Northwest Airlines fleet

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A Northwest Airlines Airbus A320 demonstrating the airline's colors

Northwest Airlines was a major U.S. airline which existed from 1926 until 2010, when it merged with Delta Air Lines. At the time of the merger it had a total of 320 aircraft with seven on order. It was also the last U.S. airline to have a dedicated cargo fleet and routes.

Northwest, unlike Delta, operated a mixed fleet of Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus aircraft. The Boeing 757 was the only type of jet common to the pre-merger fleets of both Delta and Northwest. The Northwest fleet was integrated into Delta's fleet on December 31, 2009. The airline ceased operations and merged into Delta in 2010. Most of Northwest Boeing 747 fleet was sent to Delta which had retired all of its own 747s before the merger.

Pre-merger Northwest Airlines fleet[edit]

As part of a major fleet renewal program, Northwest introduced a simplified new paint scheme and logo in 2003, emphasizing its callsign (NWA). The airline replaced its McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliners with the Airbus A330. Its first Airbus A330-300, used initially for European flights, arrived on August 6, 2003. Northwest also flew the longer ranged and slightly shorter A330-200 on some trans-Pacific flights, within the Orient, and on some trans-Atlantic routes. The majority of Northwest Airlines' flights between North America and Europe were flown in Airbus A330s. (Northwest became the largest owner and flier of A330s in the world.)[1] Northwest Airlines also possessed the youngest trans-Atlantic fleet of any North American or European airline[citation needed]. Northwest Airlines also began flying reconfigured Boeing 757–200 airliners on some of its European flights carrying fewer passengers. Northwest was one of only two passenger airlines in the United States to fly the Boeing 747-400, with the only other one being United Airlines. One Boeing 747-400 originally destined to fly for Northwest Airlines was sold to United Airlines and is still in service today.

Northwest was looking for manufacturers to discuss the replacement of their 100, 110 and 125 seat McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, with an average age of 35 years.[2][3]

In January 2008, Northwest advised its pilots that the airline planned to cut its fleet of 92 DC-9s to 68 by the end of 2008. Northwest stated that pilot jobs will not be reduced, as they would hire approximately 200–250 pilots by the end of 2008.[4] On April 23, 2008, due to soaring fuel costs from $1.85 in the first quarter of 2007 to $2.77 in the first quarter of 2008, Northwest announced that an additional 15 to 20 aircraft would be removed from its fleet by the end of 2009. The grounded aircraft included ten or so DC-9s, with the balance of the 15 to 20 being a mix of 10 Boeing 757s and 4 Airbus A320s.

The airline's average fleet age was 18.5 years by the end of 2009.[5] The Boeing customer code for Northwest Airlines was 7x7-x51 (i.e. 747-451). The Northwest Airlines fleet consisted of the following aircraft as of August 2009:[6]

Northwest Airlines Fleet
(at time of merger)
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
B E Total
Airbus A319-100 57 16 108 124 All aircraft remain in service with Delta Air Lines
Airbus A320-200 69 16 132 148 All aircraft remain in service with Delta Air Lines
Airbus A330-200 11
32 211 243 All aircraft remain in service with Delta Air Lines
Airbus A330-300 21
34 264 298 All aircraft remain in service with Delta Air Lines
Boeing 747-400 16
65 338 403 Launch Customer. All to be retired by 2017 and replaced with the Airbus A350-900. 7 remain in service.
Boeing 757-200 45
22 160 182 40 remain in service with Delta Air Lines
Boeing 757-300 16
24 200 224 All aircraft remain in service with Delta Air Lines
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 27
16 84 100 Retired in March 2011. These aircraft remained in Northwest colors after the merger and did not get Delta Air Lines classic blue seat covers.
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-40 7
16 94 110 Retired in March 2011. These aircraft remained in Northwest colors after the merger and did not get Delta Air Lines classic blue seat covers.
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 34
16 109 125 Last scheduled flight occurred on January 6, 2014.
Northwest Airlines Cargo Fleet
Boeing 747-200F 15
Total 320 7

Fleet gallery[edit]

Retired Northwest Airlines fleet[edit]

