Douglas DC-8
The Douglas DC-8 is a four-engined narrow-body
Narrow-body aircraft
A narrow-body aircraft is an airliner with a fuselage aircraft cabin width typically of 3 to 4 metres , and airline seat arranged 2 to 6 abreast along a single aisle...

 passenger commercial jet airliner
Jet airliner
A jet airliner is an airliner that is powered by jet engines. This term is sometimes contracted to jetliner or jet.In contrast to today's relatively fuel-efficient, turbofan-powered air travel, first generation jet airliner travel was noisy and fuel inefficient...

, manufactured from 1958 to 1972 by the Douglas Aircraft Company
Douglas Aircraft Company
The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer, based in Long Beach, California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas...

. Launched later than the competing Boeing 707
Boeing 707
The Boeing 707 is a four-engine narrow-body commercial passenger jet airliner developed by Boeing in the early 1950s. Its name is most commonly pronounced as "Seven Oh Seven". The first airline to operate the 707 was Pan American World Airways, inaugurating the type's first commercial flight on...

, the DC-8 nevertheless established Douglas in a strong position in the airliner market, and remained in production until 1972 when it began to be superseded by much larger designs, including the DC-10
McDonnell Douglas DC-10
The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner manufactured by McDonnell Douglas. The DC-10 has range for medium- to long-haul flights, capable of carrying a maximum 380 passengers. Its most distinguishing feature is the two turbofan engines mounted on underwing pylons and a...

 and Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

. The DC-8 design allowed it to hold slightly more cargo than the 707. Dozens of re-engined examples remain in freighter
Cargo aircraft
A cargo aircraft is a fixed-wing aircraft designed or converted for the carriage of goods, rather than passengers. They are usually devoid of passenger amenities, and generally feature one or more large doors for the loading and unloading of cargo...

 service to this day, while commercial 707 service had largely ended by 2000.


In the post-World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 era, Douglas held a commanding position in the commercial aircraft market
Commercial aviation
Commercial aviation is the part of civil aviation that involves operating aircraft for hire to transport passengers or cargo...

. Although Boeing
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

 had pointed the way to the modern all-metal airliner in 1933 with the 247
Boeing 247
The Boeing Model 247 was an early United States airliner, considered the first such aircraft to fully incorporate advances such as all-metal semi-monocoque construction, a fully cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear...

, it was Douglas that, more than any other company, had made commercial air travel a reality. Douglas produced a succession of piston-engined aircraft (DC-2
Douglas DC-2
The Douglas DC-2 was a 14-seat, twin-engine airliner produced by the American company Douglas Aircraft Corporation starting in 1934. It competed with the Boeing 247...

, DC-3
Douglas DC-3
The Douglas DC-3 is an American fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft whose speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made...

, DC-4
Douglas DC-4
The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engined propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. It served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s in a military role...

, DC-5
Douglas DC-5
The Douglas DC-5, the least known of the famous DC airliner series, was a 16-22 seat, twin-propeller aircraft intended for shorter routes than the DC-3 or DC-4. However, by the time it entered commercial service in 1940, many airlines were canceling orders; consequently, only five civilian DC-5s...

, DC-6
Douglas DC-6
The Douglas DC-6 is a piston-powered airliner and transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1946 to 1958. Originally intended as a military transport near the end of World War II, it was reworked after the war to compete with the Lockheed Constellation in the long-range...

, and DC-7
Douglas DC-7
The Douglas DC-7 is an American transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1953 to 1958. It was the last major piston engine powered transport made by Douglas, coming just a few years before the advent of jet aircraft such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8.-Design and...

) through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

When de Havilland
De Havilland
The de Havilland Aircraft Company was a British aviation manufacturer founded in 1920 when Airco, of which Geoffrey de Havilland had been chief designer, was sold to BSA by the owner George Holt Thomas. De Havilland then set up a company under his name in September of that year at Stag Lane...

 introduced the first jet-powered airliner, the Comet
De Havilland Comet
The de Havilland DH 106 Comet was the world's first commercial jet airliner to reach production. Developed and manufactured by de Havilland at the Hatfield, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom headquarters, it first flew in 1949 and was a landmark in aeronautical design...

, in 1949, Douglas took the view that there was no reason to rush into anything new. Their U.S. competitors at Lockheed
Lockheed Corporation
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1912 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.-Origins:...

 and Convair
Convair was an American aircraft manufacturing company which later expanded into rockets and spacecraft. The company was formed in 1943 by the merger of Vultee Aircraft and Consolidated Aircraft, and went on to produce a number of pioneering aircraft, such as the Convair B-36 bomber, and the F-102...

 felt the same way: that there would be a gradual switch from piston engines to turbines, and that the switch would be to the more fuel-efficient
Fuel efficiency
Fuel efficiency is a form of thermal efficiency, meaning the efficiency of a process that converts chemical potential energy contained in a carrier fuel into kinetic energy or work. Overall fuel efficiency may vary per device, which in turn may vary per application, and this spectrum of variance is...

