Stefano Tisselli and F/O Stefano Selva, while also another good friend and historical Meridiana person, Cpt.
Antonio Depau, had specifically arrived from OLB to be on this last flight.
Having shared a chat on the event with Barbara, the always gentle Meridiana Supervisor at FCO, I was the first to board“Echo Sierra”, being greeted onboard by the smiling all ladies cabin crew headed by Purser Patrizia Patrizio.
In the cockpit, the honor of operating the last flight went to Cpt.
With a relatively light load of just 74 passengers we were finally ready to go, pushing back with a slight delay at , while numerous ground personnel was taking pictures of this final departure, waving goodbye to the proud bird, once such a familiar sight in FCO.
After a welcome onboard by the Captain, addressing passengers with a note that underlined this was indeed a final flight, I-SMER headed as done thousands of times to the threshold of runway 25, which points almost exactly in the direction of OLB, and after a couple of Alitalia Airbuses we were ready to go, quickly heading skywards towards the Tyrrhenian Sea with the usual sporty attitude that typifies the MD.80 takeoff run. Flying through cloud patches on the short sector meant finding some moderate turbulence, yet it was overall a generally smooth flight, with the beverage service offered by the professional crew with the usual flair and a smile.
Yet despite in the last fifteen years very often speculations of a soon to come definitive replacement circulated, it was not until the arrival of Qatar Airways in the shareholder of the airline that these voices actually started to become reality, with a set date of a complete retirement of the type from scheduled services as of October 31, 2017.Most of the retired aircraft no longer had a market, leaving no other choice than having them scrapped upon retirement at the OLB base.What a sad view seeing the likes of good old I-SMEZ/PH-SEZ, the same young guy that once had flown non-stop from Canada to Amsterdam ending its days parted out at its very homeplace…It was therefore a must do for me to be onboard the final flights of the faithful and reliable Mc Donnell Douglas stablemate, to celebrate in my own way the legacy of this great airliner and of the men and women, crews, technicians and airline’s employees, that along all those years took well care of the fleet of twinjets, maintaining it in top-notch conditions both inside and out. My day started, as it is often the case, with an early wake-up to catch flight IG1111, Meridiana’s flagship service between the airline’s headquarter of Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport (OLB) and Rome Fiumicino (FCO), scheduled at .(Big Eighty in Italian) within the airline, became the true backbone of the fleet and a trademark for the Sardinian carrier, as well as a distinctive sight in the Italian and European airports and skies.Its legendary reliability and versatility enabled it to fly almost anywhere on the route network – with the exception of the Florence airport base, where the demanding runway dictated a dedicated fleet of BAe146-200s, later replaced by Airbus A319-112s – on almost all of its scheduled domestic and international services, ranging from the short “bread and butter” multiple daily hops between Olbia (OLB) and Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and vice-versa, over a stage length of just 135 nm taking as low as 24-25 minutes in the air, or between the tiny airport of the island of Pantelleria (PNL) and Palermo (PMO), to much longer segments like Verona (VRN) to Tenerife South (TFS), or Milan Malpensa (MXP) to Sharm-el-Sheikh (SSH), taking close to four hours in the air.