Douglas officially launched the Super Sixty series on April 4, 1965 and Eastern was the second airline (after United) to purchase the DC-8-61, buying eight. The DC-8-61/62/63 really boosted the lacklustre DC-8 orderbook though they did add to Douglases cashflow problems also as the development costs pushed break-even on the DC-8 programme out even further.
It wasn't all smiles for the DC-8 though as Ports of New York (PNYA), who ran the New York airports, was concerned that the DC-8-61 would break its noise limits and was threatening to ban the aircraft from operating! Seeing as Eastern was mainly buying the series 61s to operate high traffic routes on the Eastern seaboard like JFK-San Juan and JFK-Miami this was a little more than concerning. By this time Eastern had increased its orders for the type to 17 units, but fortunately when the first aircraft was delivered, on March 3, 1967, a test at JFK showed noise from the flying pencil was actually less than that from the DC-8-55JT, as Douglas had predicted all along.
Eastern's DC-8-61s were delivered in an unusual reversed registration sequence beginning with N8778 and ending with N8762. The DC-8-61 had been a simple stretch of the short DC-8 trading payload for range. The natural next step in the DC-8s evolution was to marry the improved wing of the long range DC-8-62 with the body of the DC-8-61. Thus the DC-8-63 was born. It still didn't match the range capabilities of the series 62 but was a big improvement on the 61.
Photo above from the collection of Chris Kennedy - see Flickr
Eastern was interested in the series 63 but cautious also. It specified a unique version for itself - the DC-8-63PF. This was a passenger variant without a cargo door but including the stronger wing and landing gear of the freighter version. Eastern was hedging its bets and by buying this variant it could sell them on at a good price knowing that they could be easily converted to freighters with the simple addition of the cargo door. Eastern was the only customer for the type and purchased 6. As with the series 61 however the PNYA had issues with the 63. They warned that the aircraft operating at its MTOW would exceed the bearing limits on its taxiways and runways. Fortunately the warning was given early enough for Douglas to modify the landing gear footprint by moving the tyres further apart.
The main reason Eastern bought DC-8-63PFs was the infamous Transpacific Route Case. This would provide authority to compete with Pan Am operating routes to Australia and New Zealand via Hawaii. Eastern wanted to look prepared for operating the routes whence the DC-8-63 order (albeit with the sensible hedge of chooswing the 63PF). Reopened in 1966 applications were made by 18 airlines and when the first decisions were made in April 1968 Eastern won many routes to South Pacific destinations from East of the Mississippi. The President Lyndon B Johnson however over-ruled the decision and replaced Eastern with Continental but his Presidency ended in January 1969 and his replacement Richard M. Nixon reopened the hearings. Eventually after much tooing and froing the routes went to either Eastern or Continental and instead ended up with American Airlines!
The DC-8-63PFs began to arrive in February 1969 and were registered again in reverse from N8760 to N8755 with the last aircraft arriving in December. A secondary use for all the stretch 60s in Eastern service was Military Airlift Charters (MAC Flights) for which the 63PFs were especially suited. With no transpacific routes this was really the only use Eastern had for the 63s. Orders for the DC-8-60 series had tailed off from 1968 as airlines began to order widebodies and the arrival of Eastern's leased 747s and then Tristars further restricted routes that the DC-8-61/63s were suitable for. The MAC Charters had also not met expectations and so only a few years after delivery Eastern's Super Sixties were effectively surplus to requirements. At least Eastern had bought the 63PF version and all 6 aircraft were sold on at a profit.
Most of the DC-8-61s ended up with Japan Airlines from 1970 onwards. Nine were bought, or leased and then purchased, by JAL with five more being leased for varying periods and then sold onto Capitol by Eastern. The other pair went to Air Jamaica in late 1973. The 63PFs went on to UTA, SAS, Balair and CP Air. Four of the 63PFs ended up as Freighters with the other pair being written off in the 1980s. Most of the series 61s also had long careers and in time were taken up as freighters.
