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How Quick Thinking Saved the First Airliner to Break the Sound Barrier


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Huh.... a Canadian Pacific DC-8 was the first civilian airliner to break the sound barrier....

How Quick Thinking Saved the First Airliner to Break the Sound Barrier​

In August 1961 a crew of Douglas Aircraft test pilots proved the new DC-8’s worth by diving it through the speed of sound

On the designated day, August 21, 1961, Magruder and Edwards were joined at the Douglas plant in Long Beach by copilot Paul Patten and flight engineer Joseph Tomich. The aircraft chosen for the flight was a new DC-8-43, no. N9604Z, the 130th built. The Series 40 was the first airliner in the world powered by turbofans, for improved efficiency and less noise and smoke.

Resplendent in the red and white colors of its new owner, Canadian Pacific Air Lines, and emblazoned with its new name, Empress of Montreal, the DC-8 looked fine with its dinged slats and flaps closed—nobody could tell the bird was slightly crippled. “We took off with flaps up,” admitted Edwards, “which is kind of a no-no because at takeoff thrust, you can’t control the airplane if it loses an engine with flaps up—there’s an interlock on the rudder.”