MIAMI – Today in Aviation, a Canadian Pacific Air Lines Douglas DC-8 aircraft set two world records during a single test flight on August 21, 1961.

First, it reached 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) at a weight of 107,600 pounds (48,807 kg). This was a new altitude record for a loaded transport jet at the time.

The Concorde later accomplished what is the highest commercial airliner altitude of 60,000 feet. Still, the highest airliner flying today reaches 45,000 feet.

Then, in a dive from that altitude, the DC-8 reached Mach 1.012 with a true airspeed of 662.5 mph (1,066.8 km/h) at an altitude of 39,614 feet (12,074 meters), becoming the first airliner to break the sound barrier.

In terms of speed, experts consider British Airways’ (BA) New York-London flight 112 as the fastest subsonic flight. On February 9, 2020, a BA Boeing 747-436 reached speeds of 825 mph (1,327 km/h) as the Queen of the Skies rode a jet stream accelerated by Storm Ciara.

Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-8-53. Photo: Wiki Commons

Canadian Pacific Air Lines

Canadian Pacific Air Lines operated from 1942 to 1987 under the name CP Air from 1968 to 1986. The airline based its headquarters at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

The carrier served domestic Canadian as well as international routes until it was purchased by Pacific Western Airlines and absorbed into Canadian Airlines which branded itself as Canadian Airlines International.

The development of the great circle or polar route to the Far East from CP Air’s Vancouver base would become one of the cornerstones of the airline.

According to, Grant McConachie, a Canadian bush pilot/businessman who became CEO of the airline, managed to secure flights to Amsterdam, Australia, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, helping the carrier’s revenue grow from US$3m in 1942 to US$61m by 1964.

Douglas DC-8, Douglas Aircraft Company. Photo: Wiki Commons

The Douglas DC-8 

Sometimes referred to as the McDonnell Douglas DC-8, the jet is a narrow-body airliner built by the American Douglas Aircraft Company. After losing the May 1954 USAF tanker requirement to the Boeing KC-135, Douglas announced in July 1955 its derived jetliner project.

In October 1955, Pan Am made the first order along with the competing Boeing 707. Other airlines followed suit. The first DC-8 was rolled out in Long Beach Airport on 9 April 1958 and flew for the first time on May 30 of that year. 

The aircraft achieved FAA certification in August 1959 and the DC-8 entered service with Delta Air Lines (DL) on September 18.

According to Commercial Aircraft of the World, the six-abreast, low wing airliner was a four-engine jet aircraft, the initial variants are 151 ft (46 m) long. The DC-8-10 was powered by Pratt & Whitney JT3C turbojets and had a 273,000 lb (124 t) MTOW, the DC-8-20 had more powerful JT4A turbojets for a 276,000 lb (125 t) MTOW.

Later freighters versions would reach an MTOW of 325,000 lb (147 t).

Featured image: Canadian Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-8. Photo: Wiki Commons.