span 32.78 m107.546 ft
Length 45.06 m147.835 ft
Height 9.02 m29.593 ft
Powerplant The initial production version had the PW JT8D-209 (82 kN)
Later build MD-81s had JT8D-217 and -219 engines.
Engine model Pratt & Whitney JT8D

Performance Data

Take-Off Initial Climb
(to 5000 ft)
Initial Climb
(to FL150)
Initial Climb
(to FL240)
MACH Climb Cruise Initial Descent
(to FL240)
(to FL100)
Descent (FL100
& below)
V2 (IAS) 130 kts IAS 160 kts IAS 260 kts IAS 260 kts MACH 0.74 TAS 480 kts MACH 0.76 IAS 250 kts IAS kts Vapp (IAS) 125 kts
Distance m ROC 3000 ft/min ROC 2600 ft/min ROC 2200 ft/min ROC 1500 ft/min MACH 0.76 ROD 1000 ft/min ROD 2300 ft/min MCS 200 kts Distance m
MTOW 6350363,503 kg
63.503 tonnes
Ceiling FL370 ROD ft/min APC C
WTC M Range 15701,570 nm
2,907,640 m
2,907.64 km
9,539,501.319 ft

Accidents & Serious Incidents involving MD81

  • B734 / MD81, en-route, Romford UK, 1996 (On 12 November 1996, a B737-400 descended below its assigned level in one of the holding patterns at London Heathrow in day IMC to within 100 feet vertically and between 680 and 820 metres horizontally of a MD-81 at its correct level, 1000 feet below. STCA prompted ATC to intervene and the 737 climbed back to its cleared level. Neither aircraft was fitted with TCAS 2 or saw the other visually.)
  • MD81, Grenoble France, 2010 (On 5 February 2010, a McDonnell Douglas MD 81 being operated by SAS on a non scheduled passenger flight from Copenhagen to Grenoble carried out a normal ILS approach to runway 09 in dark night VMC conditions, but the touchdown was made with the aircraft at an excessive pitch angle and higher than normal rate of descent and a tail strike occurred. Serious damage was caused to the rear lower fuselage but none of the 131 occupants were injured and a normal taxi-in and disembarkation followed.)
  • MD81, Kiruna Sweden, 1997 (A scheduled passenger flight from Stockholm Arlanda to Kiruna left the runway during the night landing at destination performed in a strong crosswind with normal visibility.)
  • MD81, vicinity Chicago Midway, IL USA, 2008 (On 7 July 2008, a Mc Donnell Douglas MD81 being operated by Midwest Airlines, Inc. had just taken off in day visual flight conditions when increasing pitch could initially not be controlled. Later, control was regained but with “higher than normal” pitch control pressure required to control the aircraft - after en-route diversion the aircraft landed uneventfully.)
  • MD81, vicinity Stockholm Arlanda Sweden, 1991 (On 27 December 1991, an MD-81 took off after airframe ground de/anti icing treatment but soon afterwards both engines began surging and both then failed. A successful crash landing with no fatalities was achieved four minutes after take off after the aircraft emerged from cloud approximately 900 feet above terrain. There was no post-crash fire. The Investigation found that undetected clear ice on the upper wing surfaces had been ingested into both engines during rotation and initiated engine surging. Without awareness of the aircraft's automated thrust increase system, the pilot response did not control the surging and both engines failed.)