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A Look Back at Past First Flights of New Airliners

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A Look Back at Past First Flights of New Airliners

A Look Back at Past First Flights of New Airliners
September 25
00:55 2013

MIAMI — The year 2013 has been good to the world of first flights. Last week alone saw both Bombardier’s CSeries and Boeing’s 787-9 take to the skies for the first time. If that weren’t enough we had the Airbus A350 first flight earlier this year in June. The last time we’ve seen anything quite like it was back in 1970 when both the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 Tristar flew within four months of one another. In any case we figured we’d take a look back this morning at some of the first flight’s of other types (plus we dug up some sweet videos)  and also look back at this year’s first flights.

CSeries First Flight


Boeing 787-9 First Flight


Airbus A350 First Flight


We’ll start off with the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. In the same year the 747 inaugurated service, The original tri-jet made its maiden flight on August 29, 1970 as a replacement to the popular DC-8 aircraft. The first airplanes would later go to launch customers American and United Airlines, who had been seeking a wide-body aircraft that would meet the range of the new 747 but without the same size. The airplane began production in the early 70s and ended its run in 1989.

Next we’ll take a look at the Lockheed Tristar. Lockheed’s last foray into the commercial airline market made its first flight on November 17, 1970 – less than four months after the DC-10. The airplane was even built with the exact same specifications as the DC10, yet was not as successful. Problems with engine manufacture Rolls Royce severely delayed the program, allowing the DC-10 to break into the market a full year ahead of the L1011. The airplane ended production in 1984 with only 250 airplanes ever made. Less than ten remain airworthy today. Watch the video here.

Preceding both, however, was the iconic Boeing 747. The plane first flew on February 9, 1969. The rest is history. While the type is likely seeing the end of its reign with the -400 becoming unpopular and the new -800 version sales falling flat, there’s no doubt the airplane remains one of the most beloved by aviation enthusiasts worldwide.

Airbus, meanwhile, entered the party later than everyone else. Their first airplane, the A300, had entered design many years earlier in 1968, but development problems prevented the airplane from coming to fruition until 1974. The airplane made its first flight on May 17th of that year. The airplane sold poorly for a number of years (in part because of FAA concerns over twin engined jets) but wound up having a long production run continuing through 2007.  A shorter, longer range version of the A300, the A310 first flight on April 3, 1982. Like its shorter sibling, it did not sell especially well at first, though enjoyed a decades long production run. Both airplanes, especially the A300, have become popular with freight companies. While the airplanes are now are being fazed out of fleets, US cargo operators UPS and FedEx both still utilize them in large numbers.

Still, it was the A320 family that put Airbus on the map. The extremely popular A320 was first flown on February 22, 1987. The A321 followed on March 11, 1993. The A319 came next on August 25, 1996. Finally, the less popular A318 flew for the first time on January 18, 2002.

Of course there’s a lot missing here, but we don’t have time for them all today – we’ll take a look at some of the other airliners’ first flights in another edition soon!  Feel free to leave suggestions and we’ll do our best to find videos and pictures galore!

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Luis Linares

Luis Linares

LIFETIME COMMERCIAL AVIATION ENTHUSIAST, FORMER U.S. AIR FORCE, WRITER, SPOTTER, PHOTOGRAPHER, WORLD TRAVELER (OVER 50 COUNTRIES), AND AIRWAYS COLLECTOR SINCE ISSUE #1.

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