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An Aero California DC-9 in Mexico City (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland)

Aero California’s McDonnell Douglas DC-9s, Where Are They Now?

Aero California — an iconic low-cost Mexican airline — has been missing from the skies since 2008. Its yellow, orange and red cheatline were arguably one of the best liveries around. It operated 35 McDonnell Douglas DC9s in total and amazingly nearly 14 years on, most of them can still be seen parked up in various places.

Founded in 1960, the airline didn’t actually start scheduled services until 1982 when the first DC9 joined the fleet. It wasn’t until 1988 that the airline started significant expansion. The original DC9 was disposed of and 10 more DC9s joined the La Paz, Mexico-based carrier by 1991. There was further expansion in the mid to late 1990s with the acquisition of another 12 DC9s. In 2005, it acquired another 11. The remaining DC9s it operated was on lease from Aeromexico but this lasted less than three months during 1997 before being returned.

After retiring a couple of the older machines and one of them being written off in 2004, Aero California had a fleet size of 30 DC9s in its heyday. 

Unfortunately, it seemed this last major fleet growth was a step too far for the carrier from Baja California. The airline was suspended for alleged deficiencies of administrative and operative nature in April 2006 and forced to ground its fleet. The Mexican airline was reinstated but left 13 of its DC9s in storage. Unable to recover the airline was once again suspended in July 2008 for an alleged debt with Mexican Air Traffic Control. It was unable to overcome the suspension this time and the remaining 17 DC9s joined the others.

Where Are They Now?

The original DC9 was XA-BCS. Appropriately registered after the airline’s home state of Baja California Sur. Since it left in 1988 it was mostly operated by Evergreen in the USA. However, the aircraft found its way back to Mexico in 2020 with Aeronaves. The only one of the 35 DC9s is still in service.

XA-TFO, which was the short-term lease from Aeromexico has been preserved on a private ranch a couple of hours southwest of Mexico City near the town of Teacalco, Mexico. It can be seen on google earth at Rancho Joan Sebastian Alejandra.

Aero California registered a second DC9 XA-BCS shortly after the first one left the fleet. Its fate was sealed in 2004 when it overran the runway at Mexico City. It has remained there ever since and was joined by a further 5 aircraft when the airline ceased operations. They can be seen on wasteland just to the east of the airport boundary:

XA-BCS, XA-SWG, XA-UDF, XA-UDH, XA-UDS, XA-UEI 

Eleven migrated to the USA and ended life at Mojave. Unfortunately, these are gradually being broken up, but it looks like at least eight of them can still be seen in some sort of disrepair:

XA-AGS, XA-CSL, XA-GDL, XA-LAC, XA-LMM, XA-RNQ, XA-RKT, XA-RRY, XA-RXG, XA-SWH, XA-SYQ

The rest of them are scattered around Mexico and can be seen on the latest google earth images. All of them look to be complete airframes still.

Two at Guadalajara:

XA-UDD, XA-UDE

Seven at Tijuana:

XA-ADA, XA-SYD, XA-THB, XA-TNT, XA-UDC, XA-UDG, XA-UEG

One at Ciudad Obregon:

XA-ACZ

Six remain at its hometown of La Paz:

XA-ADK, XA-TAF, XA-TBQ, XA-THC, XA-UDA, XA-UDB

Author

  • Mark has been interested in aviation since the age of eight when he first went plane spotting at Manchester Airport, England. Trips around various European airports in the following years and then to the USA as a teenager furthered his desire. This led to Mark wanting to work in the industry and at the age of twenty one was accepted to train as an Air Traffic Controller. After training and working for several years in England, Mark moved to Bahrain in the Middle East where he worked for six years. He then moved to Sydney, Australia where he resides today after twenty years in the profession. Mark's pursuit to see planes has seen him visit over 140 countries and territories, including places, like North Korea, Sudan and Iran. He has flown over 1,100 times, visited over 700 airports and can always be found researching his next trip.

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