DALLAS — Today in Aviation, the narrow-body airliner Douglas DC-8 enters service with Delta Air Lines (DL), followed by United Airlines (UA) in 1959.
While Pan Am was the first airline to order the DC-8 in October 1955, rivals DL and UA would first put the aircraft into revenue service.
Both DL and UA chose the jet-powered airliner in order to keep up with their competition and replace their Douglas DC-6 and DC-7 fleets. Indeed, UA was pivotal in the design of the DC-8, with the airline’s then-President William A. Patterson being a big advocate of the six-abreast seating chosen for the jet.
United was the first airline to receive the DC-8. N8004U, a -21 model, joined the fleet on June 3, 1959. But it would be DL who would pip UA to the post of the inaugural flight when DL823 departed New York (JFK) bound for Atlanta.
United’s maiden flight departed San Francisco (SFO) a few hours later, bound for JFK. 119 passengers were on board the jet under the command of Captain Floyd Addison.
By the end of 1959, UA was operating 16 DC-8s. They would go on to operate the following variants: -10, -20, -30, -50, -60, and -70. The airline retired its final DC-8, a -70, on October 31, 1991.
Delta, meanwhile, retired its last two 71s on May 1, 1989, after 29 years of DC-8 service. The airline operated the following variants: -11, -12, -33, -51, -61, and -71.
Featured image: RuthAS. Own work, CC BY 3.0