Boeing 717: Robust Relic or Outdated Oddity? - Such Airplanes

Boeing 717: Robust Relic or Outdated Oddity?

Boeing 717 Overview

The Boeing 717 is a testament to the evolution of modern airliner design, marrying efficiency with the practical needs of regional airlines.

Initially introduced as the MD-95, it’s McDonnell Douglas’s legacy continued under Boeing’s brand post-merger in 1997.

This narrow-body airliner is tailored for the 100-seat market, a sweet spot for many carriers requiring a blend of passenger comfort and operational economy.

It operates with a configuration of five seats across, catering to both business and leisure travelers seeking a cozy yet efficient flight experience.

Its design draws inspiration from the reputable DC-9, maintaining key structural features well-regarded for reliability.

A standout feature of the Boeing 717 includes its two turbofan engines mounted at the rear, contributing to a quieter and smoother ride.

The aircraft’s specifications reveal a balance of capability and performance:

  • Cruising Speed: 504 mph
  • Range: 1,510 miles
  • Wingspan: 93 ft 4 in
  • Tail Height: 29 ft 1 in
  • Overall Length: 124 ft

The Boeing 717’s life in the skies showcases airlines’ confidence in its ability to deliver consistent performance for short-haul routes.

It remains a preferred regional jet among airlines, valued for its operational efficiency and the passenger experience it offers.

Technical Specifications

Boeing 717: Robust Relic or Outdated Oddity? - Such Airplanes - Boeing

The Boeing 717 is a marvel of aerospace engineering that combines robust aerodynamic design with efficient space utilization and advanced avionics.

Its technical specifications reflect a commitment to performance, reliability, and economy in the regional jet market.

Aerodynamics and Performance

  • Wingspan: 28.44 meters (93 feet 3 inches) providing a balance of lift and agility.
  • Cruise Speed: Capable of cruising at speeds of up to 0.77 Mach, the 717 ensures swift regional connections.
  • Range: With up to 2,060 nautical miles, it effectively serves short to medium-haul routes.

Capacity and Dimensions

  • Seating Capacity: Configurations vary from 106 in a two-class layout to a maximum of 134 passengers in high-density seating.
  • Fuselage: Its length stands at 37.80 meters (124 feet) with a crafted fuselage that optimizes passenger comfort and aircraft performance.
  • Maximum Take-Off Weight: A notable 55,000 kilograms (121,000 pounds) demonstrates its solid construction.

Engines and Avionics

  • Twinjet Powerplant: Equipped with two Rolls-Royce BR715 turbofan engines, providing reliable and efficient thrust.
  • Flight Deck: Boasts a glass cockpit, integrating state-of-the-art avionics for enhanced situational awareness.
  • Advanced Common Flightdeck (ACF): Shared technology with other Boeing models reduces pilot training and maintenance.

Advanced Design Features

  • T-Tail: Employs a distinctive T-tail which contributes to aerodynamic efficiency.
  • Flight Control Computer: Incorporates advanced systems that support flight operations and safety.
  • Empty Weight and Gross Weight: Respectively at approximately 31,000 kilograms (68,000 pounds) and 54,880 kilograms (121,000 pounds), the design reflects both durability and economy.

Carrier Operations

The Boeing 717 remains a stalwart in short-haul aviation, distinguished by the select few airlines that operate it and strategic deployment on specific routes.

Airline Operators

The Boeing 717 is operated by a handful of airlines:

  • Delta Air Lines: Maintaining the largest fleet of Boeing 717s, which are primarily used for regional services across the United States, including the Atlanta to Charlotte route.
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Uses the 717 for high-frequency inter-island flights, critical for the Hawaiian domestic network.
  • QantasLink: Australia’s flag carrier’s regional branch, leveraging the 717 for domestic services.
  • Volotea: A European low-cost airline that once included the 717 in its fleet before phasing it out.

Market Positioning

The 717 is categorized as a regional jet, designed to serve short-haul and domestic routes with high efficiency.

Its positioning is unique as it competes with:

  • The Airbus A320 family, known for its versatility.
  • Bombardier and Embraer jets, which also focus on regional markets.
  • The smaller Airbus A318, which caters to a similar market niche.

Flight Routes and Accessibility

  • Primarily excels in short-haul, high-frequency routes such as those operated by Hawaiian Airlines across the Hawaiian archipelago.
  • Delta Air Lines utilizes the 717 for a mix of domestic routes, offering regional connectivity with a right-sized jet for routes like Atlanta to Charlotte.

