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  Douglas DC-8
DC-8 in flightFollowing the ongoing success of the Douglas DC-6, there was little interest in developing an all- jet airliner. Douglas’ piston-engine aircraft were still being purchased, and the DC-7, which also used a piston-engine, was going to be on the market soon.

Added to this in 1952 and 1953 were the fatal crashes of de Havilland’s jet passenger liner, the Comet, which left the planes grounded. It would later be discovered that the crashes were caused by metal fatigue, and not the jets themselves.

Douglas’ outlook changed however, when it became clear that their competitor, Boeing, was developing an all-jet aircraft. Boeing had an advantage since they had already produced two long-range jet bombers: the B-47, first flown in 1947, and the B-52, flown for the first time in 1952.

Boeing also had an ongoing business relationship with the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. It became evident that the Strategic Air Command would have to replace the piston-engine tankers they were using for air-to-air refuelling with jet engine tankers. Thus, Boeing moved to develop a tanker aircraft that could easily be converted to a passenger aircraft. This plane became the 707.

Douglas realized that the tanker contracts from Strategic Air Command would be beneficial, and in mid-1953, started to develop plans, designing an 80-seat passenger aircraft that would use four jet engines.

The Strategic Air Command tendered a contract in May 1954, and Boeing’s proposal for the KC-97 was accepted after four months. Over the next ten years, more than 800 such aircraft would be ordered. This made the rapid development of the Boeing 707 a reality.

Meanwhile, the DC-8 was developed in 1955 from orders of airlines trying to stay competitive. Among these companies was Trans Canada Airlines.

Douglas moved quickly to produce their new DC-8 jet passenger aircraft. The first flight of the DC-8 occurred on 30 May 1958. By September 1959, the DC-8 was in service with the U.S. airlines Delta and United. The expected full production rate of eight aircraft a month was reached by March 1960. Throughout the years that followed, the DC-8 was reconfigured several times as Douglas responded to market demands.

The DC-8 was developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company, who later merged with the McDonnell Company in 1967. The new company was called, "McDonnell Douglas." On the 15 December 1996, McDonnell Douglas joined Boeing.

Throughout the production period of the DC-8, which spanned from 1960 to 1972, there were 556 aircraft built. By 2002, there were still 200 DC-8s in commercial service.


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