Home North America Flying the Delta Boeing 717

Flying the Delta Boeing 717

A Trip from Atlanta to Washington

by Matt Falcus

I recently took a trip to Atlanta as part of my research for an upcoming book about Delta Air Lines. It was my first time visiting the world’s busiest airport and I had a great time. You can read some of my reports here:

Atlanta Spotting Trip Report

Staying at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel

Visiting the Delta Flight Museum

Another part of the trip I was really keen to do was a flight on the Boeing 717.


Delta and the Boeing 717

The Boeing 717 is the last remnant of the Douglas DC-9 line of airliners. When Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas in the 1990s, it took what was to become the MD-95 and rebranded it as the 717.

Similar in size to the DC-9-32, it didn’t actually sell very well overall, and production ceased in 2006.

Since then, the number of airlines still operating the type has dwindled, and Delta is one of only three airlines actively flying the 717 today.

Having said that, Delta is the largest operator of the Boeing 717, with almost 70 examples. These were all acquired second hand and were previously flown by airlines like AirTran, Volotea, TWA and American Airlines.


Finding a 717 Flight

I was keen to find a flight that would fit in with my itinerary and my return trip across the Atlantic.

During my research, I had the option of taking a quick day trip from Atlanta to a nearby city served by Delta’s 717, or taking a one way leg to position for a long-haul flight back to Europe.

Having studied the route options, timetables and prices for a long time, I decided upon the latter and booked a flight from Atlanta to Washington Dulles, allowing me to connect on to an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin and then onwards to home.

The flight cost around $260, which wasn’t cheap. However, this was partly due to the time of day, and how close I was to the travel day when I booked.


Flying Delta’s 717

When the day arrived, I’d enjoyed a couple of full days spotting and doing research around Atlanta. I checked out of the Renaissance hotel and got the free shuttle bus to the domestic terminal and checked in using the ticket machines, before proceeding to the bag drop.

The mid-morning security lines in Atlanta were not too busy considering how many flights operate out of the airport. I was then released to wander the five remote concourses used by the airport.

These are accessed by an underground train and walkway, and you’re free to go to the gate areas in all concourses (except the international ones). So I was able to find some good views, and have some lunch before boarding.

My flight today was on N965AT, operating flight DL1695.

This aircraft was built in 2001 for AirTran Airways. It joined Delta in 2015.

I had done some research when booking to find out the best seats, and was told repeatedly that row 26 offered the famous engine and wing views that avgeeks love. So I paid to reserve 26F. This is not the last row of the aircraft, but row 27’s view is obscured by the engine so is no good.

Being so far back, I was among the last to be called to board. As such took a while to make my way down the aisle with so many people on this full flight cramming bags into the overhead lockers and navigating their seats.

However, once settled I was very pleased with the view.

Once the engines stared, I was very pleased with the sound too! Those in the front of the cabin would have enjoyed a much quieter experience, but at the back you can certainly hear the whine and roar of the two rear-mounted engines.

Take-off was after a short taxi to runway 9L.

The aircraft felt quite powerful, but the heat of the day meant quite a long take-off run.

Climbout saw us establish a north-easterly route and climbing to 33,000ft. We passed over Charlotte, NC with its airport visible, and descended to make a long final approach from the south to runway 1R at Dulles.

Overflying Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Service on board was pleasant and friendly, with a drink and small snack served to all passengers. I spent most of the flight mesmerised by the view from the window, taking in as much as possible.

Flight time was a quick 1h 16 minutes, parking up among the big jets at Concourse B in Washington.

Final approach to Washington Dulles

At the gate at Washington Dulles

Here’s a video of the flight:




Our aircraft after deplaning in Washington.

This was a really great experience. Having the wing and engine view made it even more special, with the sounds and views really adding to it.

There aren’t many chances to fly these jets, or their Douglas DC-9 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 forerunners.

Delta is planning to retire their 717s in a few years, but has not set a date yet. At present they are based in Atlanta and Minneapolis St Paul, but do feature across a lot of their domestic network.

Aside from Delta, only Hawaiian Airlines and Qantas Link still fly the 717, so if you haven’t done so already I’d give it a try!



Delta Air Lines – The Book

This new book charts the history of Delta from its cropdusting days into the giant carrier it is today. Along the way you’ll discover the aircraft it flew, the liveries they wore, and the other airlines who merged in. Chapters on Chicago & Southern, Western, Northeast and Northwest Airlines all add to the story of the Delta we known today. Includes hundreds of photographs.

Order Your Copy




You may also like

1 comment

Ken Kiefer September 18, 2023 - 5:30 pm

Flew these a few times 20+ years ago. Loved how the engines would push you back in your seat at takeoff, a benefit of the BMW logo on the engine cowling


Leave a Comment