A turboprop engine is a type of turbine engine which drives an aircraft propeller using a reduction gear.The gas turbine is designed specifically for this application, with almost all of its output being used to drive the propeller...

 engines rather than pure jets. All three companies were working on a new generation of piston-engined designs, with an eye to turboprop conversion in the future.

De Havilland's pioneering Comet entered airline service in 1952. Initially it was a success, but a series of fatal crashes in 1953 and 1954 resulted in the type being grounded until the cause could be discovered. The cause of the Comet crashes had nothing to do with jet engines; it was a rapid metal fatigue
Metal Fatigue
Metal Fatigue , is a futuristic science fiction, real-time strategy computer game developed by Zono Incorporated and published by Psygnosis and TalonSoft .-Plot:...

 failure brought on by cycling the high stresses in corners of the near-square windows from pressurizing the cabin to high altitudes and back. A new understanding of metal fatigue that the Comet investigation produced would play a vital part in the good safety record of later types like the DC-8.

In 1952, Douglas remained the most successful of the commercial aircraft manufacturers. They had almost 300 orders on hand for the piston-engined DC-6 and its successor, the DC-7, which had yet to fly and was still two years away from commercial service. The Comet disasters, and the consequent airline lack of interest in jets, seemed to demonstrate the wisdom of their staying with propeller
Propeller (aircraft)
Aircraft propellers or airscrews convert rotary motion from piston engines or turboprops to provide propulsive force. They may be fixed or variable pitch. Early aircraft propellers were carved by hand from solid or laminated wood with later propellers being constructed from metal...

-driven aircraft.


In contrast, Boeing took the bold step of starting to plan a pure-jet airliner in as early as 1949. Boeing's military arm had gained extensive experience with large, long-range jets through the B-47 Stratojet
B-47 Stratojet
The Boeing Model 450 B-47 Stratojet was a long-range, six-engined, jet-powered medium bomber built to fly at high subsonic speeds and at high altitudes. It was primarily designed to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union...

 (first flight 1947) and the B-52 Stratofortress
B-52 Stratofortress
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber operated by the United States Air Force since the 1950s. The B-52 was designed and built by Boeing, who have continued to provide maintainence and upgrades to the aircraft in service...

 (1952). With thousands of their big jet bombers on order or in service, Boeing had developed a close relationship with the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 (SAC). Boeing also supplied the SAC's refueling aircraft, the piston-engined KC-97 Stratotanker
KC-97 Stratotanker
The Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker was a United States strategic tanker aircraft based on the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter. It was succeeded by the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker.-Design and development:...

s, but these proved to be too slow and low flying to easily work with the new jet bombers. The B-52, in particular, had to descend from its cruising altitude and then slow almost to stall speed to work with the KC-97, even when the latter was augmented with jet engines to boost its speed.

Believing that a requirement for a jet-powered tanker was a certainty, Boeing started work on a new all-jet aircraft that would fill this role and also be adaptable into an airliner. In the airliner role it would have similar seating capacity
Seating capacity
Seating capacity refers to the number of people who can be seated in a specific space, both in terms of the physical space available, and in terms of limitations set by law. Seating capacity can be used in the description of anything ranging from an automobile that seats two to a stadium that seats...

 to the Comet, but its swept wing
Swept wing
A swept wing is a wing planform favored for high subsonic jet speeds first investigated by Germany during the Second World War. Since the introduction of the MiG-15 and North American F-86 which demonstrated a decisive superiority over the slower first generation of straight-wing jet fighters...

In aviation, a planform is the shape and layout of a fixed-wing aircraft's fuselage and wing. Of all the myriad planforms used, they can typically be grouped into those used for low-speed flight, found on general aviation aircraft, and those used for high-speed flight, found on many military...

 would give it considerably higher cruising speeds, and better range. First presented in 1950 as the Model 473-60C, Boeing failed to generate any interest at the airlines. Nevertheless, Boeing remained convinced that the project was worthwhile, and decided to press ahead with a prototype, the "Dash-80
Boeing 367-80
The Boeing 367-80, or "Dash 80" as it was called within Boeing, is an American prototype jet transport built to demonstrate the advantages of jet aircraft for passenger transport over piston-engine airliners....

". After spending $16 million of their own money on construction, the Dash-80 rolled out on 15 May 1954, and first flew the next month. Boeing's plans became obvious in the industry, despite the "code name" intended to hide its purpose.

