The short DC-9 had proved perfect for operation by the local service airlines during the 1960s as their first jets, especially after several (including Frontier and Bonanza) were denied the right to buy British One-Elevens following Mohawk's order of the type. The CAB had said it was concerned about the already high rate of subsidisation that the jets operating on local routes would require over the existing props, however this issue miraculously went away when an American alternative appeared. It's hard to see it as anything other than blatant protectionism. Anyway of the local service airlines Allegheny, Bonanza, Central, North Central, Ozark, Pacific, Southern, Trans-Texas, West Coast all ordered DC-9s. Only Frontier, which overstretched itself with 727s, Lake Central, which ordered 737s, and Piedmont, also 737s, operated alternative aircraft. If only most of these aircraft existed in 1/400 scale :( .
As the 1970s arrived the local service airlines grew into what were termed regionals (not related to the later use of the term to mean a prop commuter airline) and as deregulation loomed mergers and consolidation began. Implausibly this led to the small Texas International (formerly Trans-Texas) taking over the much larger trunk airline Continental and all hell breaking loose. Suffice to say Frank Lorenzo, who owned TI, through his Jet Capital, was not a popular man and he took the 'Proud bird with the Golden tail' through bankruptcy in order to lower costs and destroy any staff resistance to his cost cutting reign. I doubt many of them thought that 'together we're even better' as the below timetable asserts:
This also meant that the shell of the old Continental was gradually merged with various other Lorenzo acquisitions and startups. Two of these were DC-9s operators - namely Texas International and Lorenzo's non-union New York Air. As a result Continental inherited a boatload of 'new' aircraft many of which were very old. We have already looked at the 737-200s and 300s Continental acquired in an earlier blog post but the DC-9 also made a comeback in both its short DC-9-14/15 and longer 30 series forms. As far as DC-9-14/15s went Continental acquired from Texas International in October 1982:
So hardly a uniform group of aircraft even though all had seen some service with Texas International. None dated from after 1967. Unlike the more spacious 737s and larger DC-9-30s the short Nines were ripe for replacement even if Continental was in no position to pay for new aircraft. They soldiered on until 1991 just after Continental had entered its second bankruptcy within a decade.
One sad footnote to the DC-9-14/15s career with Continental was the loss of N626TX on November 15, 1987 when she crashed on take-off from Denver Stapleton. She had been cleared to take-off 27 minutes after de-icing, which provided enough time for further ice to accumulate. The aircraft lost lift abd struck the ground after rotation with the left wing separating from the airframe. It then hit the ground again (this time the left side cockpit and forward fuselage) and the plane skidded to a halt inverted. Sadly 28 of the 82 occupants were killed. The crash was blamed on the failure to de-ice for a second time as well as confusion between the flight crew and ATC.
N651TX, the aircraft the model represents, was actually only the 7th DC-9 off the line and was one of five aircraft leased from TWA in 1974, returned in 1975 and eventually purchased in 1977. She had originally been delivered to TWA on 25th March 1966 as N1051T and kept that registration until November 1982 when Continental made her N651TX. After her retirement by CO she was leased to Aerocalifornia as XA-RXG and was withdrawn sometime in 2005. Ferried to Mojave she was scrapped in 2009.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: