Tag Archives: Douglas DC-8

30 May 1958

Douglas DC-8-11 N8008D takes of from Long Beach Airport, 10:10 a.m., 30 May 1958.
Douglas DC-8-11 N8008D takes of from Long Beach Airport, 10:10 a.m., 30 May 1958. The heavy exhaust smoke is a result of water injection. (Los Angeles Public Library)

30 May 1958: Douglas Aircraft Company Flight Operations Manager and engineering test pilot Arnold G. Heimerdinger, with co-pilot William M. Magruder and systems engineer Paul H. Patten, were scheduled to take off from Long Beach Airport (LGB) on the coast of southern California, at 10:00 a.m., to make the first flight of the new Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, c/n 45252, FAA registration N8008D.

Crowds of spectators, estimated as many as 50,000 people, were surrounding the airport. For this first test flight, the Federal Aviation Administration required a minimum of five miles visibility. Typical Southern California coastal low clouds and fog caused a ten minute delay.

Taking off at 10:10 a.m., N8008D climbed out to the south over the Pacific Ocean. Escorted by a company-owned Douglas DC-7 engineering and photo plane and a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase, the DC-8 climbed to 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) and went through a series of pre-planned flight maneuvers and systems checks. Heimerdinger took the airliner north to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of southern California, where the full flight test program would be carried out. The total duration of the first flight was 2 hours, 10 minutes.

In an article written the following year, Heimerdinger said that the DC-8 was easy to fly and never presented any difficulties during the test program.

Douglas DC-8 N8008D accompanied by a Cessna T-37. (Douglas Aircraft Company)
Douglas DC-8 N8008D accompanied by a U.S. Air Force Cessna T-37 chase plane during a test flight near Edwards Air Force Base, California. (Douglas Aircraft Company)

The Douglas DC-8 Jetliner is a commercial airliner, a contemporary of the Boeing 707 and Convair 880. It was operated by a flight crew of three and could carry up to 177 passengers. It was powered by four turbojet engines mounted on pylons suspended below the wings. The wings’ leading edges were swept to 30° as were the vertical fin and horizontal tailplane. The airplane is 150 feet, 6 inches (45.872 meters) long with a wingspan of 142 feet, 5 inches (43.409 meters) and overall height of 42 feet, 4 inches (12.903 meters). N8008D was a Series 10 version. It had an empty weight of 119,767 pounds (54,325 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 273,000 pounds (123,831 kilograms).

N8008D was originally powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT3C-6 turbojet engines, the same engines which powered its Boeing rival. It is a two-spool, axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor and 2-stage turbine. The JT3C-6 was rated at 11,200 pounds of thrust (49.82 kilonewtons), and 13,500 pounds (60.05 kilonewtons) with water/methanol injection). The JT3C is 11 feet, 6.6 inches (3.520 meters) long, 3 feet, 2.9 inches (0.988 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,235 pounds (1,921 kilograms). The engines were later upgraded to JT3D-1 turbofan engines which produced 17,000 pounds of thrust.

The DC-8-10 series had a cruising speed of 0.82 Mach (542 miles per hour/872 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters). Its maximum range was 5,092 miles (8,195 kilometers).

On 21 August 1961, a Douglas DC-8-43, N9604Z, c/n 45623, Line Number 130, flown by Chief Test Pilot William Magruder, Paul Patten, Joseph Tomich and Richard Edwards, climbed to 50,090 feet (15,267 meters) near Edwards Air Force Base. Magruder put the DC-8 into a dive, and the airplane reached Mach 1.012 (668 miles per hour/1,075 kilometers per hour) while descending through 41,088 feet (12,524 meters). The airliner maintained this supersonic speed for 16 seconds.

This was the first time that a civil airliner had “broken the Sound Barrier.” An Air Force F-100 Super Sabre and F-104 Starfighter were chase planes for this flight. Reportedly, the F-104 was flown by the legendary test pilot, Colonel Chuck Yeager.

Douglas DC-8-43 N9604Z is accopmanied by a U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A Starfighter, near Edwards Air Force base, California.
Douglas DC-8-43 N9604Z, in Canadian Pacific livery, is accompanied by a U.S. Air Force Lockheed F-104A-10-LO Starfighter, 56-0749, near Edwards Air Force Base, California. The dark sky suggests that the airplanes are at a very high altitude. (Unattributed)

N9604Z was powered by four Rolls-Royce Conway RCo.12 Mk 509 two-shaft axial-flow turbofan engines, rated at 17,500 pounds of thrust (77.844 kilonewtons) at 9,990 r.p.m. The 509 is 11 feet, 3.9 inches (3.452 meters) long, 3 feet, 6.2 inches (1.072 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,542 pounds (2,060 kilograms).

N9604Z was delivered to Canadian Pacific Airlines, 15 November 1961, registered CF-CPG, and named Empress of Montreal. It later flew under CP Air as Empress of Buenos Aires. It was scrapped at Opa Locka Municipal Airport, north of Miami, Florida, in May 1981.