Design phase

Douglas secretly began jet transport project definition studies in mid-1952. By mid-1953 these had developed into a form very similar to the final DC-8; an 80-seat, low-wing aircraft with four Pratt & Whitney JT3C
Pratt & Whitney JT3C
|-Specifications :-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.-External links:* * *...

 turbojet engines, 30° wing sweep, and an internal cabin diameter of exactly 11 ft (3.35 m) to allow five abreast seating. Maximum weight was to be 95 tons (86 tonnes), and range was estimated to be about 3,000-4,000 mi (4,800-6,400 km).

Douglas remained lukewarm about the jet airliner project, but believed that the Air Force tanker contract would go to two companies for two different aircraft, as several USAF transport contracts in the past had done. In May 1954, the USAF circulated its requirement for 800 jet tankers to Boeing, Douglas, Convair, Fairchild, Lockheed, and Martin. Boeing was already just two months away from having their prototype in the air. Just four months after issuing the tanker requirement, the USAF ordered the first 29 KC-135s from Boeing. Besides Boeing's ability to provide a jet tanker promptly, the flying-boom air-to-air refueling system was also a Boeing product from the KC-97: developing the KC-135 had been a safe bet.

Donald Douglas
Donald Wills Douglas, Sr.
Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. was a United States aircraft industrialist and founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1921 .-Early life:...

 was shocked by the rapidity of the decision which, he said, had been made before the competing companies even had time to complete their bids. He protested to Washington, but without success. Having started on the DC-8 project, Douglas decided that it was better to press on than give up. Consultations with the airlines resulted in a number of changes: the fuselage was widened by 15 in (38 cm) to allow six-abreast seating. This led to larger wings and tail surfaces and a longer fuselage.

The DC-8 was officially announced in July 1955. Four versions were offered to begin with, all based on the same 150 ft 6 in (45.9 m) long airframe with a 141 ft 1 in (43 m) wingspan, but varying in engines and fuel capacity, and with maximum weights of about 120-130 tons (109-118 tonnes). Douglas steadfastly refused to offer different fuselage sizes. The maiden flight was planned for December 1957, with entry into revenue service in 1959. Well aware that they were lagging behind Boeing, Douglas began a major push to market the product.

First orders

At the time, Douglas' previous thinking about the airliner market seemed to be coming true; the transition to turbine powered looked likely to be one to turboprops rather than turbojets. The pioneering 40–60-seat Vickers Viscount
Vickers Viscount
The Vickers Viscount was a British medium-range turboprop airliner first flown in 1948 by Vickers-Armstrongs, making it the first such aircraft to enter service in the world...

 was already in service and proving enormously popular with both passengers and airlines: it was much faster, quieter and more comfortable than piston-engined types. Another British aircraft, the 90-seat Bristol Britannia
Bristol Britannia
The Bristol Type 175 Britannia was a British medium-to-long-range airliner built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1952 to fly across the British Empire...

, was establishing a fine reputation, and Douglas's main rival in the large, piston-engined passenger aircraft market, Lockheed, had committed to the short/medium range 80–100-seat turboprop Electra
Lockheed L-188 Electra
The Lockheed Model 188 Electra is an American turboprop airliner built by Lockheed. First flying in 1957, it was the first large turboprop airliner produced in the United States. Initial sales were good, but after two fatal crashes which prompted an expensive modification program to fix a design...

, with a launch order from American Airlines
American Airlines
American Airlines, Inc. is the world's fourth-largest airline in passenger miles transported and operating revenues. American Airlines is a subsidiary of the AMR Corporation and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas adjacent to its largest hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport...

 for 35 and other major orders flowing in. Meanwhile the Comet remained grounded, the French 90-passenger twin jet Sud Aviation Caravelle
Sud Aviation Caravelle
The Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle was the first short/medium-range jet airliner produced by the French Sud Aviation firm starting in 1955 . The Caravelle was one of the more successful European first generation jetliners, selling throughout Europe and even penetrating the United States market, with...

 prototype had just flown for the first time, and the 707 was not expected to be available until late 1958. The major airlines were reluctant to commit themselves to the huge financial and technical challenge of jet aircraft. On the other hand, no-one could afford not to buy jets if their competitors did.

And there the matter rested until October 1955, when Pan American
Pan American World Airways
Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal and largest international air carrier in the United States from 1927 until its collapse on December 4, 1991...

 placed simultaneous orders with Boeing for 20 707s and Douglas for 25 DC-8s. To buy one expensive and untried jet-powered aircraft type was brave: to buy both was at the time, unheard of. In the closing months of 1955, other airlines rushed to follow suit: Air France
Air France
Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

, American
American Airlines
American Airlines, Inc. is the world's fourth-largest airline in passenger miles transported and operating revenues. American Airlines is a subsidiary of the AMR Corporation and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas adjacent to its largest hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport...

, Braniff
Braniff International Airways
Braniff International Airways was an American airline that operated from 1928 until 1982, primarily in the midwestern and southwestern U.S., South America, Panama, and in its later years also Asia and Europe...

