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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Douglas DC-8

Trans Air Cargo Service continues to operate pair of DC-8s on services within the Democratic Republic of Congo. DC-8-62AF 9S-AJG is photographed here at Kinshasa-N'djili in November 2020 (Congo-Zaire Aviation)

Douglas was initially unconvinced about the potential for turbojet-powered airliners and was still studying turboprop developments of its existing radial-engined designs when, on 14 May 1954, Boeing rolled-out its private venture 367-80 technology demonstrator. At the time Douglas was the world’s leading supplier of commercial aircraft and wanting to remain as such, it announced in June 1955 it was to produce a jet successor to the DC-7. Although Douglas was in theory some three years behind the Seattle-based company, the company was able to capitalise on two factors: first, Boeing’s initial pre-occupation with the military version of the 367-80; and, second, its greater knowledge of the commercial market. In the latter regard, Douglas was able to exploit the impact of the introduction of tourist class fares in North America, by designing the DC-8 from the outset with a cabin wide enough to accommodate six-abreast seating. This proved a significant selling point, and initially the DC-8 outsold the five-abreast 707. By 1956, however, Boeing had taken the lead, something it would never lose, eventually absorbing McDonnell Douglas in 1997.

The DC-8 was offered in many versions, with only the DC-8-63 being produced in large numbers. As early as 1965, Douglas considered offering the DC-8 with high by-pass turbofan engines, but instead decided to pursue a double-deck design (the original DC-10). A lack of customer interest forced the company to abandon the project and into a merger with the McDonnell company in April 1967. A subsequent re-engining programme gave the DC-8 a new lease of life, especially with the cargo and package hauling market. However, these operations are now drawing to a close and large numbers of the DC-8 have been retired and broken up since 2002.

First flight: 30 May 58 (c/n 45252, N8008D)

Production: 556, at Long Beach, CA

First delivery: 29 May 59, to United Air Lines (c/n 45281, N8004U)

Last delivery: 12 May 72, to SAS (c/n 46163, SE-DBL)

Variants: DC-8-11 - domestic version powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 water-injected turbojets, with seating for up to 176 passengers (23 built)

DC-8-12 - DC-8-11 with increased take-off weight (5 built);

DC-8-21 - domestic version for hot and high operations, powered by Pratt & Whitney JT4A turbojets (34 built);

DC-8-31 - DC-8-21 with increased fuel capacity and increased take-off weight (4 built);

DC-8-32 - higher weight version of DC-8-31 (42 built);

DC-8-33 - DC-8-32 with further weight increases and additional payload capability (11 built);

DC-8-41 - DC-8-31 powered by Rolls-Royce Conway R.Co.12 by-pass engines (4 built);

DC-8-42 - DC-8-32 powered by Conways (8 built);

DC-8-43 - DC-8-33 powered by Conways (20 built);

DC-8-51 - DC-8-21 powered by Pratt & Whitney JT3D-1 turbofans (30 built);

DC-8-52 - long-range version of DC-8-51 (25 built);

DC-8-53 - DC-8-52 with increased weight and payload (25 built);

DC-8-54AF - all-cargo version DC-8-53 powered by JT3D-3B turbofans, with fuselage windows deleted, side cargo door, reinforced floor and cargo-handling system (15 built);

DC-8-54CF Jet Trader - convertible passenger/cargo version of DC-8-53 with side cargo door, reinforced floor and cargo-handling system (15 built);

DC-8-55 - DC-8-53 with further weight and payload increase (32 built, including 24 as DC-8-55CF Jet Trader);

DC-8-61 - stretched version based on DC-8-55 with seating for up to 259 passengers and reduced range (78 built, first flight 14 Mar 66);

DC-8-61CF - convertible passenger/cargo version of DC-8-61 (10 built);

DC-8-62 - DC-8-55 with aerodynamic improvements including new engine pods, increased fuel capacity and slightly stretched fuselage, with accommodation for up to 189 passengers (65 built, including 6 DC-8-62AF and 8 DC-8-62CF);

DC-8-63 - DC-8-61 featuring aerodynamic improvements introduced on DC-8-62 and with increased range (101 built, including 7 DC-8-63AF and 53 DC-8-63CF; first flight 10 Apr 67);

DC-8-63PF - DC-8-63CF with strengthened floor but with cargo door deleted (6 built)

Conversions: DC-8-71/72/73 - DC-8-61/62/63 re-engined with CFM56-2C high bypass turbofans, featuring Grumman-designed nacelles (110 completed, comprising 9 by Air Canada, 48 by Delta Air Lines, 44 by McDonnell-Douglas and 9 by UTA Industries).

Douglas DC-8 survivors
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