In 1960, N8008D was converted to the DC-8-51 configuration. With a change to the more powerful JT3D-1 turbofan engines, the airliners maximum takeoff weight was increased to 276,000 pounds (125,191 kilograms).

After the flight test and commercial certification program was completed, on 21 June 1961, Douglas leased N8008D to National Airlines, based at Miami, Florida. One year later, 20 June 1961, it was sold to Trans International Airlines. TIA leased the DC-8 to Lufthansa, 11 May 1965, and to Canadian Pacific, 1 October 1966. It was re-registered CF-CPN and named Empress of Santiago.

Douglas DC-8-51 N8008D, owned by Trans International Airways, was photographed at London Gatwick Airport, 23 July 1966. (RuthAS)
Douglas DC-8-51 N8008D, owned by Trans International Airways, was photographed at London Gatwick Airport, 23 July 1966. (RuthAS)

TIA sold the DC-8 to Delta Airlines, Atlanta, Georgia, 1 October 1967. It reverted to its FAA-assigned registration, N8008D. Delta gave it fleet number 800.

In March 1979, Delta sold N8008D to F.B. Myers and Associates. On 1 April, F.B. Myers leased the it to Aerovias de México, S.A. de C.V. (Aeroméxico). The DC-8 was assigned Mexican registration XA-DOE and named Quintana Roo.

The first Douglas DC-8 was placed in storage at Marana-Pinal Airpark, north of Tucson, Arizona, 7 January 1982. In May 1989, it was sold to Agro Air, a Caribbean regional cargo airline. It remained at Marana and was used as a source of parts. In 2001, c/n 45252 it was scrapped.

Between 1959 and 1972, Douglas produced 556 DC-8s in passenger and freighter configurations.

A.G. Heimerdinger
Arnold George Heimerdinger, Flight Operations Manager, Douglas Aircraft Company. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)

Arnold George Heimerdinger was born in Manchester Township, Michigan, 7 December 1910. His parents were Charles and Minnie L. Uphaus Heimerdinger. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. Heimerdinger married Miss Mary Aileen Eggert 19 August 1935.

A.G. Heimerdinger was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy, 27 November 1942 and served as a Naval Aviator until he was released from active duty, 14 October 1945.

Heimerdinger worked as an engineering test pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration, and he flew certification tests of the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, Convair 240 and 340 Metroliner, and the Lockheed L-640 and L-1049 Constellation.

He joined the Douglas Aircraft Company at Santa Monica, California, in 1952 and remained with the company until he retired in 1974. He was the project test pilot for the Douglas DC-6B and the DC-7. Transferring to Douglas’ Long Beach Division, a few miles southeast, he was project test pilot for the DC-8 and DC-9 jet airliners.

Arnold G. “Heimie” Heimerdinger died at Santa Monica, California, 17 July 1975.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 December 1960

The “empennage and fuselage aft of Fuselage Station 1490” of United Air Lines’ Douglas DC-8 N8013U at the intersection of Sterling Place and Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 17 December 1960. (New York Daily News)

16 December 1960, 10:33:32 a.m., Eastern Standard Time: United Air Lines Flight 826, a Douglas DC-8 jet airliner, collided with Trans World Airlines Flight 266, a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, at approximately 5,200 feet (1,585 meters) over Staten Island, New York. The Lockheed crashed near the point of collision, on the former Miller Army Air Field, while the DC-8 continued to the northeast before crashing at Brooklyn.

All 128 persons on board both airliners were killed, as were 6 persons on the ground. One passenger, an 11-year-old boy on board the DC-8, did survive the crash, but he died the following day as a result of having inhaled the burning jet fuel fumes.

New York City Fire Department on the scene of the United Air Lines Flight 826 crash, 16 December 1960. The destroyed building was the Pillar of Fire Church, 123 Sterling Place, at Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn..(New York City Fire Department)

The Civil Aeronautics Board investigation of the accident was the first to use data from a Flight Data Recorder from one of the involved airplanes.

A Trans World Airlines Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation. (TWA)

TWA Flight 266 had originated at Dayton, Ohio, with an intermediate stop at Columbus, Ohio. The Super Constellation departed Port Columbus Airport at 9:00 a.m., en route to La Guardia Airport, New York. Captain David Arthur Wollam, a fifteen year veteran of TWA with 14,583 flight hours, was in command. First Officer Dean T. Bowen and Second Officer (Flight Engineer) LeRoy L. Rosenthal completed the cockpit crew. The cabin crew were Hostess Margaret Gernat and Hostess Patricia Post. The airliner carried 39 passengers.

