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Plane in Madrid crash a 'workhorse'

  • Story Highlights
  • Spanish plane with 172 people on board crashes at Madrid's Barajas Airport
  • Model involved in crash considered a valuable 'workhorse'
  • Plane joined Spanair fleet in 1999, about six years after it was built
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(CNN) -- The MD-82 model plane which crashed in Madrid Wednesday killing 'most' of the 172 people onboard has been the workhorse of many U.S. carriers for years, CNN Aviation Correspondent Richard Quest says.

Quest said the MD-80 series was a medium-sized, twin-engined plane with a center aisle and was favored by U.S. airlines.

He said the crashed plane was mostly likely built in 1993 and joined the Spanair fleet in 1999. It was not considered old for such a model, of which about 1,200 had been built in the series.

Quest said Madrid's Barajas Airport had a good reputation, with the main runway, where the plane crashed, considered very long by international standards. Video Watch smoke rising from airport »

Spanair, itself, was founded in 1986 and predominantly operates domestic flights but also flies to other European countries with its fleet of 65 aircraft.

The low-cost airline, owned by Scandinavian carrier SAS, is second only to Iberia in the Spanish market.

It has been a member of the Star Alliance partnership program since 2003. Video Watch as the wounded arrive at a hospital »

The company reported in 2007 that it had 10.6 million passengers, compared to 26.7 million for Iberia, and recorded a profit of 10.6 million euros ($15.5 million).

However, like many airlines, Spanair's profits have been squeezed by surging oil prices and fierce competition and it reported a loss in the first half of 2008.

SAS announced plans earlier this year to sell Spanair, but later abandoned the plan because of the difficult market. Video Watch as relatives of survivors start arriving at the airport »

Spanair later revealed a restructuring program, with job cuts of up to 1,100 out of 4,000 staff.

Spanair has set up a local emergency number for family members, +34 800-400-200.

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