Planning for the Bicentennial actually began a decade before the date and events to celebrate started on April 1, 1975.
The scheme was as you'd expect very patriotic. It featured:
'"flag blue” wings and basic red and white striped body and tail. A circle of 13 stars depicting the original 13 American colonies is illustrated on the tail, along with four large white stars on the blue nose of the plane and one additional white star on the front tip of the aircraft. Inscribed in bold white lettering on the side of the plane are U.S.A., the bicentennial dates "1776-1976,” and the christened name of the N1776R Independence.'
It wasn't just the outside that was given a bicentennial theme as the interior gained red, white and blue headrest covers, plaques and a large colour photo of the aircraft exterior. The plane was rolled out of the ONA maintenance facility at Wilmington on May 16, 1975 and after a few days display was sent off on an extensive tour of national and international destinations.
The aircraft used was a 1960 build Douglas DC-8-32, originally delivered new to Northwest Airlines as N801US. She had also seen service with National (N7181C) and Spear Air (OH-SOB) prior to sale to Concare Aircraft Leasing and delivery to ONA in September 1974. The aircraft required major overhaul, which took two months and was repainted into the new colours over a two week period by around 100 employees.
The airline obviously got into the swing of celebrations as before she was rolled out ONA was already planning a sistership. Interestingly as the first DC-8 could be accused of wearing Yankee Northern colours the second scheme 'celebrated' or 'commemorated' the Southern States and could be said to be a confederate themed aircraft. Nowadays it is impossible to see such a livery being produced but I assume at the time the Civil War past was far less controversial?
Whereas the first DC-8 wore the independence year in its registration the second had the bicentennial year in its, and became N1976P. She was a former Eastern Air Lines DC-8-21 built in 1961 and operated by Eastern until June 1973. She initially kept her original registration as N8614, but was re-registered for the special occasion.
It is a little unclear how long the ONA pair kept their liveries, however N1776R was leased to McCulloch International in October 1976 so presumably was repainted then. Likewise N1976P operated for Club USA International from December 1977 but may have been repainted earlier.
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: