Delta secured its early DC-8 delivery positions from Douglas Aircraft after Eastern Airlines, Delta's major competitor, decided to wait for a more powerful engine. The 14th DC-8-11 off the assembly line was Delta's N801E, Ship 801, named "Pride of Delta." On delivery day, July 22, 1959, Ship 801 flew the 2,497 mile route from the Douglas plant in Long Beach, California, to Miami in 4 hours and 43 minutes. The previous record on the route had been 5 hours and 50 minutes on a Douglas DC-7.
Delivery crew: Captain T.P. (Pre) Ball, Superintendent of Flight Operations; Captain W. Lee McBride, Chief Pilot Miami/Dallas; and Captain James H. Longino, Assistant Chief Pilot in Atlanta.
Atlanta's First Jetway
Delta engineers designed the first Atlanta airport passenger boarding bridge, called a "jetway," which was installed just in time for the delivery of Delta's first DC-8.
A New Logo
In Summer 1959, Delta's "widget" logo first appears in branding for new Royal Jet Service in advance ads for the DC-8 jets. It is gradually adopted as Delta's official corporate logo over the next several years.
Developed by Robert Bragg, vice president of the Burke Dowling Adams advertising agency, the red, white, and blue Widget was a modern jet-age version of the airline's traditional delta triangle. Delta's advertising department in 1959 described the widget with the top point as the pinnacle of achievement; the broad base as the solid foundation; the blue represented the sky and the future; the white was the swept wing appearance of a jet seen overhead; and the red was not only the exhaust behind the jet, but also the bright flame of leadership and professionals striving for excellence.
Ship 801 flew the world's first DC-8 passenger service. Delta Flight 823 departed New York International Airport (Idlewild) for Atlanta at 9:20 am, on September 18, 1959.
Inaugural pilot crew: Captain Floyd Addison, First Officer Jack McMahan and Second Officer Hank Freese. Inaugural flight attendants: Jeanette Easley, Beverly Comerford, Elizabeth Whitman and Carolyn Jones.Interior
The interior of Delta's first DC-8 jets was inspired by the sky and sea. Douglas aircraft artists, working closely with Delta officials devised a dramatically beautiful interior scheme for the DC-8.
Throughout the cabin the ceiling was finished in a fabric called "Cosmos," depicting the stars and planets on an oyster white background. The overhead storage racks were covered with gold, enmeshed in a white sea net. Soft, deep pile carpets ran the length of the cabin. The carpets were of a special color called "Delta Imperial," a beige color highlighted with light blue.
In first class, the seat cushions were of an ivy green fabric trimmed with beige leather. "Sunlight" draperies (burnt orange with multi-colored threads) at each window. Seat fabrics in the tourist cabin were chartreuse and gold and trimmed in sage. A contemporary mural called "Goldcoast," located in the forward lounge, added to the unusual decor.
Delta's DC-8 passenger seats contained an award-winning "unitized" design with reading lights, air vents, oxygen supplies, and stewardess call buttons built in and at the passengers' fingertips. Each passenger had an individual folding tray table with special table lighting.
Models -11, -12 & -51
Delta DC-8 Fleet Numbers 800-821 (N801E-N806E) delivered as DC-8-11, upgraded to DC-8-12, and later to DC-8-51 standard.
All but the first (ex-Trans International Airlines) were purchased from Douglas Aircraft Company.
On March 8, 1962, a Delta DC-8 is the first airplane to fly between Los Angeles and Atlanta in less than three hours. The official time was 2 hours, 57 minutes, 11 seconds.
Ship 801 was the star performer in scientific coverage of the solar eclipse on July 20, 1963. Equipped with spectrographs, special cameras, telescopes and other astronomical instruments, Ship 801 carried some 60 scientists, including astronaut Scott Carpenter, on a 520-mile chase of the eclipse across the Canadian Northwest. The mission was sponsored by Douglas Aircraft Company and National Geographic Society.
Purchased from Pan Am in December 1968 and August 1969.
Used to operate the Delta-Pan Am interchange service to Europe and selected long-haul domestic routes.
Withdrawn from service on January 1974 and sold to Boeing.
Model -61 "Stretched Eight"
Went into Delta service on April 18, 1967
Model -61 was 37 feet longer than the standard DC-8. It offered 60% more seat capacity than the standard DC-8, yet the operating costs were no more than 10% higher. The long cabin could accommodate 252 seats in an all-economy layout, but Delta's two-class configuration held 195 passenger seats.
Converted to DC-8-71 standard with CF56-2 engines, April 1982-November 1983.
Sold to United Parcel Service (UPS) in December 1986 and leased back until 1988-1989.
Delta introduced the world's first DC-8-71 passenger service on April 24, 1982, when Flight 910 departed from Atlanta shortly after 12:30 pm en route to Savannah, Georgia.
This modernized version of the DC-8-61 series featured the new low-noise, advanced technology General Electric/SNECMA CFM56 engine, an entirely new interior, as well as new air conditioning, instruments and avionics equipment. All modification work was performed at the Delta's Technical Operations Center in Atlanta. The airline completed its entire DC-8-71 conversion and modernization program in early 1984 (involved 13 airplanes, 42,000 work hours each).
The DC-8-71 was powered by four CFM56 engines, which were some 13 decibels quieter than the jet's previous powerplants. The jet also used 20% less fuel.
Delta's last two DC-8-71 aircraft were retired from service on May 1, 1989, ending more than 29 years of total Delta DC-8 service.
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