A United Air Lines Douglas DC-8 at the Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

UAL Flight 826 was a non-stop flight from O’Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, to New York International Airport (“Idelwild Airport,” now John F. Kennedy International Airport), New York City. The Pilot in Command was Captain Robert H. Sawyer. He had flown for United for nineteen years, and had 19,100 flight hours, with 344 hours in the new DC-8 jet airliner. The co-pilot was First Officer Robert W. Flebing and the flight engineer was Second Officer Richard E. Pruitt. There were four flight attendants in the cabin: Stewardess Mary J. Mahoney, Stewardess Augustine L. Ferrar, Stewardess Anne M. Bouthen, and Stewardess Patricia A. Keller. The flight crew had departed from Los Angeles, California, at 3:20 a.m., arrived at Chicago at 6:56 a.m., where they held over for two hours. The airliner departed Chicago at 9:11 a.m. with 76 passengers. (These times are Eastern Standard Time.)

Both airliners were flying under Instrument Flight Rules and followed a series of airways defined by a system of Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Ranges (VORs)—radio ground stations—as well as radar service provided by Air Traffic Control Centers and Approach Control facilities along their route of flight. As it approached LaGuardia, Flight 266 was controlled by New York Center and LaGuardia Approach Control. Flight 826 was also with New York Center, but the approach to Idlewild was with Idlewild Approach Control. The radar controllers of New York Center “handed off” Flight 266 to LaGuardia Approach at 10:27 a.m. Center cleared Flight 826 to the PRESTON Intersection, and advised to expect to hold at that position. It then handed off 826 to Idlewild Approach at 10:33 a.m.

PRESTON Intersection is a position defined by the 346° radial of the Colts Neck VOR (COL) and the 050° radial of Robbinsville VOR (RBV). Aircraft use VOR receivers and a visual display instrument to locate intersections and their positions along airway routes.

However, at 10:21 a.m., the crew of United 826 informed their operations department that the DC-8’s number two VOR receiver had failed. Flight 826 did not advise ATC, however.

While navigation is still possible with only one VOR receiver, it is more complicated as the operator must continuously switch radio frequencies between two VOR stations, and realign the Pictorial Deviation Indicator (“PDI”) instrument to the changing radials of the two ground stations. The higher speed of the new jet airliner gave the flight crew less time to accomplish the continuous changes required.

LaGuardia instructed Flight 266 to make a series of small right hand turns as it set up for the final approach to the airport’s runways. This placed the Super Constellation over Staten Island.

Illustration of Flight 826 Navigation to Preston Intersection (Federal Aviation Administration)

At 10:33:26 a.m., LaGuardia Approach called Flight 266, “Roger, that appears to be jet traffic off your right now 3 o’clock at one mile, northeast bound.” This transmission was not acknowledged.

At 10:33:28 a.m., Flight 826 “checked in” with Idlewild Approach Control, reporting, “Idlewild Approach Control, United 826, approaching PRESTON at 5,000.” Approach control acknowledged the report and informed the airliner that it could expect, “little or no delay at Preston.” Approach then relayed the current weather at the airfield, which was “600 scattered, 1,500 overcast, visibility one-half mile, light rain and fog.” This transmission was not acknowledged.

The crew of United Flight 826 had made a navigational error. At the time they reported that they were “approaching PRESTON,” the DC-8 had already flown approximately 11 miles (18 kilometers) beyond the clearance limit. Without having received clearance to proceed further, Flight 826 should have entered a holding pattern to the southwest of the intersection.

Air traffic controllers at LaGuardia Approach Control saw two radar targets merge. One then continued to the northwest, while the second remained stationary, then made a slow right turn before disappearing from the radar scope.

At the point of collision, the Super Constellation was in a slight left bank. The DC-8 was flying straight and level at 301 miles per hour. It struck the L-1049A from the right rear quarter, its number 4 engine penetrating the Constellation’s passenger cabin, and severing the Constellation’s right wing between the number 3 and number 4 engines. The Lockheed’s fuselage broke into three sections and caught fire. The DC-8 was heavily damaged in the collision, the outboard section of the right wing and the number 4 engine found among the Constellation’s wreckage at Miller Field. The jetliner continued for approximately 9 miles before crashing into a residential area of Brooklyn.

Scene of the DC-8 crash, Brooklyn, New York, 16 December 1960. (New York City Fire Department)

Trans World Airlines Flight 266 was a Lockheed L-1049-54 Super Constellation, serial number 1049-4021, registered N6907C. It had been delivered to TWA eight years earlier, 16 October 1952. At the time of the collision, the airliner had flown a total of 21,555 hours (TTAF). It was 3,905 hours since the last major overhaul (SMOH).

United Air Lines Flight 826 was a Douglas DC-8-11, serial number 45920, registered N8013U. It was delivered to United 22 December 1959. The airliner had flown 2,434 hours TTAF, and 42 hours since overhaul.

The DC-8 carried a Waste King Flight Recorder, from which significant data was recovered by crash investigators.

Wreckage of TWA Flight 266 at Miller Field. (New York Daily News)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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