Photo Report – Smoke & No Mirrors: MD-82 9A-CBG at Rijeka

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

When I had published my first derelict MD-80 story back in February of 2014 – featuring Maribor-based MD-82 S5-ACC – I had pretty much believed that to be that as far as this whole topic was concerned. And while there were several other abandoned Mad Dogs scattered throughout the region (two of which were in Croatia), all of them were pretty much inaccessible, shoved away into some remote corner of a commercial aerodrome and left to the elements. Sometimes of uncertain legal status and often with a fair bit of notoriety to their names, I had half expected them to either be broken up and scrapped – or disintegrate on their own – before I ever got the chance to snap them up close…

As it happens, I was somewhat wrong on that account, since one machine did indeed survive to be used again – sort of :). The aircraft in question is universally known to the locals as 9A-CBG, and had once flown with one of Croatia’s first post-independence private carriers, Air Adriatic (once also the parent of S5-ACC, known then as 9A-CBD). Unlike the latter though, CBG had changed considerably over the years, transforming from a sad, rotting hulk – and into a smoky, and quite interesting, firefighting trainer :).

No guts, no glory... and no engines, wings or interior either! Still wearing its given name from the days of Air Adriatic, CBG is nowadays named for irony!

No guts, no glory… and no engines, wings or interior either! Still wearing its given name from the days of Air Adriatic, CBG is nowadays named for irony!

Fire in the hole… hold!

Unlike most members of the MD-80 family, CBG had led a positively dull life, only ever flying with two operators – quite the anomaly in the Mad Dog world :D. Wearing the serial 49430 and line number 1334, CBG would first take to the skies on 11 November 1985, sporting an unknown (but likely subsequently reused) test registration. Interestingly, it would be more than a year before it appears in any online fleet list, joining the ranks of Italy’s flag carrier Alitalia in the very last days of December 1986. Taking on the identity of I-DAVI, it would remain in Italian service for nearly 20 years*, before finally being transferred (via leasing provider Azzure Holdings Ltd) to a rapidly expanding Air Adriatic in January 2005 :).

* I-DAVI would not be the only Alitalia example to head east. The Air Adriatic fleet had also included ex I-DAVH (9A-CBF, 49221/1330) and I-DAVG (9A-CBH, 49220/1319).

Like its sister ships, CBG (now named “No guts, no glory”) would be put to use in the carrier’s various charter operations, where it would remain until September 2005. It would then return briefly to Italy, having been wet-leased to operator MyAir (along with the aforementioned 9A-CBD/S5-ACC) until November of the same year.

However, the difficult operating economics – among other unfavorable realities – of airline flying in Croatia at the time head meant that pretty soon the carrier had found itself in an increasingly unenviable financial position. With its back being pressed ever more firmly against the wall, Air Adriatic had started shedding its (by now) eight-strong MD-82/83 fleet already in late 2005, entering 2006 with just five machines on its record. The company’s downward spiral had continued all throughout the year, until – with just three MDs to its name – it had lost its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in March of 2007…

The final nail in the carrier’s coffin, the revocation of its AOC had firmly grounded the remaining jets where they stood. In the case of CBG, this was Rijeka Airport (RJK/LDRI), a small regional gateway located on the island of Krk and serving the coastal town of Rijeka – once home to Air Adriatic’s HQ. Unfortunately though, even though it was stuck on the company’s doorstep, there would be no reprieve for CBG, since the company’s financial collapse – and its subsequent inability to honor lease and operating payments – had meant that the aircraft would certainly end up embroiled in long and complicated legal proceedings. And so it came to be: caught in no man’s land, CBG would be left to rot and disintegrate in the corner of the apron…

Though it had not had the good fortune of its former sister ship CBD/S5-ACC, CBF would nevertheless eventually manage to find a new meaning in life :). Scrapped in November 2012 according to some sources, the aircraft was actually modified into an unusual low-budget firefighting trainer for the Rijeka Airport firefighting brigade. Now called the Dim-12 (“Smoke-12”), CBD’s conversion had primarily entailed a drastic shortening of the fuselage, a clean strip of all interior fittings – and its mounting on a trolley so it can be towed to whichever part of the airport it is needed at. Thankfully for me, at the time of my visit to the airport it was not engulfed in smoke, allowing me and my camera a closer inspection… đŸ™‚

Gives a whole new meaning to the term

Gives a whole new meaning to the term “short-body DC-9”! Constrained by the lack of apron space at Rijeka, CBG has been shortened to almost comic proportions by the removal of the entire fuselage section from the 1L passenger door to aft of the wing joint. However, the cut was done with forethought, since in this form the Dim-12 includes access both through a normal passenger door, the aft airstairs and the right-hand side baggage hold door – allowing firefighters to train for quite a number of contingencies.

A peek inside. Cleaned out to the bone, the interior only contains those elements which require firefighting practice. Being a cheap-and-cheerful job, the Dim-12's smoke system consists of portable smoke generators, requiring minimal conversion of the airframe.

A peek inside. Cleaned out to the bone, the interior only contains those elements which require firefighting practice. Being a cheap-and-cheerful job, the Dim-12’s smoke system consists of portable smoke generators, requiring minimal conversion of the airframe.

A closer (though sadly backlit) view of the joint between the aft fuselage and nose section. The oval area at the bottom would on normal MDs be covered by the aft wing mount fairing.

A closer (though sadly backlit) view of the joint between the aft fuselage and nose section. The oval area at the bottom would on normal MDs be covered by the aft wing mount fairing.

I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to both the Rijeka Airport ground team and firefighting service for the opportunity to snoop around!

Sources

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