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The popular DC-8 was Douglas' first jet powered airliner, and the USA's second successful jet powered transport behind the Boeing 707.
Despite its strong hold on the world airliner market in the early 1950s, and the appearance of the jet powered De Havilland Comet in 1949, Douglas moved cautiously into the field of jet powered transports, a decision which was to cost it dearly in lost potential sales over the following decades.
Douglas announced it was developing the jet powered DC-8 airliner in June 1955, a year after the first flight of the Boeing Model 367-80, the 707 predecessor. The first DC-8 flew on May 30 1958, five months before the 707 entered service with Pan Am. A concerted flight test program involving nine aircraft led to certification being awarded on August 31 1959. Entry into commercial service with launch customers United and Delta was on September 18 that year.
Unfortunately for Douglas, the earlier availability of the 707 meant that initial sales of the DC-8 were relatively slow. However, the emergence of Douglas' design had already forced Boeing to widen the fuselage width of the 707, and unlike the Boeing the DC-8 was offered in domestic and intercontinental versions from the start.
Versions of the initial short fuselage DC-8 were: the Series 10, the initial domestic version with 60.1kN (13,500lb) P&W JT3C-6 turbojets - 28 were built for Delta and United; the similar Series 20 but with more powerful 74.7kN (16,800lb) JT4A-9 turbojets; the intercontinental Series 30 and Series 40, powered by JT4A-11s or Rolls-Royce Conways respectively; and the Series 50, perhaps the definitive short fuselage model and a direct competitor to the 707-320B/C, with 80.1kN (18,000lb) JT3D-3 turbofans. Convertible 50CF and pure freight 50AF Jet Trader versions were also offered, while others were subsequently converted to freighters.
The short fuselage DC-8s were replaced in production by the substantially larger stretched DC-8 Super Sixty series.
Delta Air Lines was one of the 2 launch customers for that airplane.
The Douglas DC-8 is a four-engined narrow-body passenger commercial jet airliner, manufactured from 1958 to 1972 by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Launched later than the competing Boeing 707, 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Douglas in a strong position in the airliner market, and remained in production until 1972 when it began to be superseded by much larger designs, including the DC-10 and Boeing 747. The DC-8 design allowed it to hold slightly more cargo than the 707. Dozens of re-engined examples remain in freighter service to this day, while commercial 707 service had largely ended by 2000.
In the post-World War II era, Douglas held a commanding position in the commercial aircraft market. Although Boeing had pointed the way to the modern all-metal airliner in 1933 with the 247, 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, DC-3, DC-4, DC-5, DC-6, and DC-7) through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
When de Havilland introduced the first jet-powered airliner, the Comet, in 1949, Douglas took the view that there was no reason to rush into anything new. Their U.S. competitors at Lockheed and Convair 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 turboprop 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 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-driven aircraft.
CompetitionIn 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 (first flight 1947) and the B-52 Stratofortress (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 (SAC). Boeing also supplied the SAC's refueling aircraft, the piston-engined KC-97 Stratotankers, 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 to the Comet, but its swept wing planform 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". 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 phaseDouglas 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 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 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 ordersAt 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 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, 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, with a launch order from American Airlines for 35 and other major orders flowing in. Meanwhile the Comet remained grounded, the French 90-passenger twin jet Sud Aviation Caravelle 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 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, American, Braniff, Continental and Sabena ordered 707s; United, National, KLM, Eastern, JAL and SAS chose the DC-8. In 1956 Air India, BOAC, Lufthansa, Qantas and TWA added over 50 to the 707 order book, while Douglas sold 22 DC-8s to Delta, Swissair, TAI, Trans-Canada and UAT. By the start of 1958, Douglas had sold 133 DC-8s as against Boeing's 150 707s.
Production and testingLong Beach 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 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 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 (MDC).
On 21 August 1961 a Douglas DC-8 broke the sound barrier 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 in California, and was accompanied to altitude by an F-104 flown by Chuck Yeager.
Further developmentsBoeing 747 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 but there was no real move to keep the DC-8 in service. Finally, in 1975, General Electric began discussions with major airlines with a view to fitting the new and vastly quieter Franco-American CFM56 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.
720s manufactured for commercial use, just 80 remained in service — though many of those 707s were converted for USAF 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 decision to retire their remaining fleet of 44.
DC-8 Series 10For U.S. domestic use and powered by 13,500 lb (60.5 kN) Pratt & Whitney JT3C-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 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-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 30For 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 40The -40 was essentially the -30 but with 17,500 lb (78.4 kN) Rolls-Royce Conway 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 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 50The definitive short-fuselage DC-8 with the same engine that powered the vast majority of 707s, the JT3D. 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 as an electronic warfare 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 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 feet (0.91 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.
- 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.
OperatorsA total of 30 DC-8 aircraft (all variants) were in commercial service as of January 2011 with the following operators:
- Air Transport International (16)
- Astar Air Cargo (8)
- Transair Cargo (3)
- BETA Cargo (1)
- Expo Aviation (1)
- Stars Away Aviation (1)
Accidents and incidentsAs of May 2011, the DC-8 had been involved in 140 incidents, including 83 hull-loss accidents, with 2,256 fatalities. The DC-8 has been in 46 hijackings involving 2 fatalities.
|Passengers||176 (economy) |
|259 (economy) |
|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-9 turbojets, |
16,800 lbf (74.7 kN) each
|Pratt & Whitney JT3D-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)|