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United’s Brand New DC-8 Jet Shined In This 1960s Hollywood Produced Film

“JET MAINLINER Flight 803” is a time machine trip back to when the seats were comfy and jet travel was a privilege.

Image capture from video

When Cate & McGlone of Hollywood produced the film “JET MAINLINER Flight 803” for United Airlines in 1960, the subject of the film, the Douglas DC-8-21 airliner, had been in production for only a few months. Many of United’s initial batch of DC-8s were DC-8-11s which were upgraded to DC-8-12s and subsequently brought up to the DC-8-21 specifications over the next few years. United eventually became the largest DC-8 operator. The film, uploaded to Youtube by PeriscopeFilm, stars the United Airlines DC-8-21 Jet Mainliner.

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DC-8-21s were powered by Pratt & Whitney JT4A-3 axial-flow turbojet engines producing 15,800 pounds of thrust each without water injection. United began flying them in 1960 after beginning operation of DC-8-11s in 1959. A natural competitor with its contemporary, the Boeing 707, the Douglas DC-8 was produced in smaller numbers (556 airframes as opposed to 865 707s) but was a popular alternative to Boeing’s comparable airliner. DC-8s were upgraded (primarily engines) and produced in more variants (added fuselage extensions) than the 707.

Image capture from video

The film highlights just about every aspect of United’s DC-8 operations at the time. From food service to airframe production; flight planning to DC-8 interior amenities; flight deck simulators to historical equipment used by United. The film also features some outstanding air-to-air photography of the United DC-8-21 in flight. The two aircraft featured in the film, N8004U (SN45281) and N8005U (SN45282), were both delivered to United in late 1959. United operated DC-8s between 1959 and 1992, eventually replacing them primarily with Boeing 757-200s.

Image courtesy United Airlines

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.