Building the Douglas DC-8 with Early Test Flight Footage (circa 1959)


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The Douglas DC-8 was the second US built jetliner offered to the world’s leading airlines in the 1950s, after the market leader, the Boeing 707. Even though Douglas was a bit behind Boeing in terms of development, they had a stellar reputation with their piston powered family of airliners from the Douglas DC-3 to the Douglas DC-7, and airlines were comfortable with evolving to the jet age with the established Long Beach based aircraft build.

This ten minute promotional film from the late 1950s (in black and white) provides a look back at the final assembly and initial test flights of the first Douglas DC-8 prototype aircraft to come off the Long Beach assembly line. The test pilots were wearing crash helmets during these early flights, presumably just in case they had to eject themselves from the airborne aircraft in the event of an emergency.

It was from the early prototype DC-8s that the first series of Douglas DC-8s were developed for the type’s launch customers, which included Pan American Airlines, Trans-Canada Air Lines, Delta Airlines, and SAS and United Airlines. This particular film was sourced and digitized as part of the Air Canada archives, so it must have been supplied to TCA back in the 1950s by Douglas Aircraft, for promotional purposes.

The film shows landing and take-off sequences as well as inflight chase plane filmed test flight profiles including turns and steep descents. Unfortunately the quality of the films is not the best, but we felt the historical significance trumps all else and it was worth while our sharing this piece with the JetFlix community. And we hope you agree!

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