Lost Schemes: #108 Eastern Airlines DC-8-63PF (1969-1973)
Aeromoes: Eastern Fleet
Cearley, G.W. Eastern Air Lines An Illustrated History
Waddington, T. Great Airliners Series: Volume 2 - Douglas DC-8
24/5/2016 05:49:32 am
Thank you for this history, Rich. One of my favorite airport postcards--of my very large collection--is a terminal shot of BAL from about the early 1970's, with an Eastern stretch DC-8 prominently pictured at a gate. By the time I visited ATL the first time, in 1980, the stretch DC-8s were long gone.
8/6/2016 12:46:18 pm
8/6/2016 06:27:42 pm
Hi John - I have written about the Martin in Eastern service despite there sadly not being any 1/400 models of it. Check out this blog post: http://yesterdaysairlines.weebly.com/airline-history-blog/eastern-short-haul-in-the-50s-martins-to-metropolitans
22/12/2016 10:43:38 pm
Correct me if I'm wrong (please use a source), but the term Jumbo Jet, was first used on the 747. I have never heard of a DC-8, or any other narrow body aircraft being called that.
22/12/2016 11:16:32 pm
You are indeed wrong. Flying Tigers even painted their DC-8s with Jumbo Jet titles when they were delivered: https://airlinersgallery.smugmug.com/Airlines-UnitedStates-3/Flying-Tigers/i-j8L94Dm
23/12/2016 06:51:28 am
Another great article. The stretch 8s looked great in the hockey stick scheme.
17/9/2017 08:56:43 am
All the DC-8 series are true classics. I flew on my honeymoon to Europe on a Overseas National Airlines -61, June, 1961. The -62 with it's aerodynamically improved engine nacelles and pylons is, for me, the sharpest airframe of the 1960s. The DC-8s all look good in most liveries, especially KLM, Eastern Airlines and Air Canada. They were built like tanks, too. Great article, thanks, Doug Seeley
15/11/2020 01:07:06 am
Don't think the stretches were around in 61
20/1/2018 08:15:09 am
Thank you for this account. I rode on one of these Stretch 8s to the World Jamboree of the Boy Scouts in 1970. The flight was from ATL-ANC-Tokyo and return. They gave us a commemorative patch as part of the flight. It was just a cool airplane. I remember flying over glaciers, ice fields, and fjords descending into ANC, passing over Attu, and seeing Mt. Fuji for the first time from that Stretch 8. It was a cool machine. I must have gotten the bug from that as I now fly a big Airbus.
Samuel W Nuss
2/3/2019 01:27:01 am
I took an Eastern Airlines MAC flight from Travis Air Force Base to Clark in the Philippines. Took 26 hours. Then a six hour bus ride to Subic Bay down the Bataan Peninsula. We had 262 onboard, almost all in uniform. I frequently think about the 2nd refueling stop at Wake Island. When the pilot banked the plane Wake looked like a small pea on a blue sheet of paper. We off loaded four Polynesians there. Prior to takeoff the pilot revved the engines while holding the brakes. We lumbered down the runway and lifted off less than a hundred feet over the beach. Totally overloaded! Then Guam in total darkness. On or about 12 March 1968. Like it was yesterday.
3/3/2019 11:43:00 am
Response to Samuel W. Nuss. Not so fortunate were 256 101st Airborne solders (and crew) who died in the crash of Arrow Air flight 1285 in Gander, Newfoundland, December, 12, 1985. A DC-8-63CF in a errily similar situation to your flight: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_Air_Flight_1285 The stretch 8s were good airplanes, but sometimes too much is expected. Doug Seeley
14/7/2022 08:02:03 am
My first flight was JFK - HOU in the Summer of 1968 on an EAL stretch DC-8. I sat in the first row of coach with my grandmother.
14/7/2022 08:03:52 am
(I forgot the m at the end of com in my previous comment)
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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: