Tue, Feb 22, 2005
Technically, They Make Northwest's Fleet One Of World's
Perhaps they had an inkling of the
troubled times ahead. Perhaps not. No matter what drove Northwest
Airlines to gut and refurbish more than 100 DC-9s ten years ago,
the decision proved a good move for the financially struggling
airline. Sure, on paper, it looks like NWA's fleet is one of the
two oldest in the world. But then again, the company owns the
DC-9s, finds them generally more fuel efficient than the
competition and in the end, saves a whole lot of money as a
Northwest's fleet is so old, "it's the airline probably most
worried about President Bush's Social Security proposal," said
George Hamlin, director at MergeGlobal Inc., a consulting company.
"Northwest has chosen to be a contrarian in terms of keeping these
aircraft much longer than anyone expected."
That means, while the average age of America's top five legacy
carrier fleets are about 10-years old (well, sure, Continental's
fleet is just eight years old on average), Northwest's fleet is, on
average, 18-years old.
There is a limit to the life expectancy of a DC-9, even when
pampered. The FAA says that model aircraft can survive 105,000
pressurize/depressurize cycles before it's worn out. This year,
that means NWA will decommission about 10 aircraft.
Of course, the NWA DC-9 fleet has been refurbished. Beginning in
1995, they were outfitted with new avionics, hush kits and improved
mechanical systems. These days, you'll find them doing for
Northwest what newer regional jets do for other airlines -- serving
small to midsize markets around the country.
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