published in Air NORTH Vol.53 No.8 August 2013

Even though the humble Douglas DC-9 is amazingly still in service with one US airline 'major', the world-wide fleet is of course a rapidly dwindling one - only two examples of the DC-9 have appeared at Newcastle Airport this century, with the last visiting in 2003. The aircraft was however a significant part of my lucrative first trip to the United States - a life-defining six-day visit to Houston, Texas in the fall of 1986 - this short series of features highlighting some of the more interesting 'nines' photographed during those heady first few days of living the American spotting 'dream'.

The 'Houston Proud' campaign was developed by the Greater Houston Partnership Committee in an effort to help boost the city during the 'oil bust' years of the mid 1980s, so it was fitting that Houston-based Continental Airlines adopted the movement's slogan for its quite unique new jet service connecting the cities two airports, Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH/KIAH) to the north of the city, and Houston Hobby Airport (HOU/KHOU) situated closer to the city centre to its south-east, during the fall of 1986 - Google maps suggests the two airports are only 30 miles apart by road. The connecting service - feeding CO's domestic flights out of Hobby with their international operation out of IAH, and vice versa - was flown on behalf of Continental Airlines by Austin, Texas-based carrier Emerald Air, DC-9-14 N38641 being painted in the hugely attractive 1980s era Continental Airlines livery (often called the 'meatball' livery, one of my favourite colour-schemes of all time), along with a 'Houston Proud' crest replacing the 'meatball' on its tail fin, and the name of the service prominently displayed along the full length of the dimunitive aircraft's fuselage! N38641 remained on what is generally regarded as the only true inter-city mainline jet service between two US airports situated within the same city and county limits, for only just over a year, the route subsequently being merged back into CO's regular schedule and being flown by ATR aircraft, an operation which carried on until at least the second half of 2001.

Douglas DC-9-14 MSN47060 was the 109th DC-9 off the production line in March 1967, and was delivered new to AVENSA as YV-C-AVR, the aircraft subsequently taking up the identity YV-57C in 1975. The aeroplane returned to the USA in early 1983 and flew for a very short time with USAir before being taken on by Emerald Air in June 1983. After a two year period flying for the third and final incarnation of Braniff International Airlines, after BIA Holdings had acquired Emerald Air's FAA and DOT operating certificate, N38641 returned to Latin America, where it has remained ever since as XA-SKA, flying for a number of Mexican carriers. It is thought she met her end sometime in the mid 2000s in the scrapping/storage area at Mexico City Airport.

Acknowledgement: airliners.net

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