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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #483  (Vol. 10, No. 26)  This edition is for the week of June 22--28, 2009.

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"  by Mike Smith
End of an Era -- The Douglas DC-8  by William Moriaty
Ted Bohus: The Deadly Interview - Part 2  by ED Tucker
Book Review: Cell by Stephen King  by Lisa Scherer Ciurro
Farewell Mr. Mcmahon .... Good Movie News? .... The Bad... .... From Bad To Worse .... The Ugly .... Guitar Hero? Not! .... Roll Out Autobot Fans ....  by Brandon Jones
Cap And Transparency .... Mr. President, They Hate You .... Meanwhile In North Korea .... 850 Pages?!?! .... Tsars To The Left, Right...everywhere .... 95% .... Must Be Nice .... Missing Gov Shows Up  by Brandon Jones
Payback .... Movie Notes .... The Dark Knight's Revenge .... Just A Little Sport Talk .... Ask For Marty .... The Week That Was .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... by Mike Smith
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End of an Era -- The Douglas DC-8

On May 12, 2009 the Douglas DC-8 made its final revenue flight for a major American airline.

The United Parcel Service (UPS) flight between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Louisville, Kentucky signaled an end to close to 50 continuous years of DC-8 service with America's major airlines.

Entering passenger service on September 18, 1959 with Delta Air Lines and United Air Lines, the four engine Douglas DC-8 fan jet was Douglas Aircraft's answer to the Boeing 707 fan jet that basically heralded the advent of America's Jet Age one year earlier.

Although the Boeing 707 realized much higher sales and notoriety than the DC-8, the ability over time to modernize the DC-8 assured this first generation commercial jet of a much longer operational life than the 707. This modernization process consisted amongst other things of lengthening its fuselage in the 1960's, providing more fuel efficient, cleaner, quieter and more powerful engines in the 1980's, and adding the most up to date avionics in the 1990's.

The final flight of a 707 with a major American carrier was made by Trans World Airlines in October 1983. From there the 707's American operations were limited to second and third tier air freight companies such as Burlington, Arrow Air, Millon Air and Florida West with its final American Part 121 revenue flight being conducted by Miami based Challenge Air Cargo in 1998.

By comparison, the final passenger flights of the DC-8 with major American carriers were those of Delta Air Lines and United Air Lines in May 1989 and October 1991 respectively, with Delta's fleet of 13 DC-8-71's being sold to UPS in 1986 and United's fleet of 29 DC-8-71's ending up with GPA Group Ltd. and on to a multitude of second and third tier freight carriers from there.

The UPS fleet of DC-8-71 and DC-8-73 aircraft, both variants of the stretched series 61 and 63 DC-8's, were converted from their original Pratt and Whitney power plants to the Stage 3 compliant CFM-56 high by-pass ratio turbo fan engines in the early 1980's. The aircraft served UPS Airlines for 21 years, which officially initiated service in 1988, although the UPS name could be seen on the re-engined 8's several years earlier. UPS further modernized the fleet by adding glass cockpits in the 1990's.

A total of 49 DC-8's were in the UPS fleet with their retirement beginning around 2005 and 44 remaining aircraft being retired by May of 2009. Ten of the retired 44 may yet be sold to other carriers while the remaining 34 will most likely be sold for scrap or parts. I had heard rumors in 2000 that UPS had planned to retire the fleet by 2008, but as it turns out, it appears that UPS wanted to keep them flying longer than that but that the price of fuel, the current economic depression, the slow down in corporate revenues and the 8's higher operational costs compared to that of younger more efficient equipment, forced UPS to retire the fleet ahead of schedule. To give you an idea of the longevity of these graceful and durable workhorses, the airframes of the DC-8-71 and 73 series were originally built between 1966 and 1972.

50 years of continuous service of any type of aircraft with major American carriers is not only remarkable and impressive, but is a testimony to the strength of design, durability, adaptability and efficiency of an aircraft that literally spanned the piston era into the present. This may well be the first aircraft to have made such a milestone in United States history.

There are a handful of DC-8's still flying in the United States with freight carriers such as Air Transport International, LLC (ATI) and ASTAR Air Cargo, but their days are undoubtedly numbered. ATI will likely soon phase the 8's out with the advent of their Boeing 767 Project.

The DC-8's longevity challenge will next come from the Boeing 727, the second generation tri-jet that started passenger revenue service in 1964. There are still sizable numbers of 727's operating with FedEx that are slated to be active until 2017, 51 years after that type's initial flight. However, fate may be cruel to the 727 in beating this record if FedEx is forced to speed up their retirement for the same reasons that UPS did for the 8's. The final victor, however, for longevity will probably be the Boeing 737 twin jet which first flew in 1968 and continues to be manufactured to this day.

My Own Experiences With the DC-8
I was destined to fall in love with America's air lines at a very young age. At ages 5 to 6 I lived directly on the flight path to one of the runways of J.M.Cox Municipal Airport in Dayton, Ohio. If we stepped out of our dingy room at the Yendes Motel in Vandalia (which I now come to find out had Mediterranean Revival architecture, one of my favorite types!) we could literally see the end of the runway several hundred feet to the north. The most common aircraft to roar over our apartment was the three tailed Lockheed Constellation wearing the white fuselage and red stripes of Trans World Airlines. United DC-6B's, Delta DC-7B's, Lake Central DC-3's and Convair 440's, TWA Martin 404's and American DC-7B's also made frequent appearances 50' to 100' over our heads when landing.. I spent hours watching those beautiful pistons and never stopped looking up since.

