You could find a United DC-8 in the skies for over 30 years. As the launch customer, they took delivery all the way back in 1959 and you could fly on one into the 1990s. Upon the aircraft’s introduction, a film was produced to inform the public about the brand new jet.

In the 1950s, many airlines made promotional films about their services. Often these included showing how the pilots were trained, details on the engines and how the operation worked. All of this was designed to reassure people about the new technology, not to mention promoting the flights themselves.

United DC-8 Film

Titled “Jet Mainliner Flight 803” this video is all about the United Airlines Douglas DC-8 and runs for about 24 minutes. Those that have not flown on this aircraft will note the personal reading lights for passengers. Not only are they huge, but they are located in the head rest of the seat, something you really don’t see today.

Enjoyably it shows a flight simulator from the era with the images coming from a camera “flying” over a physical representation of the terrain. It’s literally filmed and projected in front of the pilots, which is how it was all done before computer images became available.

For a change I can finally see why people say that meals were better in years past. The film shows the United DC-8 meal service in both economy class and first class and it looks pretty decent!

Some things no longer occur nowadays, such as the kids getting their wings when they fly on board. It is a shame, because I think things like that are really good for keeping children interested in aviation.

Overall Thoughts

These types of films really provide an excellent and up close look at the original jet airliner service. The Douglas DC-8 was a popular aircraft, with 556 examples built during its lifetime. This was less than half of what the competing Boeing 707 sold though, and did mark the beginning of the end of the Douglas dominance in commercial aviation.

I have to say that it seems the space available for passengers is not too different to today. When the seats recline, you can see it looks similar enough. It’s a shame we can’t go back in time to see what it’s really like, but apart from visiting museums, films like this are probably the next best thing. If you missed the American Airlines one from last week, you can check it out here.

Have you travelled on board a United DC-8 or experienced the service back in the day? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Jon Proctor on