, Continental
Continental Airlines
Continental Airlines was a major American airline now merged with United Airlines. On May 3, 2010, Continental Airlines, Inc. and UAL, Inc. announced a merger via a stock swap, and on October 1, 2010, the merger closed and UAL changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc...

 and Sabena
SABENA was the national airline of Belgium from 1923 to 2001, with its base at Brussels National Airport. After its bankruptcy in 2001, the newly formed SN Brussels Airlines took over part of SABENA's assets in February 2002, which then became Brussels Airlines...

 ordered 707s; United, National
National Airlines (NA)
National Airlines was an airline founded in 1934 and was headquartered on the grounds of Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States near Miami.- History :...

, KLM, Eastern
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

, JAL and SAS
Scandinavian Airlines System
Scandinavian Airlines or SAS, previously Scandinavian Airlines System, is the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the largest airline in Scandinavia....

 chose the DC-8. In 1956 Air India, BOAC
Boac may refer to:* Boac, Marinduque, a municipality in the Southern Philippines* Boac , an American rapper* British Overseas Airways Corporation, a former British state-owned airline...

, Lufthansa
Deutsche Lufthansa AG is the flag carrier of Germany and the largest airline in Europe in terms of overall passengers carried. The name of the company is derived from Luft , and Hansa .The airline is the world's fourth-largest airline in terms of overall passengers carried, operating...

, Qantas
Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia. The name was originally "QANTAS", an initialism for "Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services". Nicknamed "The Flying Kangaroo", the airline is based in Sydney, with its main hub at Sydney Airport...

 and TWA added over 50 to the 707 order book, while Douglas sold 22 DC-8s to Delta, Swissair, TAI, Trans-Canada
Trans-Canada Air Lines
Trans-Canada Air Lines was a Canadian airline and operated as the country's flag carrier. Its corporate headquarters were in Montreal, Quebec...

 and UAT. By the start of 1958, Douglas had sold 133 DC-8s as against Boeing's 150 707s.

Production and testing

The first DC-8 was rolled out of the new factory at Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

 in April 1958 and flew for the first time in May. Later that year, an enlarged version of the Comet finally returned to service, but too late to take a substantial portion of the market: de Havilland had just 25 orders. In October, Boeing began delivering 707s to Pan Am. Douglas made a massive effort to close the gap with Boeing, using no less than ten individual aircraft for flight testing to achieve FAA
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 certification for the first of the many DC-8 variants in August 1959. Much had needed to be done: the original air brakes on the lower rear fuselage were found ineffective and were simply deleted as engine thrust reversers had become available; unique leading-edge slots were added to improve low-speed lift; the prototype was 25 kn (46 km/h) short of its promised cruising speed and a new, slightly larger wingtip had to be developed to reduce drag. In addition, a recontoured wing leading edge was developed that extended the chord 4% and reduced drag at high Mach numbers.

The DC-8 entered revenue service first with Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines, Inc. is a major airline based in the United States and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The airline operates an extensive domestic and international network serving all continents except Antarctica. Delta and its subsidiaries operate over 4,000 flights every day...

 on 18 September 1959 with United also entering service later on the same day. By March 1960, Douglas had reached their planned production rate of eight DC-8s a month. Despite the large number of DC-8 early models available, all used the same basic airframe, differing only in engines, weights and details. In contrast, Boeing's rival 707 range offered several fuselage lengths and two differing wingspans: the original 144 ft (44 m) 707-120, a 135 ft (41 m) version that sacrificed space to gain longer range, and the stretched 707-320, which at 153 ft (46.5 m) overall had 10 ft (3 m) more cabin space than the DC-8. Douglas' refusal to offer different fuselage sizes made it less adaptable and forced Delta and United to look elsewhere for short/medium range types. Delta ordered Convair 880s but United went for the newly developed lightweight 707-020 but prevailed on Boeing to rename the new variant the "720" in case people thought they were dissatisfied with the DC-8. Significantly, Pan Am never reordered the DC-8 and Douglas gradually lost market share to Boeing. After an excellent start, 1962 DC-8 sales dropped to just 26, followed by 21 in 1963 and 14 in '64, and most of these were for the Jet Trader rather than the more prestigious passenger versions. In 1967, Douglas merged with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation to become McDonnell Douglas
McDonnell Douglas
McDonnell Douglas was a major American aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor, producing a number of famous commercial and military aircraft. It formed from a merger of McDonnell Aircraft and Douglas Aircraft in 1967. McDonnell Douglas was based at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport...


