The long established Douglas Aircraft Company entered the commercial jet market with the Douglas DC-8. First flying from Long Beach Airport on 30 May 1958, it entered service on 18 September 1959 with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
Douglas had a reputation for popular piston engine aircraft, with examples such as the DC-3, DC-4, DC-6 and DC-7 being very successful. Many airlines chose to enter the jet age with the DC-8, rather than choosing the competing Boeing 707.
Douglas DC-8 Video
Following on from last weeks video on the Sud Aviation Caravelle, we cross the Atlantic to look at the Douglas DC-8. Below is a promotional film produced by Douglas and it runs about 13 minutes.
There is quite a bit of detail on the manufacturing of the aircraft. I especially liked the comment about the factory being the only one that exclusively builds jet aircraft!
Water tank testing for fatigue is shown, as this was the only way to be sure the fuselage was strong enough to withstand pressurisation at that time. Footage of the first flight shows how smokey the Pratt & Whitney JT3C engines originally were.
Later in the video, you can see cabin designs as well as the nose air scoops which are unique to the aircraft. It’s certainly fun to hear about the speed of the aircraft plus the efforts to keep the noise to bearable levels!
The Super 70s
Between 1982 and 1988, 110 Douglas DC-8 aircraft received new engines as part of a conversion programme. This replaced the Pratt and Whitney JT3D’s with far quieter and more efficient CFM56 turbofans.
Due to this, the DC-8 was in service far longer than the Boeing 707 in a mainline passenger carrying role. Even today there are reported to be a couple of aircraft still flying.
There were 556 Douglas DC-8 aircraft produced before production ended in 1972. Major operators are a who’s who of the airline world, with airlines such as Pan American, Swissair, SAS, Air New Zealand, Japan Airlines, Alitalia, and Air Canada on the list.
Have you ever flown on board a DC-8? What was it like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons.
Delta DC-8-71 by Perry Hoppe via Airliners.net
The DC-8 had two major advantages over the B707. These advantages still haunt Boeing 60 years later. The DC-8 stands higher off the ground which easily allowed for wide-bypass ratio engines (CFM56) and maximum extension. The 737 still shares the low ground-height issues with the 727, 720 and 707. The 737 MAX LEAP engines have a smaller fan diameter than the LEAP engines of the A320 NEO. Boeing was still forced to lengthen the no gear by 2″. Boeing recently found a way to lengthen the main gear for the 737 MAX 10: http://aviationweek.com/commercial-aviation/how-boeing-s-737-10-landing-gear-works The DC-8 was designed with a… Read more »
I’m not sure that more middle seats is an advantage.
It probably is for the airlines though, more seats means more efficiency 🙂
Very true indeed! The reason it was easier to re-engine the aircraft was due to its height off the ground – it could take the CFM56 comparitively easily compared to the competition. I do know that it was supposed to be five abreast, but Douglas did the change and Boeing followed suit. A great aircraft indeed!!
Well, the Boeing 707 does have the CFM56 in military service, and I am not sure whether those aircraft had lengthened gear or not, so the powerplant does fit the airframe. They decided not to go ahead with what was called the Boeing 707-700 programme to re-engine the civil fleet. You are correct on the wider cabin, but overall I don’t think Boeing lost any sleep over it. The reason being is that the KC-135 built 803 of them and then just over 1,000 Boeing 707s, so economies of scale meant both programmes were profitable. Naturally it would have cost… Read more »
I like that second sentence…..still haunts Boeing.. ! MY Dad would love,that!! Thank you!
We landed at Chicaog’s O’Hare airport, but I don’t recall exactly from where we had departed. Maybe Denver. Maybe Kansas City. Anyway, it was a United DC-8-71, loaded with about 60 passengers. Plenty of room to roam or change seats. For whatever reason, the plane climbed up to 41,000 ft., which I remember because it was the first time I was aware of being that far off the ground. I also remember a corkscrew approach with several sweeping turns and thinking that this big old bird has still got some moves left in it. That and there wasn’t anyplace to… Read more »
Sounds pretty sporty to me, must have been a fun flight! Great aircraft that put in a lot of service around the world really. Appreciate you sharing the memory with everyone!