Competitive Analysis

Compared to newer regional jets, the 717 holds its own due to:

  • Delta Air Lines’ preference for established reliability, opting to continue the 717 service over newer rivals.
  • The operational efficiency it offers on densely packed, short-haul routes where larger narrow-bodies like the Airbus A320 could be less economical.
  • The aircraft’s performance on shorter runways, making it an asset in accessing airports with infrastructure limitations.

Passenger Experience

Boeing 717: Robust Relic or Outdated Oddity? - Such Airplanes - Boeing

When flying on the Boeing 717, passengers can anticipate a blend of traditional design and dependable performance.

The aircraft’s cabin amenities and operational reliability contribute to a noteworthy travel experience, especially on regional routes.

Cabin Amenities

  • First Class: Luxurious and spacious seating sets the tone for premium travel, with added privileges such as prioritized check-in and boarding.
  • Main Cabin: Designed for practicality, the main cabin offers essential services with attention to passenger convenience.

The Boeing 717 offers an array of amenities aimed at enhancing the in-flight experience.

First class accommodations include larger seats and added privacy, whereas the main cabin presents a more compact yet efficient environment suitable for shorter flights.

Operational Reliability

  • Quick Turnaround: The narrowbody design simplifies boarding and deplaning, allowing for speedier ground operations.
  • Reliable Performance: Proven over two decades of service, the aircraft’s reliability supports on-time departures and arrivals.

Passengers benefit from the aircraft’s operational reliability, which minimizes downtime and maximizes on-time travel.

The aircraft’s ability to operate efficiently on short-haul and regional routes has been repeatedly demonstrated, ensuring that passengers reach their destinations as scheduled.

Accessibility and Comfort

  • Cabin Layout: Accessibility is prioritized with a cabin designed for quick and easy movement.
  • Seating: The comfortable seating accommodates passengers’ needs on regional travels, making the 717 a favorable choice for shorter trips.

The Boeing 717’s cabin ensures that passengers experience comfort and accessibility, with thoughtful arrangements to maximize available space.

These elements, along with easy access to overhead compartments and lavatories, contribute to a convenient journey.

Comparison With Alternatives

  • Airbus A220: A modern regional jet with emphasis on cabin innovation and passenger comfort.
  • Regional Aircraft: Generally, regional jets like the 717 are tailored for short distances, offering a specialized flight experience versus larger, long-haul aircraft.

In comparison to alternatives like the Airbus A220, the Boeing 717 presents a compelling proposition for airlines servicing busy routes with high frequency, where the aircraft’s swift turnovers and modest size can be an asset.

For passengers, the distinct qualities of each aircraft shape their travel experience, with the 717 often remembered for its unique blend of simplicity and steadfastness.

Historical Context and Legacy

Boeing 717: Robust Relic or Outdated Oddity? - Such Airplanes - Boeing

The Boeing 717 represents a crucial milestone in the evolutionary narrative of commercial aviation, reflecting both the continuity of the DC-9 lineage and the impacts of market shifts on aircraft production.

Development History

The Boeing 717, once known as the MD-95, was the last derivative of the venerable DC-9.

Developed by McDonnell Douglas, it drew design inspiration from its ancestors, the MD-80 and MD-87.

With the merger of McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, the 717 became part of Boeing’s portfolio, solidifying its place in aviation history.

Key players like Alenia and the Halla Group joined the production, signaling the 717’s global collaboration.

Impact on Aviation

On entry into service, the 717 filled niche markets for airlines such as AirTran, quickly gaining a reputation for efficiency and reliability on short to mid-range routes.

It signaled a shift towards high-efficiency twin-engine jets and away from larger, less economic models.

Although never reaching the iconic status of the MD-80 series, the aircraft demonstrated adaptability in an era where major carriers like American Airlines and Trans World Airlines were revamping their fleets.

Its legacy is found in the operational philosophy it helped foster, focusing on cost-effective, robust aircraft suited for specific market demands, as captured in the evolution of commercial aviation.

End of Production and Future

Production of the 717 concluded in 2006, a decision dictated by changing market preferences and a surge in competition from other aircraft manufacturers.

Despite this, the 717’s service life continues as carriers leverage its operational economics.

As the aviation industry moves forward, the lingering presence of the 717 in fleets around the globe is a testament to its durability and the foresighted engineering of McDonnell Douglas.

It’s a reminder of the complex forces at play in the history of modern aviation, from market trends to technological advancements.