On 21 August 1961 a Douglas DC-8 broke the sound barrier
Sound barrier
The sound barrier, in aerodynamics, is the point at which an aircraft moves from transonic to supersonic speed. The term, which occasionally has other meanings, came into use during World War II, when a number of aircraft started to encounter the effects of compressibility, a collection of several...

 at Mach 1.012 (660 mph/1,062 km/h) while in a controlled dive through 41,000 ft (12,497 m) and maintained that speed, for 16 seconds. The flight was to collect data on a new leading-edge design for the wing, and while doing so, this DC-8 became the first civilian jet to make a supersonic flight. The aircraft was a DC-8-43 later delivered to Canadian Pacific Air Lines as CF-CPG. The aircraft, crewed by Captain William Magruder, First Officer Paul Patten, Flight Engineer Joseph Tomich and Flight Test Engineer Richard Edwards, took off from Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base
Edwards Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located on the border of Kern County, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County, California, in the Antelope Valley. It is southwest of the central business district of North Edwards, California and due east of Rosamond.It is named in...

 in California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and was accompanied to altitude by an F-104 flown by Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager
Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager is a retired major general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. He was the first pilot to travel faster than sound...


Further developments

In April 1965, Douglas announced belated fuselage stretches for the DC-8 with three new models known as the Super Sixties. The DC-8 program had been in danger of closing with fewer than 300 aircraft sold, but the Super Sixties brought fresh life to it. By the time production ceased in 1972, 262 of the stretched DC-8s had been made. With the ability to seat 269 passengers, the DC-8 Series 61 and 63 had the largest passenger-carrying capacity available. That remained so until the Boeing 747
Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

 arrived in 1970.

All the earlier jetliners were noisy by modern standards. Increasing traffic densities and changing public attitudes led to complaints about aircraft noise and moves to introduce restrictions. As early as 1966 the New York Port Authority expressed concern about the noise to be expected from the then still unbuilt DC-8-61, and operators had to agree to operate it from New York at lower weights to reduce noise. By the early 1970s, legislation for aircraft noise standards was being introduced in many countries, and the 60 Series DC-8s were particularly at risk of being banned from major airports.

In the early 1970s several airlines approached McDonnell Douglas for noise reduction modifications to the DC-8 but nothing was done. Third parties had developed aftermarket hushkits
Hush kit
A hush kit is a device for reducing noise from an engine; most commonly the term refers to devices which reduce noise emissions from low-bypass turbofan engines, as fitted to older commercial aircraft ....

 but there was no real move to keep the DC-8 in service. Finally, in 1975, General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

 began discussions with major airlines with a view to fitting the new and vastly quieter Franco-American CFM56
CFM International CFM56
The CFM International CFM56 series is a family of high-bypass turbofan aircraft engines made by CFM International , with a thrust range of . CFMI is a 50–50 joint-owned company of SNECMA, France and GE Aviation , USA. Both companies are responsible for producing components and each has its own...

 engine to both DC-8s and 707s. MDC remained reluctant but eventually came on board in the late 1970s and helped develop the 70 Series DC-8s.

The Super Seventies were a great success: roughly 70% quieter than the 60-Series and, at the time of their introduction, the world's quietest four-engined airliner. As well as being quieter and more powerful, the CFM56 was roughly 20% more fuel efficient than the JT3D, which reduced operating costs and extended the range.

By 2002, of the 1032 707s and 720s
Boeing 707
The Boeing 707 is a four-engine narrow-body commercial passenger jet airliner developed by Boeing in the early 1950s. Its name is most commonly pronounced as "Seven Oh Seven". The first airline to operate the 707 was Pan American World Airways, inaugurating the type's first commercial flight on...

 manufactured for commercial use, just 80 remained in service — though many of those 707s were converted for USAF
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 use, either in service or for spare parts. Of the 556 DC-8s made, around 200 were still in commercial service in 2002, including about 25 50-Series, 82 of the stretched 60-Series, and 96 out of the 110 re-engined 70-Series. Most of the surviving DC-8s are now used as freighters. As of May 2009, 97 DC-8s were in service following UPS's
United Parcel Service
United Parcel Service, Inc. , typically referred to by the acronym UPS, is a package delivery company. Headquartered in Sandy Springs, Georgia, United States, UPS delivers more than 15 million packages a day to 6.1 million customers in more than 220 countries and territories around the...

 decision to retire their remaining fleet of 44.

DC-8 Series 10

For U.S. domestic use and powered by 13,500 lb (60.5 kN) Pratt & Whitney JT3C
Pratt & Whitney JT3C
|-Specifications :-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.-External links:* * *...

-6 turbojets with water injection. The initial DC-8-11 model had the original, high-drag wingtips and all examples were subsequently converted to DC-8-12 standard. The DC-8-12 had the new wingtips and leading-edge slots
Leading edge slot
A leading edge slot is an aerodynamic feature of the wing of some aircraft to reduce the stall speed and promote good low-speed handling qualities. A leading edge slot is a span-wise gap in each wing, allowing air to flow from below the wing to its upper surface...

 inboard of each pylon. These unique devices were actuated by doors on the upper and lower surfaces that opened for low speed flight and closed for cruise. The maximum weight increased from 265,000 lb (120,200 kg) to 273,000 lb (123,830 kg). 28 DC-8-10s were manufactured. This model was originally named "DC-8A" until the series 30 was introduced. 29 built, 22 for United and 6 for Delta, plus the prototype. The JT3C powered DC-8 was underpowered and by the mid sixties United had converted 15 of its 20 surviving aircraft to DC-8-20 standard and the other 5 to -50s. Delta converted its 6 to DC-8-50s.

