Aeroclassics at least have seen fit to celebrate the first Eight with a series of models highlighting its career and now I own five of the six.
The career of prototype airliners is often unusual. Some stay with their manufacturers for long periods undertaking various test initiatives, whilst others are thrust into airline service almost immediately after flight testing ceases. Sometimes the historical significance of the aircraft is recognized towards the end of its career and it is preserved, but more often it ends up on the scrapheap.
Boeing have a decent record of preserving their prototypes even when they have been in airline service. Somewhat shockingly however not a single Douglas or McDonnell Douglas airliner prototype has survived. This includes the first DC-8, which kicked the jet-age off for what was for over 30 years the second most important manufacturer of jet airliners.
DC-8 Ship One, registered N8008D, was rolled out of the Douglas Aircraft - Long Beach, CA - Factory on April 9, 1958. The Prototype DC-8 made its first flight on May 30, 1958 in front of over 95,000 employees and spectators. Alongside seven other DC-8s the prototype took part in the flight test programme, which culminated in the award of the type’s Certificate of Airworthiness on August 31, 1959.
The aircraft was upgraded to a DC-8-51 in early 1961, with new Pratt & Whitney JT3D-1 turbofans engines, and certified on April 21, 1961. With the test programme over she was destined for a career in airline service and, refitted as a passenger aircraft, was leased to National Airlines in June. Her time with National was short and she served with them for less than a year being returned to Douglas on May 26, 1962.
This time the aircraft was sold, not leased, and joined the large supplemental airline Trans International on June 22, 1962. Trans International operated 28 DC-8s at various times between the early 60s and mid-80s, and as with several of the supplemental airlines, gained a chunk of its business from leasing its fleet out to other airlines for short periods. This gave the prototype the opportunity to appear in a unique scheme.
Starting on May 11, 1965 N8008D joined Lufthansa for a six-month lease. Unusually she was repainted into the full Lufthansa colours and was used for a series of Affinity charter flights between Germany and North America. Returning from lease she was repainted into TIA’s new green scheme.
It wasn’t to be the aircraft’s only lease and on October 2, 1966 she joined Canadian Pacific Airlines on a year lease, where she was re-registered as CF-CPN. As ‘empress of Santiago she logged 3,200 hours for a total of 21,613 hours and 11,499 cycles. Immediately upon return to TIA she was sold to Delta Air Lines but with her original registration restored.
Her career with Delta was easily her longest period with one airline and she remained in service until March 1979. Delta had retired its earlier ex-Pan Am series 33 DC-8s in 1974 but the series 51s survived longer. They were progressively sold to the leasing company F.B. Ayer & Associates from 1976-1981. Most of the ex-Delta DC-8-51s saw further service with airlines like TAE, Maldives Airways, Philippine Airlines and Braniff. A pair were leased to Aeromexico and one of these was N8008D.
She joined Aeromexico on April 1 1979 as XA-DOE, named ‘Quiintana Roo’ though she remained with them only until January 7 1982. This was to be her final active service. She was stored at Marana in the desert, where she remained for many years. Although technically re-registered back to N8008D and passed into the ownership of Agro Air in 1989 she was never repainted out of her Aeromexico garb.
Despite her historic significance and some calls in the early 90s for her preservation it was not to be. By 1993 she was missing various parts but it wasn't until 2001 that she was finally broken up. This strikes me as a major missed opportunity and it would be awesome to have a 707 and a DC-8 preserved next to each other (perhaps with a CV-880 too) as testament to the first American four engine jetliners.
Sadly all we have are photos and this excellent series of models from Aeroclassics.
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: