For more posts about the development of the DC-8-61 see United DC-8s Pt4: Long On Comfort
By the end of 1965 Douglas had racked up 18 orders for its new DC-8-61 having launched the type in April. This was despite the Port of New York Authority (PNYA) having sent a letter out to the airlines urging the 'greatest care in ordering the stretched version of the DC-8' because it considered it likely that the type would be banned due to the anticipated high noise levels on take off. The early series 61 orders were spread across 5 existing short DC-8 customers and though all small in number (the biggest were 5 each from United and Eastern) signalled the likelihood of follow on orders for the new 'jumbo jet'.
One of the initial 5 customers for the stretch eight was Delta who ordered an initial 3 aircraft. They would be perfect for Delta's relatively new (June 1961) southern transcontinental routes. These connected San Francisco and Los Angeles with Atlanta and onwards to Miami plus San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego to Dallas and onwards to Orlando. During 1966 the DC-8-61 flight test programme got underway and by the end of the year the new type was certified. Accordingly by December 1966 the DC-8-61 order book was looking fuller too.
Delta had by then increased its order to 9 aircraft with 38 61s and 7 61CFs on order in total from 9 airlines. In addition 16 series 62s and 29 series 63s had also been sold. United put the first 61s into service in February 1967 on Hawaiian routes with Eastern following soon after in March on Puerto-Rican services from New York. This left the way open for Delta to operate the first transcontinental flights with the long thin DC-8-61. Services began on April 18, 1967 and Delta eventually took 13 of the DC-8-61s into service.
The stretch eights continued to print money for Delta after the arrival of the widebody Tristars and indeed unlike their shorter brethren continued to have potential well into the 1980s. So much in fact that Delta thought it worthwhile to upgrade the type. It is these DC-8-71s, which we'll look at in part 2.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: