June 08, 2023

The McDonnell Douglas DC-9's legacy is undeniable, with nearly one thousand units of the popular aircraft produced during its 17 year manufacturing run. The DC-9's impact on the aviation industry remains significant, serving as a testament to its enduring design and the innovative spirit of McDonnell Douglas. N920RW, a DC-9-31, was one of 976 DC-9s built, serving some of the notable U.S. domestic carriers of its era, including Northwest Airlines. Learn more about N920RW and Northwest Airlines DC-9 PlaneTags.

McDonnell Douglas DC-9

Developed in the 1960s by the American aerospace manufacturer McDonnell Douglas, the twin-engine DC-9 was designed as a short- to medium-range aircraft suitable for both passenger and cargo operations. The DC-9 entered service on December 8, 1965, and quickly gained popularity among airlines worldwide due to its versatility, reliability, and efficiency. Its production years ran until 1982, producing 976 units. 


DC 9

  Douglas, DC-9 flickr photo by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

One of the standout features of the DC-9 was its distinctive T-tail configuration, wherein the horizontal stabilizer is mounted on top of the vertical fin. This design allowed for improved stability and reduced interference from engine exhaust, which contributed to enhanced performance and fuel efficiency. With its spacious cabin and excellent performance capabilities, the DC-9 proved to be an ideal choice for airlines operating regional and medium-haul routes. Its ability to take off and land on shorter runways made it well-suited for smaller airports and city-to-city connections. Furthermore, the aircraft's durability and low operating costs made it an attractive option for both established carriers and emerging airlines around the world. 

Over the course of its production, the DC-9 underwent several advancements and upgrades, resulting in improved versions such as the DC-9 Super 80 and the MD-80 series. These iterations featured more powerful engines, increased seating capacities, and enhanced avionics, ensuring the aircraft remained competitive in a rapidly evolving market. The DC-9's success also led to the development of the larger McDonnell Douglas MD-90 and MD-95/Boeing 717 aircraft, which shared many of its design elements.

DC-9 Variants


Delta Air Lines DC 9
The DC-9 entered service with Delta Air Lines on December 8, 1965. By Unknown author, Public Domain, Link


Here is a list of the major DC-9 variants, including the MD-80, and MD-90 generations, which shared a common lineage with the DC-9. 

  • DC-9-10: This was the initial production model, featuring a capacity of 90 passengers. 137 DC-9-10 aircraft were built.
  • DC-9-20: The -20 variant had an extended fuselage compared to the -10, accommodating up to 115 passengers. 111 DC-9-20 aircraft were produced.
  • DC-9-30: The -30 series had further increased passenger capacity, seating up to 135 passengers. It introduced more powerful engines, extended range, and improved performance. A total of 621 DC-9-30 aircraft were built.
  • DC-9-40: The -40 variant featured more powerful engines and an increased maximum takeoff weight compared to the -30. It could carry up to 125 passengers. 71 DC-9-40 aircraft were produced.
  • DC-9-50: The final variant of the original DC-9 series, the -50 had an extended fuselage and an increased passenger capacity of up to 139. It also featured more powerful engines and improved range. 96 DC-9-50 aircraft were built.
  • C-9A, C-9B, VC-9C: 41 of the DC-9’s military version were built.

Also derived from the DC-9:

  • The MD-80 series, also known as the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, is an evolution of the DC-9. It includes the MD-81, MD-82, MD-83, MD-87, and MD-88 models. The MD-80 series introduced more advanced avionics, improved engines, increased fuel efficiency, and enhanced passenger comfort. The major differences within the MD-80 series lie in their seating capacities, range, and engine options. These variants became very popular among airlines, with a total of over 1,191 aircraft built.
  • The MD-90 is another variant derived from the DC-9. It featured a longer fuselage, more powerful engines, improved aerodynamics, and advanced avionics. The MD-90 series includes the MD-90-30 and MD-90-30ER variants. It offered increased passenger capacity and extended range compared to the MD-80. However, the MD-90 did not achieve the same level of commercial success as the MD-80, with only 116 aircraft built.


