As you can tell by my Username, I'm a fan of the DC-8. United had (as I recall)29 of them when I first worked in Newark Airport in 1987. First I would like to address the curtain issue, UA
's DC8-71's had an interior much like the 727's or 737's UA
flew at the time. There were no curtains on the windows, they had shades. I don't know when the interiors were refurbished, but the aircraft did have large (for that time) overhead bins, the new (for that time) grey UA
interior, and roomy (for any time) light brown leather seats in the first class cabin.
The 8's that United flew were, with one exception, in a standard United configuration of 26F/176 if my memory serves me correctly. The baggage and cargo was loaded in containers called "pods" and were lifted into up into the aircraft via a cable lift system, also with one exception. The exception to the seating and loading was an ex-JAL DC8. This aircraft, nose number 2477 (if my memory is correct) was acquired by UA
after JAL ran it off the end of one of the runways at SFO
just happened to be the home of UA
's overhaul base, so UA
was able to purchase and repair the aircraft at a bargain price. That aircraft, in UA
configuration, had a seating configuration of 28F/174Y. The baggage and cargo were also bulk loaded.
As for the performance of the DC8-71, I would like to share some of my memories of load planning this machine at Newark Int'l Airport (EWR
). At the time, UA
was operating the DC8 on routes from EWR
to Chicago, Denver, Washington (Dulles), Los Angeles and San Francisco. As one of the DC8 Captains said about the new engines "It was like they added a fifth engine."
I tended to agree with that man, I never had any kind of weight restriction on the DC8-71. I could always put on a full passenger load, as much cargo as we had on hand planned, and plenty of fuel (including a Captain's boost, if requested). The only tricky thing about the stretch 8, was the fact that the large first class cabin, combined with the galleys, tended to make it a tail heavy aircraft. This often translated into operational upgrades when the first class cabin was not full.
Another thing I remember about the DC8-71 was the way it took off and approached the runway during landing. Because of it's length, the aircraft did not rotate as much as today's aircraft. The sensation was that of the entire aircraft lifting off the runway at a with a minimum angle of attack. Once the aircraft was off the ground, the angle of attack was increased for the strong climbout. The DC8 was flown differently on final approach than most aircraft. If was actually flown with the nose facing down until the aircraft was just above the runway. At that point, the nose was pulled up for the landing! It kind of scared me the first time I rode in one. By the way that was a Chicago-Las Vegas flight in 1986.