One of my earliest memories of flying was taking a Delta DC-8 from MSY to SJU in the mid 70’s. My first flight was in 1972 from SJU-MIA in a Pan Am 707, my father made me wear a tie. Those were the “good old days” of flying!
Delta operated many types of the DC 8. Among then were the DC 8-33, inherited from PanAm, then the DC8 -54 and finally the DC 8-61 which became the DC 8 -71 when refitted with the new engines.
One of my memories was sitting in the tail end of a United DC 8-61 on takeoff and watching the front end of the aircraft flex as we lifted off, almost as if it were to swaying to gain altitude.
I didn’t know they were inherited from Pan Am! That is really interesting. As it was so long, the flex would have been remarkable! Very nice indeed! Thanks for the comment!
Wearing a tie was the done thing back then, judging from the pictures I’ve seen! Awesome that you got to fly back then 🙂 I wish I had flown on a DC-8!
I flew on a United DC-8 stretch with the CMF-56’s in the late 80’s from ORD to LAS. To this day, that was the most comfortable commercial plane I’ve ever flown on! You could tell the airplane was old even then, worn carpeting and slightly tattered seats, but those seats were luxurious! Nice big windows, too. Plenty of legroom and a wide aisle, probably because design factors limited the ability to cram more seats in!
That’s pretty cool, it would have been something to fly on board. It was also very good they changed the engines so that it would fly a lot more efficiently and quietly. Sounds like some flight you had there – if only we could do that today. Thanks for the comment!
I flew on a DC-8 from Dallas Ft Worth to New Orleans in 1985. This fitted with the CFM56 engines. I was surprised to see a DC-8 at the Gate and equally by the modern appearance of the engines. Happy I would get to fly in a DC-8 at last. It was a great flight and so spacious. I was really impressed. I remember too the Southern crew were super friendly too. I am from Australia and we did not have DC-8’s on our domestic routes so I was fortunate on that day!
Awesome that you got to fly on board the DC-8. I know Australia didn’t have them domestically… the closest were Air New Zealand, though by 1985 I doubt they had any still in service. Great that you got to do that, it must be an excellent memory!
I first flew a Delta DC-8 (51) in the summer of 1966 during “the great airline strike” from ATL to MIA via JAX. I was flying on a student pass which at the time, gave me a 33% discount. Many airlines were on strike at the same time except DL of course. I was the last passenger to board the flight and since only a first class seat was available, I got to sit in first class! It was a major thrill as the food was superb as well as the service. I was totally impressed! From JAX we flew… Read more »
That’s a pretty decent discount for students at 33%! I don’t know of any airlines that do discounts for students these days. Amazing you got to fly in First Class – that would have been wonderful, especially back then. I don’t think I’ve seen the launch pads at the Cape from the air. I’ve certainly seen loads of videos and what not as I am quite interested in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programmes especially. You sure did get some amazing views! You’ve also pretty much done the whole series apart from the DC-7, DC-10 and MD-11. Hopefully all that… Read more »
I got to fly the DC-8 stretch once on UA from HNL to ORD sometime in the late 70’s. I was probably around 11-12 y/o. It was brought in as an extra section as UA had cancelled a flight earlier in the day. It was a very late departure since I remember it being daylight already when we were still west of the Rockies. The F/As served a meal and about 30 minutes after the last pax were served we hit some of the most vicious turbulence I’ve ever encountered. Having just eaten, many people started vomiting and it started… Read more »
Now that is a great story! I have never ever been on a flight that has experienced turbulence that bad in my entire life. It wouldn’t particularly scare me, but I think having loads of people throwing up around me would be some test of my control – I would say I’d probably be joining them. That makes for a memorable flight. I bet everyone was thrilled to pieces to be off the flight and I daresay they all remember it for much the same reasons you do. Thanks for that and I agree, they really don’t make ’em like… Read more »
I remember a couple of flights on both Delta & United DC-8 70 series in the eighties. What I remember most about those flights was the oversized windows the DC-8 (at least compared to the 727 etc.).
Yes, I’ve heard the Douglas aircraft had larger windows than the Boeing equivalents. When I took a flight on the MD-11 I noticed that myself 🙂 Thanks for the comment!