Delta Air Lines' decision to update the avionics in its fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s could lead to updates at more operators of the type, says Innovative Solutions & Support (ISS).
The supplier of the standardised glass cockpit technology says that they are looking at every MD-80 and MD-90 series "tail" in operation and evaluating the feasibility of the technology for each aircraft, says Mike Glover, director of commercial air transport & business/general aviation development for the Atlanta region at ISS. This includes direct talks with other operators.
"We're going to keep the avionics on par with what [the MD-80] can do operationally," he says, adding that the airframes of many MD-80s have "many years left" in them.
Delta will install ISS' enhanced avionics suite that allows them to take advantage of the US Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) NextGen air traffic control system and perform required navigation performance (RNAV) approaches on the aircraft. Installation will begin in 2014 and take two years at a cost of "millions of dollars", says the airline.
The Atlanta-based carrier says that the avionics suite does not change the planned service length of the aircraft but declines to comment on how long that is.
The operational life of Delta's 182 MD-88s and MD-90s is understood to extend to at least the end of the decade if not longer, based on the comments of other operators of older MD-80 family aircraft. The airline has acquired many of the aircraft on the used market in recent years.
Allegiant Air with 55 MD-80 family aircraft and American Airlines with 185 MD-80 family aircraft are the largest operators of the type after Delta, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.
Glover says that the technology that will be used in the MD-80 and MD-90 family cockpits was originally developed for legacy Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircraft with the product being an adaptation of one that it offers for the Eclipse twin-engine light jets.