Air Tran DC-9 tail panel front
Air Tran DC-9 tail panel back
Airline Time Machine

AirTran Airways DC-9 Solid Maple Tail Panel

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Designed and crafted in the United States, this laser engraved solid maple panel depicts the vertical tail of the Douglas (later McDonnell Douglas) DC-9 in the markings of AirTran Airways (FL). The DC-9 was the manufacturer's entry into the early 1960s race to develop small jets with 65-100 seats for short-haul airline use.

The DC-9 in its initial Series 10 version seated 75 passengers in a single-class cabin layout, and was notable for its "double-bubble" fuselage cross-section that resembled the number "8" when seen in profile. This was chosen to increase underfloor capacity as compared to a simpler round or monocoque fuselage shape.

The DC-9 entered service in late 1965, later than the competing BAC 1-11, but ahead of Boeing's 737. Developed into higher capacity versions with seating for up to 139 passengers, a total of 976 were built before production ended in 1982 in favor of the further-developed MD-80.

Each tail panel is engraved to recall an airline that operated the DC-9 with airline markings on one side, and a brief description of the airline on the reverse side. The DC-9 tail panel is approximately 2.8 inches (7.1 cm) tall, and 5.5 inches (12.7 cm) wide, with a matching maple base that measures 4.5 inches (11.4 cm) long and 1.3 inches (3.3 cm) wide.

The tail panel is cut from solid maple with a thickness of 1/8 inch (0.3 cm). The laser cutting and engraving produces a rich caramel-colored edge and image, that contrasts well against the wood grain of the panel. A low-gloss polyurethane finish protects the panel, and each will have its own characteristic wood graining, reflecting the position on the board that it was cut from.

These tail panels are a special way to recall a classic airliner and the airlines that flew it!

DC-9 Tail Panel Q&A:

1. How technically accurate is the DC-9 tail panel? The tail panel is an artistic representation of the DC-9 tail, rather than a technical drawing. It represents the tail's overall shape, appearance, and primary structures.

2. If the airline didn't have both its name and marketing image on it's fleet tails, isn't this design inaccurate? Great question! Many airlines didn't brand their aircraft tails, or used only specific colors or stripes on their tails. This design was created to bring together the unique look of the specific aircraft's tail with the markings of the airline that operated it... but knowing that the actual aircraft may have been decorated differently back in the day.

3. If I buy one of this tail design, and one of your tail designs for another aircraft, will the two tail panels be to scale when compared to each other? Thanks for raising this! The tail panels were designed to be relatively sized against each other (meaning a 737 tail panel will be taller than a DC-9 tail panel), but are not scaled precisely to the actual aircraft dimensions. 

4. What if I don't find a design for a particular airline I'm interested? Send us a note to tell us what you'd like to have, and we'll look into it for you!