Douglas DC-8

An Air Jamaica DC-8-62H approaching London Heathrow Airport in 1978 Role Narrow-body jet airliner National origin United States Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft McDonnell Douglas First flight May 30, 1958 Introduction September 18, 1959 with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines Status In limited cargo and transport use Primary users Air Transport International Astar Air Cargo Johnsons Air Produced 19581972 Number built 556 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Douglas in a strong position in the airliner market, and remained in production until 1972 when it began to be superseded by much larger designs, including the DC-10 and Boeing 747.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. Some re-engined DC-8s remain in service as freighters. 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 nea

-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. [edit]Competition 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 (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 May 15, 1954, and first flew the next month. Boeing's plans became obvious in the industry, despite the "code name" intended to hide its purpose.