Photo: Tusla Air and Space Museum

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This Retired MD-80 Mad Dog is Now a Movie Theater


An MD-80 donated by American Airlines has been converted into a unique flight theater exhibit at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.

There are no used car lots for old airplanes, especially commercial jet liners. Sure, some are bought and put to use but most of them head to the boneyard or get cut into scrap.

Photo: Tusla Air and Space Museum
Photo: Tusla Air and Space Museum

Credit the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, with an assist from American Airlines, with finding a useful purpose for a retired MD-80. American donated the aircraft and the TASM converted the plane into the MD-80 Discovery Center and a one-of-a-kind Flight Theater.

Thanks to over $700,000 in donations, TASM was able to change the plane into a theater. The first-class seats were removed and 24 theater-type seats were installed. There’s a screen at the front of the plane and overhead screens where the overhead bins once were. There are 15 video projectors that combine to create a seamless 60-foot long image that surrounds the audience.

A view inside the MD-80 that's now a theater. Credit: Tulsa Air and Space Museum
A view inside the MD-80 that’s now a theater. Credit: Tulsa Air and Space Museum

The video is a flight experience that was filmed with a small experimental aircraft, a helicopter and a jet filming the aerial photography. The video is about the MD-80, which “takes off” in a simulated flight.

The exhibit opened in late January.

“There are a lot of aircraft all over the world and in museums on display, but not one of them that has a flight theater like this,” said Jeff Sevart, Flight Theater project manager. “It’s a one-of-a-kind venue,” he said. “It will be great for Tulsans and other folks in our area.”

Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.