DC-8 Series 20

Higher-powered 15,800 lb (70.8 kN) Pratt & Whitney JT4A
Pratt & Whitney JT4A
|-See also:-External links:*...

-3 turbojets (without water injection) allowed a weight increase to 276,000 lb (125,190 kg). 34 DC-8-20s were manufactured plus 15 converted DC-8-10s. This model was originally named "DC-8B" but was renamed when the series 30 was introduced.

DC-8 Series 30

For intercontinental routes, the three Series 30 variants combined JT4A engines with a one-third increase in fuel capacity and strengthened fuselage and landing gear. The DC-8-31 was certified in March 1960 with 16,800 lb (75.2 kN) JT4A-9 engines for 300,000 lb (136,080 kg) maximum take off weight. The DC-8-32 was similar but allowed 310,000 lb (140,600 kg) weight. The DC-8-33 of November 1960 substituted 17,500 lb (78.4 kN) JT4A-11 turbojets, a modification to the flap linkage to allow a 1.5° setting for more efficient cruise, stronger landing gear, and 315,000 lb (142,880 kg) maximum weight. Many -31 and -32 DC-8s were upgraded to this standard. A total of 57 DC-8-30s were produced.

DC-8 Series 40

The -40 was essentially the -30 but with 17,500 lb (78.4 kN) Rolls-Royce Conway
Rolls-Royce Conway
The Rolls-Royce RB.80 Conway was the first by-pass engine in the world to enter service. Development started at Rolls-Royce in the 1940s, but it was used only briefly in the late 1950s and early 1960s before other turbofan designs were introduced that replaced it. The Conway powered versions of...

 509 turbofans for better efficiency, less noise and less smoke. The Conway was an improvement over the turbojets that preceded it, but the Series 40 sold poorly both because of the traditional reluctance of U.S. airlines to buy a foreign product and because the still more advanced Pratt & Whitney JT3D
Pratt & Whitney JT3D
|-See also:-External links:*...

 turbofan was due in early 1961. The DC-8-41 and DC-8-42 had weights of 300,000 lb (136,080 kg) and 310,000 lb (140,600 kg) respectively, The 315,000 lb (142,880 kg) DC-8-43 had the 1.5° flap setting of the -33 and introduced a new 4% leading edge wing extension to allow a small fuel capacity increase and a significant drag reduction - the new wing design improved range by 8%, lifting capacity by 3.3 tons (3 tonnes), and cruising speed by better than 10 kn (19 km/h). It would be included in all future DC-8s. The variant was first delivered in 1960 and a total of 32 were built. It was the first turbofan-powered airliner.

DC-8 Series 50

The definitive short-fuselage DC-8 with the same engine that powered the vast majority of 707s, the JT3D
Pratt & Whitney JT3D
|-See also:-External links:*...

. Many earlier DC-8s were converted to this standard. All bar the -55 were certified in 1961. The DC-8-51, DC-8-52 and DC-8-53 all had 17,000 lb(76.1 kN) JT3D-1 or 18,000 lb (80.6 kN) JT3D-3B engines, varying mainly in their weights: 276,000 lb (125,900 kg), 300,000 lb (136,080 kg) and 315,000 lb (142,880 kg) respectively. The DC-8-55 arrived in June 1964, retaining the JT3D-3B engines but with strengthened structure from the freighter versions and 325,000 lb (147,420 kg) maximum weight. 88 DC-8-50s were manufactured plus 14 converted from Series 10/30.
  • DC-8 Jet Trader Douglas approved development of specialized freighter versions of the DC-8 in May 1961, based on the Series 50. An original plan to fit a fixed bulkhead separating the forward ⅔ of the cabin for freight, leaving the rear cabin for 54 passenger seats was soon replaced by a more practical one to use a movable bulkhead and allow anywhere between 25 and 114 seats with the remainder set aside for cargo. A large cargo door was fitted into the forward fuselage, the cabin floor was reinforced and the rear pressure bulkhead was moved by nearly 7 ft (2 m) to make more space. Airlines were offered the option of a windowless cabin, though only one, United, took this up, with an order for 15 in 1964. The DC-8F-54 had a maximum takeoff weight of 315,000 lb (142,880 kg) and the DC-8F-55 325,000 lb (147,420 kg). Both used 18,000 lb (80.6 kN) JT3D-3B powerplants. 54 aircraft built.

