American Airlines is retiring 20 of its MD-80 jets this week as the carrier pushes ahead with its phaseout of the aging aircraft model.
The planes are all being sent to the aircraft "boneyard" in Roswell, N.M., as part of what American is calling "one of the largest single-day aircraft retirements in airline history."
Of the 20 planes headed to the New Mexico desert on Tuesday, 17 were originally delivered to American Airlines. The three others were inherited by American via its acquisition of TWA. The average age of the 20 retiring jets is 28 years old, according to FlightRadar24, which is encouraging its users to track the retirement flights. The 140-seat MD-80s will be arriving to Roswell throughout the day, though they'll be coming in at a clip of about one every five minutes during an 85-minute window starting at 11:20 a.m. local time (1:20 p.m. ET).
Many so-called "avgeek" aviation enthusiasts were following the mass retirement on Twitter with the #Super80SendOff hastag.
Still, American spokesman Josh Freed said on Tuesday "today's 20 retirements do not indicate an acceleration of MD-80 retirements."
"It's just that we have a long-term MD-80 retirement plan and with the busy summer flying season winding down, today was a good day to take care of these," Freed adds.
The eventual retirement of the MD-80 -- long the backbone of American's domestic fleet -- will end an era for American. The carrier once had more than 370 "Super 80s," as the airline refers to them, in its fleet. But they're scheduled to be phased out this decade, replaced by modern new Boeing 737 and Airbus A320-family jets as part of American's aggressive fleet-renewal plan.
American had 87 MD-80s remaining in its fleet as of the second quarter of 2016. By the end of the third quarter, American says that number will have dropped to just 53 - aided in large part by Tuesday's mass retirement.
Freed said some MD-80s will remain in the carrier's fleet "through at least summer 2018."
Two full-time American employees on the ground there will process incoming aircraft as they arrive. Planes can sit indefinitely in storage in Roswell, where the dry desert air helps keep the idle aircraft from corroding. Some find second lives, taken in by cargo carriers or by smaller airlines in the developing world. Others face a stark end - raided for parts or scrapped altogether.