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Having shared a chat on the event with Barbara, the always gentle Meridiana Supervisor at FCO, I was the first to board“Echo Sierra”, being greeted onboard by the smiling all ladies cabin crew headed by Purser Patrizia Patrizio.In the cockpit, the honor of operating the last flight went to Cpt.
Antonio Depau, had specifically arrived from OLB to be on this last flight.Most of the retired aircraft no longer had a market, leaving no other choice than having them scrapped upon retirement at the OLB base.What a sad view seeing the likes of good old I-SMEZ/PH-SEZ, the same young guy that once had flown non-stop from Canada to Amsterdam ending its days parted out at its very homeplace…It was therefore a must do for me to be onboard the final flights of the faithful and reliable Mc Donnell Douglas stablemate, to celebrate in my own way the legacy of this great airliner and of the men and women, crews, technicians and airline’s employees, that along all those years took well care of the fleet of twinjets, maintaining it in top-notch conditions both inside and out. My day started, as it is often the case, with an early wake-up to catch flight IG1111, Meridiana’s flagship service between the airline’s headquarter of Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport (OLB) and Rome Fiumicino (FCO), scheduled at .Within Meridiana all MD-83s joining the fleet were immediately brought to -82 standard, comfortably seating 165 passengers (reduced from 172 of the original configuration) and the first example was followed in 1998 by no less than four more (EI-CKM, I-SMEC, EI-CRE, all -83s) along with another “natural” -82 (I-SMEB).The final sample of the type to join the Meridiana fleet was MD-83 EI-CNR, delivered to Olbia on July 5, 2007: it was also the one with the shortest career in the airline, being withdrawn in July 2011.Later in the day while in Rome for business, I had a chance to see that the morning events had attracted good social media attention, with numerous posts showing footages of I-SMER’s returning at its OLB home base in the morning as flight IG1112 from FCO, its final arrival being greeted by a very well deserved water cannon salute, courtesy of OLB’s firemen brigade.
Yet my day of memories with the -80 was far from over as I had booked myself on IG1116, FCO to OLB, my standard “commuter” flight back home, scheduled at from the major Italian airport, this expectedly being the “very last” scheduled departure of a Meridiana MD-82, questioning what would have been my final ride.
Meridiana’s MD-82 (I-SMES) operating as flight IG1116 from Rome Fiumicino to Olbia Costa Smeralda, closely followed by sistership I-SMET arriving from Milan Linate as flight IG1208 touched down for the very last time at the Sardinian airport on a regularly scheduled commercial service, marking the closure of an era in the Italian aviation scene that lasted for more than 33 years.
The MD-80 series has a long-standing reputation both with crews and passengers alike in the Italian skies, having been a familiar presence ever since 1983 when Alitalia and its subsidiary ATI first introduced the type, flying up to 90 examples of the type in its heydays, the -80s taking over the medium haul routes that had been previously served between 1976-1983 by the 727-200s.
I can still feel the huge sense of relief and the happiness and joy that burst in the OCC room, applause and hugs lauding the considerable achievement, Meridiana having “unofficially” completed its first ever non-stop transatlantic crossing – and that was on a jet that had not been designed to be a long-hauler!
With the starting of the withdrawal of the DC-9-51 fleet in 1997, a first MD-83 (EI-CIW) was introduced.
(Big Eighty in Italian) within the airline, became the true backbone of the fleet and a trademark for the Sardinian carrier, as well as a distinctive sight in the Italian and European airports and skies.