DC-9 At A Glance

McDonnell Douglas DC-9


DC 9 Specifications:

  • Manufacturer: Mcdonnell Douglas
  • Tail #: N920RW
  • Crew: 4 (Two Pilots & Two Flight Attendants)
  • Passengers: 105
  • Wing Span: 119 Ft 3 In
  • Length: 93 Ft 5 In
  • Height: 27 Ft 6 In


DC 9 Performance:

  • Range: 1,670 Nm
  • Cruise Speed: 485 Kts
  • Ceiling: 37,000 Ft
  • Empty Weight: 57,190 Lb
  • Max Takeoff Weight: 108,000 Lb
  • Rate Of Climb: 2,850 Ft/Min
  • Engine: 2x Pratt & Whitney Jt8d-9a Turbofans




S/n 47163, built as a DC-9-31 at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach, California, took its first flight on January 12, 1968. Registered as N8940E, it was delivered to Eastern Air Lines on February 15, 1968 and served the airline until 1977. Eastern was the first airline to put the DC-9-30 into service. During its history, EAL had 123 DC-9 planes, 82 of which were DC-9-30 variants.


Hughes Airwest DC-9
Photo by Fernando Mesquita , used with permission. 

Purchased by Hughes Airwest in 1977, the plane was registered as N920RW and remained with the airline through troubled times, including a walkout in September 1979 and a buyout a year later by Republic Airlines. 


Republic Airlines DC-9
Photo by LRS747/AirHistory. Used with permission.



After the merger with Hughes Airwest, Republic Airlines became the largest U.S. airline, based on the number of airports served. Republic also operated the largest DC-9 fleet in the world, with 133 DC-9s in three variants, as well as Boeing 727-200, Boeing 757-200, McDonnell Douglas MD-80, and Convair 580. However, in debt from its airline and new plane acquisitions, they began reducing service along their former extensive route system. Six years after the Hughes merger, on October 1, 1986, Republic merged with Northwest Airlines in the largest merger at the time. N920RW put on the Northwest colors, accumulating a total of 96,653 flight hours before retiring in 2005. 

Northwest Airlines

Northwest Airlines DC-9
Photo by Fernando Mesquita , used with permission. 

Northwest Airlines was a major American airline with a rich history that spanned over eight decades. It was founded in 1926 as Northwest Airways and initially operated as a U.S.Midwest  regional carrier. Over the years, Northwest Airlines grew in size and scope, expanding its route network and becoming a prominent player in the airline industry.


During the 1980s and 1990s, Northwest Airlines underwent significant changes and transformations. It embraced the jet age, retiring its propeller-driven aircraft and introducing modern jetliners like the Boeing 747 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10. NWA also expanded its international operations, establishing itself as a global carrier with an extensive network connecting North America to Asia, Europe, and other destinations around the world. Its merger with Republic Airlines in 1986 further strengthened Northwest's presence, including a new hub in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which became one of the airline's primary connecting points and allowed it to expand its reach in the U.S. 


Photo by Pertti Sipilä , used with permission.

However, Northwest Airlines faced significant challenges in the early 2000s, including financial difficulties and the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. In an effort to remain competitive and ensure its long-term viability, the airline began discussions of a merger with Delta Air Lines. In 2008, Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines announced their intention to merge, creating one of the largest airlines in the world. The merger was completed in 2010, with the new entity operating under the name Delta Air Lines. The merger brought together two well-established carriers with complementary route networks, allowing for expanded global connectivity and improved operational efficiencies. Although this merger marked the end of Northwest Airlines as a distinct brand, its legacy included developing transpacific routes and establishing connections between the United States and Asia. 

MotoArt Lands A Northwest DC-9

Northwest DC-9 PlaneTags


"Finding a Northwest DC-9 has always been on my list of must-haves, and I'm sure on the lists of many PlaneTags collectors too," says MotoArt owner Dave Hall. "It was a familiar sight in the sky for many of us growing up so it's pretty cool having one to collect or travel with now."

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McDonnell Douglas DC 9


retired Northwest DC-9


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Northwest airlines dc 9


DC-9 PlaneTags



Northwest Airlines DC-9 PlaneTags

Northwest DC-9 PlaneTags


The DC-9 PlaneTags are numbered in a series of 7500 and will initially be available in the following colors: 


  • Pearl
  • Red
  • Red/Pearl
  • Gray
  • Gray/Pearl
  • Black/Pearl








The DC-9s will be released on Thursday, June 8th at 12pm PT. Northwest Airlines DC 9 PlaneTags are an essential need for any aviation fanatic’s tag collection. Be sure to grab the colors you want before they are sold out.