Northwest Airlines Retired Fleet
Aircraft Year Retired Replacement Notes
Boeing 727-100 1991 McDonnell Douglas DC-9
Boeing 727-200 2003 Airbus A320
Boeing 747-100 2000 Boeing 747-400
Boeing 747-200 2009 Airbus A330 Family Passenger retired 2007, charter retired 2009
Boeing 747-200F 2009 None Cargo fleet
Convair CV-580 1988 None Acquired during the merger with Republic Airlines in 1986
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-10 2005 Airbus A319
McDonnell Douglas MD-80 1999 Airbus A320 Acquired during merger with Republic Airlines
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 2007 Airbus A330 Family Sold to ATA Airlines and Omni Air International
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 2002 Boeing 757-300

NWA Fleet in 1960[edit]

Northwest Orient Airlines fleet in 1960[7]
Aircraft Total Orders Notes
Boeing 377 8 0
Douglas DC-3 4 0
Douglas DC-6A 7 0
Douglas DC-6B 17 0
Douglas DC-7C 17 0
Douglas DC-8 0 5
Lockheed L-188 0 18
Total 53 23

NWA Fleet in 1970[edit]

Northwest Orient Airlines fleet in 1970[8]
Aircraft Total Orders Notes
Boeing 707-300B 10 0
Boeing 707-300C 26 0
Boeing 720B 16 0
Boeing 727-100 30 0
Boeing 727-200 34 0
Boeing 747-100 0 15
Boeing 2707 0 0 6 Options
Douglas DC-10-20 0 14
Total 116 29

NWA Fleet in 1980[edit]

Northwest Airlines fleet in 1980[9]
Aircraft Total Orders Notes
Boeing 727-100 4 0
Boeing 727-100C 12 0
Boeing 727-200 46 4
Boeing 747-100 12 0
Boeing 747-200B 11 1
Boeing 747-200F 4 1
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 22 0
Total 111 6

NWA Fleet in 1990[edit]

Northwest Airlines fleet in 1990[10]
Aircraft Total Orders Notes
Airbus A320-200 6 19
Airbus A330 0 16
Airbus A340 0 20
Boeing 727-100 9 0
Boeing 727-200 62 0
Boeing 747-100 12 0
Boeing 747-200B 20 0
Boeing 747-200F 8 0
Boeing 747-400 6 10
Boeing 757-200 33 40
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-10 20 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 77 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 28 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 20 0
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 8 0
Total 323 105

NWA Fleet in 2000[edit]

Northwest Airlines fleet in 2000[11]
Aircraft Total Orders Notes
Airbus A319-100 12 56 82 Options
Airbus A320-200 70 12
Airbus A330-300 0 16
Boeing 727-200 Adv 31 0
Boeing 747-100 1 0
Boeing 747-200B 21 0
Boeing 747-200F 10 0
Boeing 747-400 14 0
Boeing 757-200 48 25
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-10 10 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 115 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-40 12 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-50 35 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 22 0
McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 21 0
McDonnell Douglas MD-82 8 0
Total 430 109

Please note that the DC-9 was retired by January 6, 2014.

NWA Cargo[edit]

As of 2006, NWA Cargo was the largest cargo carrier among U.S. combination passenger and cargo airlines. NWA Cargo’s fleet of 15 dedicated Boeing 747 freighter aircraft flew from key cities throughout the United States and Asia and connected the carrier’s cargo hub in Anchorage, Alaska (Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport), facilitating the quick transfer of cargo between large cities on both sides of the Pacific. NWA Cargo also transported freight aboard the passenger fleet of Northwest Airlines to more than 250 cities worldwide.

As of early 2008, NWA's largest cargo client was DHL International. In December 2007, NWA announced that DHL International would terminate its cargo agreement with the airline effective late 2008. According to NWA Chief Financial Officer Dave Davis, the loss of its largest cargo client would bring significant changes to the division.[12]

NWA Cargo served airports and routes not served by the passenger operation — the last U.S. carrier to maintain a separate fleet and route network exclusively for cargo. Such cargo-only cities on NWA's route map included Wilmington, Ohio, and cargo only routes included Chicago, Illinois to Anchorage, Alaska.

On April 21, 2009, Delta announced they were grounding 14 of their Boeing 747-200 freighter aircraft on December 31, 2009. The last flight of a dedicated cargo aircraft was December 26, 2009. Currently, Delta maintains freight activity on some of their passenger aircraft's lower deck.

NWA Cargo Fleet
Aircraft Total Routes Notes
Boeing 747-200F 15 Freight Operating as NWA Cargo