Aircraft By Type

Aircraft Make & Model:
Douglas DC-8-11
137 tons
2,740 miles
590 mph
119 passengers
151 ft.
142 ft.
42 ft.
4 Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 (modified various times)
HP or Thrust:
13,500 hp
No. flown by DL:
42 total: 22 Model -11, -12, -51; 7 Model -33; 13 Model -61, -71
Long-haul domestic routes, Caribbean service
First Delivery:
July 22, 1959
First Scheduled Service:
September 18, 1959, world's first DC-8 service (New York-Atlanta)
Reason Aquired:
Cut flying times between major cities by up to 40% and carried almost twice the amount of passengers and cargo that the larger piston-engine planes could carry.
Last Retirement:
May 1, 1989
Reason Disposed:

Narrative:  Douglas DC-8 1959-1989


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 set by a Douglas DC-7Delivery 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, Atlanta.

Delta raced to install Atlanta airport's first passenger boarding bridge, called a "jetway," just in time for the arrival of the DC-8 from Miami.

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 was gradually adopted as Delta's official corporate logo over the next several years.


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 crew: Captain Floyd Addison, First Officer Jack McMahan, Second Officer Hank Freese and Flight Attendants Jeanette Easley, Beverly Comerford, Elizabeth Whitman and Carolyn Jones.

The Delta jet touched down at Atlanta at 11 a.m. carrying 119 passengers, including TV star Morey Amsterdam, marking the beginning of jet service for the Atlanta airport. An Atlanta Constitution newspaper reporter noted, "The only casualty on Friday's historic flight was Delta President C.E. Woolman, who cut his hand on the champagne bottle with which Mrs. Woolman christened the 130-ton jet liner." 

Following the inaugural flight, Delta began twice-daily DC-8 jet flights between Atlanta and New York. 


Interior of Delta's first DC-8 jets was inspired by the sky and sea and created by Douglas aircraft artists, working closely with Delta. Cabin ceiling was finished in a fabric called "Cosmos," depicting the stars and planets on an oyster white background. Overhead storage racks were "gold enmeshed in a white sea net." Delta Imperial custom floor carpet was beige color highlighted with light blue.

In First Class, the seat cushions were of an ivy green fabric trimmed with beige leather. "Sunlight"-colored window curtains were burnt orange with multi-colored threads. Seat fabrics in Coach Class were chartreuse and gold and trimmed in sage. A contemporary mural called "Goldcoast" was located in the forward lounge.

Models -11, -12 & -51

Delta Ship Numbers 800-821 (N801E-N806E) delivered as DC-8-11, then upgraded to DC-8-12, and later to DC-8-51 standard. All but Ship 800 (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. 

Model -33

Delta purchased seven DC-8-33's 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 The "Stretched Eight"

First 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 in April 1982-November 1983. Sold to United Parcel Service (UPS) in December 1986 and leased back until 1988-1989.

Model -71
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.

More Information


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  • Solar Eclipse 1963 July 22 Canada DC-8