Although no specific ceremony was held to say farewell to the MD-80, it was evident within the small team of airport employees and crews alike that this day was not ordinary fare. Luca Ermacora at the controls, the venerable -82 was off blocks bang on time at and in the air six minutes later, directly heading seaward for its last regular service to Rome.
The flight was smooth and uneventful, just as hundreds of other flights I had enjoyed flying in the -80’s quiet forward cabin, enjoying the generous pitch and comfortable dark blue leather seating, flying through a part cloudy sky announcing some showers later in the day.
During their tenure with Meridiana, each member of the MD-80 family also had the honour of being officially christened for a period of time, re-taking a tradition of the airline dating back to its very beginning when 1966/67 when its Nord Aviation Nord 262A I-SARL and I-SARP were given respectively the names of “Costa Smeralda” and “Gallura”.
It was again on 23 June 2004, that further to an agreement between the airline and the Italian Ministry for the Environment and Territory – part of a program aimed at promoting and increasing the public awareness and interest in the Marine Protected Areas in various locations around Italy – each aircraft in the fleet was given the name of a Marine Protected Area.
With an expected flight plan taking the aircraft from Marana, AZ, to Amsterdam-Schiphol via Montreal Mirabel (YMX), Canada, and Keflavik (KEF), Iceland, we had been in contact with the crew before their departure from YMX, and at the Operations Control Room we were eagerly awaiting to receive the telex indicating a safe landing at KEF, which wasn’t coming, comprehensibly starting to create some apprehension.