Delta Air Lines is accelerating the retirement of its Boeing 727-200s. The last of the tri-jets are set to leave the fleet in 2005, some three years earlier than previously planned, .

The 117 727-200Advs in the mainline fleet and the 14 similar aircraft allocated to Delta Shuttle operations will be replaced by Next Generation 737s, ordered by Delta in March 1997 as part of a massive fleet renewal deal. The airline, which has 70 Next Generation 737s on order through to 2006, will take its first new aircraft in October.

Delta says the retirement schedule was advanced to improve fleet reliability and cut costs through reduced training, maintenance and scheduling expenses. Boeing says it can meet Delta's new delivery schedule, despite the bottleneck in Next Generation 737 production, and hopes the introduction of a fourth 737 assembly line at the former Douglas Long Beach plant will help ease the congestion.

As the 737s are delivered, Delta's 727s will be pulled from service and put into storage, beginning with the oldest examples, which are used on the shuttle operations. These aircraft, which are some 25 years old, will be replaced temporarily by newer 727s now in mainline service. Delta has not decided on replacements for Shuttle aircraft.

The carrier will simplify its fleet structure by removing its 25 leased 737-300s and the 16 Boeing MD-90-30s delivered in 1993-6. Delta has ordered Boeing 767-400ERs and 777s for long haul operations. The fate of its 15 Boeing MD-11s is yet to be decided.

Source: Flight International