  • EC-24A A single ex-United Airlines DC-8F-54 was used by the United States Navy
    United States Navy
    The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

     as an electronic warfare
    Electronic warfare
    Electronic warfare refers to any action involving the use of the electromagnetic spectrum or directed energy to control the spectrum, attack an enemy, or impede enemy assaults via the spectrum. The purpose of electronic warfare is to deny the opponent the advantage of, and ensure friendly...

     training platform. It was retired in October 1998 and is now in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.

DC-8 Super 60 Series

  • The DC-8 Series 61 was designed for high capacity and medium range. It had the same wings, engines and pylons as the -53, and sacrificed range to gain capacity. Having decided to stretch the DC-8, Douglas inserted a 240in (6 m) plug in the forward fuselage and a 200in (5 m) plug aft, taking overall length to 187 ft 4in (57.10m) and giving the aircraft a very long, lean look that was unique. The added length required strengthening of the structure, but the basic DC-8 design already had sufficient ground clearance to permit the one-third increase in cabin size without requiring longer landing gear. The variant first flew on March 14, 1966 and was certified in September 1966 at a maximum weight of 325,000 lb (147,420 kg). Deliveries began in January 1967 and it entered service with United Airlines
    United Airlines
    United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees United Air Lines, Inc., is the world's largest airline with 86,852 employees (which includes the entire holding company United Continental...

     in February 1967. It typically carried 210 passengers, or 269 in high-density configuration. A cargo door equipped DC-8-61CF was also available. 78 -61 and 10 -61CF built.

  • The long-range DC-8 Series 62 followed in April 1967. It had a much more modest stretch, two 40in (1.02m) plugs fore and aft of the wing taking overall length to 157 ft 5in (47.98m), and a number of modifications to provide greater range. 3 foot (0.9144 m) wingtip extensions reduced drag and added fuel capacity, and Douglas redesigned the engine pods, extending the pylons and substituting new shorter and neater nacelles, all in the cause of drag reduction. The 18,000 lb JT3D-3B was retained but the engine pylons were redesigned to eliminate their protrusion above the wing and make them sweep forward more sharply, so that the engines were actually positioned some 40 inch further forward. The engine pods were also modified featuring a reduction in pod diameter and the elimination of the -50 and -61 bypass duct. The changes all contributed to improve the aircraft's aerodynamic efficiency. The DC-8 Series 62 is slightly heavier than the -53 or -61 at 335,000 lb (151,956 kg), and able to seat up to 189 passengers, the -62 had a range with full payload of about 5,200 nmi (9,600 km), or about the same as the -53 but with 40 extra passengers. Many late production -62s had 350,000 lb (158,760 kg) maximum take off weight and were known as the -62H. Also available as the cargo door equipped convertible -62CF or all cargo -62AF. 51 DC-8-62s built plus 10 -62CF and 6 -62AF.

  • The DC-8 Series 63 was the final new build variant and entered service in June 1968. It combined the long fuselage of the -61, the aerodynamic refinements and increased fuel capacity of the -62 and 19,000 lb (85.1 kN) JT3D-7 engines. This yielded a maximum take off weight of 350,000 lb (158,760 kg) and a range with full payload of 4,110 nmi (7,600 km). Like the -62 available as a cargo door equipped -63CF or all cargo -63AF. The freighters had a further increase in mtow to 355,000 lb (161,030 kg). Eastern Airlines bought 6 -63PFs with the strengthened floor of the freighters but no cargo door. 41 DC-8-63s were built, plus 53 -63CF, 7 -63AF and the 6 -63PFs.

Super seventies

  • The DC-8-72 and the DC-8-73 were straightforward conversions of the -62 and -63, replacing the JT3D engines with 22,000 lb(98.5 kN) CFM56-2 high-bypass turbofans in new housings built by Grumman, along with new engine pylons and fairing of the air intakes below the nose. The DC-8-71 achieved the same end but required considerably more modification because the -61 did not already have the improved wings and relocated engines of the -62 and -63. Maximum takeoff weights remained the same, but there was a slight reduction in payload because of the heavier engines. All three models were certified in 1982 and a total of 110 60-Series DC-8s were converted by the time the program ended in 1988.


A total of 30 DC-8 aircraft (all variants) were in commercial service as of January 2011 with the following operators:
  • Air Transport International
    Air Transport International
    Air Transport International LLC is an airline based in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. It operates worldwide cargo and combi charters for the express package industry and freight forwarders, as well as for the United States Department of Defense and the automotive industry. It also wet-leases aircraft....

  • Astar Air Cargo
    Astar Air Cargo
    ASTAR Air Cargo is an American cargo airline based in Miami, Florida, USA. It operates regularly scheduled cargo charter services to over 34 US airports and nine international airports, as well as worldwide charter freight services. It provides air freight services to six domestic and foreign...

