| Upon transitioning
back to Long Beach, my position changed. I was moved into the DC-8 Performance
Group. Being moved from Military to Commercial programs was a blessing in
disguise. Over the years, despite the escalating tension in the Cold War,
Military contracts were as fickle as the finger of fate, and it was not
long after this that the C-133 program came to its demise. The DC-8 program
had its own set of problems. Boeing had a one-year advantage in delivery
with their 707 aircraft. This came about from a Military Tanker contract
Boeing had won. They then converted this to a Commercial aircraft. There
was reluctance on Douglases part to risk the company on a Jet program, while
the DC-7s were still selling well. However, they could not wait any longer.
Boeing was on their way to producing the first American Commercial Jet.
Boeings first deliveries were to be in 1959 and Douglases in 1960.
The first round nearly split the orders between Douglas and Boeing. Many of the carriers remained loyal to Douglas and were willing to wait the year to get the DC-8. The second round went to Boeing when they shortened the 707 aircraft to create the 720. Douglas attempted to get into the short DC-8 market, but there were no takers. Douglas lost some significant carriers with this aircraft and shortened the orders for the standard size DC-8. The third round would come up a few years later when a stretch version of the DC-8 was offered, and it changed the industry for years to come.
During this effort
to keep the DC-8 program viable, there arose the need for a small aircraft
of approximately 75 seats that could meet the requirements of providing
service to smaller cities and routes with less traffic. The problem was
the large financial commitment in the DC-8 program, and sales were not
meeting expectations to say the least. To short circuit this problem,
Douglas contracted with Sud Aviation of France to market the Carevelle,
an aircraft they were manufacturing - a twin-engine jet of approximately
Douglas had the U.S. market for sales. With an initial success at United Airlines, interest waned in the aircraft.
British Aircraft Corporation was beginning to market a small twin-jet of 75 seats, called the BAC-111. Douglas responded with a conceptual aircraft, the 2086, which became the DC-9.
Douglas was reluctant to proceed until they felt they had a sufficient number of commitments to the aircraft to justify its expense. This conservative approach cost them the initial orders at American and Mohawk Airlines.
It was Delta Airlines that got Douglas to move ahead with the program. This was at the insistence of C.E. Woolman, Chairman of Delta, a longtime supporter of Douglas Aircraft.