Then one day the Jet Age arrived at J.M.Cox. Our family pulled up lawn chairs next to US Highway 40 to see the first TWA Boeing 707 roll out and rotate on the field's east-west runway. It was one of the noisiest things I ever heard and smokiest I ever saw - - awe inspiring nevertheless! Until them, my very young exposure to commercial jets was limited to post cards of Pan American and TWA Boeing 707's, and Delta DC-8's and Convair 880's found in cereal boxes.

My jet years took a hiatus between 1964 and 1968 when my family lived in Saginaw, Michigan which had air service limited to United DC-6B's and Vickers Viscounts (the noisiest turbo prop ever made!) and North Central DC-3's, Convair 440's and Convair 580's.

In the summer of 1967 my father took me to a downtown newsstand where I bought my first book of commercial airliners. Sandwiched inside the pages was a black and white photo of one of the most beautiful planes I ever laid eyes on up to that time, the first production model of the Douglas DC-8 Super 61. My love affair with the 8 had begun and would last me life long.

One fateful day on December 1967 my father brought me to Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport, and amidst the plentiful United DC-6B's, Lake Central Nord 262's, Northwest Orient and American Lockheed Electras there it was! A Delta DC-8 Super 61! Parked at the Delta concourse it was the longest, largest and most impressive air craft I had ever seen in my 12 years on the planet. It was sleek and defined Jet Age as well as any Atomic Ranch house. It was in fact at that time the largest passenger jet in the world. The gate said the plane was bound for Atlanta, Tampa and Miami. I knew right then that I must one day fly this plane and fly it to the city where I was born - - Tampa, Florida.

Delta Flight 89 was the realization of that dream. On July 18, 1970 a DC-8-61 would transport me and my mother from Atlanta back to the city of my birth and back to the city and state where my future would also be realized. During our same trip to Tampa, my mother and I flew National DC-8's to and from Miami to visit my half brother who operated Boeing 727's for that carrier. I was never the same after seeing Miami and Miami international Airport. I knew then, you've got to move back home!

And move back home I did! After relocating to Tampa in 1971, I flew the 8's whenever I could. In February I was unbelievably the only passenger on a Delta Boeing 747 jumbo jet between Tampa and Miami! On the way back home I flew a National DC-8 with a stop in Melbourne.

I would next fly the Delta DC-8-61 from Tampa to Atlanta in 1975, from Atlanta to Tampa in 1979 and once more from Tampa to Atlanta in 1981 (which was photographed by friend Greg Van Stavern and can be found as the third entry in the State of Florida Archives.

As early as 1978 I was reading in airliner magazines about efforts to re-engine the 8's due to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requirements to prohibit First Generation jets from flying over American airspace due to noise reduction requirements set for 1985. Unless hush-kitted or furnished with new noise acceptable power plants, this would doom DC-8 and 707 service in the United States.

But meeting the challenge at the urging of American carriers United, Delta and other operators, over 110 DC-8's were re-engined with General Electric/SNECMA CFM-56 high by-pass ratio turbo fans which gave the aircraft a new lease on life, expanding their useful operational life span by perhaps another 25 to 30 years.

In May 1984 I flew my first re-engined DC-8, in this instance a Delta DC-8-71, from Atlanta to Tampa. By then the 8 was modernized enough to take on new generation digitized jets with glass cockpits such as the Boeing 757's and 767's. My final flights on this majestic craft was in March 1987 flying Delta from Tampa to Atlanta round trip. I knew then that its days with Delta were numbered as in September 1986 I received correspondence from Delta that the fleet was sold to UPS (I was in reality flying a UPS DC-8 in Delta colors!) and would be phased out over the next two to three years. The 8 was a favorite everywhere it flew. The Delta letter writer expressed dismay at seeing the aircraft go, but prophetically said "I have a feeling we'll see this aircraft for many more years."

UPS flew the 8's into the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport between 1992 and 2004. I would see lots of DC-8 cargo action at Miami from 1995 all the way to 2005, but it was becoming obvious that their numbers were dropping precipitously each year. Strangely, the most close up view of an 8 in action in later years was during a trip to Miami in November 2004. An Arrow Air DC-8-63 with old power plants blasted along side my 2002 Trans Am the Night Stalker as I was heading east on NW 36th to LeJeune. With its four columns of smoke I felt that I had been transported back to a time when this same airport was center stage for the movie Goldfinger and when The Jackie Gleason Show was broadcast from Miami Beach!

As late as 2006 and 2007 I saw a duo of UPS 8's parked at Charlotte Douglas Airport's freight area, and I saw one pure white 8 in Miami in August of 2007. I have to presume that unless I take a trip to the UFO capitol of the country, Roswell, New Mexico, my chances of seeing any 8's are just about gone now. Strangely, however, I am certain that I saw an 8 leave Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood this past June 12th when I was jogging East Hallendale Beach Boulevard near Hollywood. Who knows.? There's a joke that 400 years from now archaeologists will find an 8 still flying in the mountains of South America!

Anyway, this is my tribute to my favorite plane. A plane that has so far spanned all but 4 of my 54 years of life. A plane that transported back me home and to my calling; a plane that was there from the time I was a wide-eyed child to an adult in the middle of their 5th decade on the planet; a plane that I spent innumerable hours enjoying to look at.

Here's to the Douglas DC-8!

Final flight: UPS DC-8-71 from Greensboro Piedmont Triad International Airport, North Carolina to Roswell, New Mexico: This You Tube video by UPS speaks volumes without saying a word as this 8 is ferried from Greensboro to its final resting place.

Last revenue flight, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Louisville, Kentucky, UPS DC-8-71, May 12, 2009: This You Tube video also by UPS is at times an almost touching tribute to this wonderful plane that has spanned several generations!

"La Floridiana" is ©2009 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.