  • Transair Cargo (3)
  • BETA Cargo
    BETA Cargo
    BETA Cargo is a cargo airline based in Brazil. It operates international cargo charters in the Americas. Its main base is Guarulhos International Airport, São Paulo.-Incidents and accidents:...

  • Expo Aviation
    Expo Aviation
    Expo Air is an airline based in Colombo, Sri Lanka that operates domestic passenger services and international cargo services to the Middle East and the India...

  • Stars Away Aviation (1)

The DC-8 is no longer used by military organization
Military organization
Military organization is the structuring of the armed forces of a state so as to offer military capability required by the national defence policy. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces...

s as of 2008. The DC-8 is in use by NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 as an Airborne Laboratory.

Accidents and incidents

As of May 2011, the DC-8 had been involved in 140 incidents, including 83 hull-loss accidents
Aviation accidents and incidents
An aviation accident is defined in the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, in which a...

, with 2,256 fatalities. The DC-8 has been in 46 hijacking
Aircraft hijacking
Aircraft hijacking is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by an individual or a group. In most cases, the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers. Occasionally, however, the hijackers have flown the aircraft themselves, such as the September 11 attacks of 2001...

s involving 2 fatalities.


DC-8-32 DC-8-63CF
Crew Three
Passengers 176 (economy)
124 (mixed)
259 (economy)
180 (mixed)
Overall length 150 ft 6 in (45.87 m) 187 ft 4 in (57.10 m)
Wingspan 142 ft 5 in (43.41 m) 148 ft 5 in (45.24 m)
Overall height 43 ft 4 in (13.21 m) 43 ft 0 in (13.11 m)
Fuselage width 12 ft 3 in (3.73 m)
Wing Area 2,771 ft² (257.4 m²) 2,927 ft² (271.9 m²)
Operating empty weight 134,000 lb (60,800 kg) 146,300 lb (66,360 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight 310,000 lb (140,600 kg) 355,000 lb (161,000 kg)
Powerplants (4x) Pratt & Whitney JT4A
Pratt & Whitney JT4A
|-See also:-External links:*...

-9 turbojets,
16,800 lbf (74.7 kN) each
Pratt & Whitney JT3D
Pratt & Whitney JT3D
|-See also:-External links:*...

-7 turbofans,
19,000 lbf, (84.5 kN) each
Maximum Cruise Speed 588 mph (946 km/h) 596 mph (959 km/h)
Range with Max. Payload 4,605 mi (7,410 km) 2,140 mi (3,445 km)
Wing Loading 111.9 lb/ft² (546.2 kg/m²) 121.3 lb/ft² (592.2 kg/m²)
Thrust/Weight Ratio 0.217 0.21 (derived)


See also

Further reading

  • Cearley, George Walker. The Douglas DC-8: A Pictorial History. Dallas: G.W. Cearley, Jr., 1992.
  • Douglas Aircraft Co. The DC-8 Story. Long Beach, CA: Douglas Aircraft Company, 1972.
  • Douglas Aircraft Co. Douglas DC-8 Maintenance Manual. Long Beach, CA: Douglas Aircraft Company, 1959. OCLC 10621428.
  • Francillon, René. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-87021-428-4.
  • Hubler, Richard G. Big Eight: A Biography of an Airplane. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1960.
  • Lundkvist, Bo-Goran. Douglas DC-8. Coral Springs, FL: Lundkvist Aviation Research, 1983. OCLC 62220710.
  • McDonnell-Douglas. The DC-8 Super-Sixty. Long Beach, CA: McDonnell Douglas Corp. Sales Engineering Div., 1968.
  • McDonnell-Douglas. The DC-8 Handbook. Long Beach, CA: McDonnell Douglas Corp. Sales Engineering Div., 1982.
  • Norris, Guy, and Wagner, Mark. Douglas Jetliners. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-7603-0676-1.
  • Proctor, Jon, Machat, Mike, Kodeta, Craig. From Props to Jets: Commercial Aviatin's Transition to the Jet Age 1952-1962. North Branch, MN: Specialty Press. ISBN 1-58007-146-5.
  • Vicenzi, Ugo. Early American Jetliners: Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8 and Convair CV880. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing. ISBN 0-7603-0788-1.
  • Waddington, Terry. Douglas DC-8. Miami, FL: World Transport Press, 1996. ISBN 0-96267305-6.
  • Wilson, Stewart. Airliners of the World. Fyshwick, Australia, ACT: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd., 1999. ISBN 1-875671-44-7.
  • Whittle, John A., Nash, H.J., and Sievers, Harry. The McDonnell DC-8. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain, 1972. ISBN 0-85130-024-3.
  • Wilson, Stewart. Boeing 707, Douglas DC-8, and Vickers VC-10. Fyshwick, Australia, ACT: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-875671-36-6.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.