Biggest news of the year in the field of long-range scheduled airline operation was the multimillion-dollar program of re-equipment and conversion to jet transport announced by several major airlines. In the fall, Pan American World Airways announced an order for 45 jet-powered airliners costing $269,000,000. Of these, 25 are the Douglas DC-8, and 20 are the Boeing 707. These aircraft will begin to go into service in 1958 and will cut flying time approximately by half between major world cities. Passengers leaving London, for example, at noon will fly 7 hr. and 15 min. and arrive in New York at 2:15 p.m., due to the 5-hour time difference as the plane flies westward; flying time between New York and Paris will be cut from 11 hr. to 6 ¾ hr.
Following the Pan American announcement came one from United Airlines, confirming an order for 30 Douglas DC-8 aircraft, costing $175,000,000. Soon after, word of a $135,000,000 order for 30 Boeing 707 Jetliners came from American Airlines.
The DC-8 has a span of 138.6 ft., a length of 140.6 ft., and a height overall of 40.2 ft. It will carry 130 or more passengers at a gross weight of 257,000 lb., cruising at 575 mph for a nonstop distance of 5,000 mi. The Boeing 707 is somewhat smaller, but has the same performance. Since these planes will normally operate at altitudes above 30,000 ft., they will be above most of the bad weather. This condition, added to the greatly reduced vibration of jets as compared with piston engines, will assure greater comfort during air travel.
The announcement of orders for jet transports does not, however, solve the problem of transition to the jet age. The effect of such expenditures upon the financial structures of the airlines can be far-reaching. Operating techniques and, in fact, the existing world airline map must be changed to conform to the higher speeds and altitudes of operation of the jets. By no means will the least of the problems be those of traffic control at the international airports from which these jet transports will operate. Most of these terminals already are overcrowded and, in bad weather, stacking to wait turn for landing is the practice. The fuel consumption of jet engines is so much higher at low speeds than it is in cruising that stacking can be prohibitive in terms of reserve fuel supply. A solution to the problems of landing delay must be found before jet-powered transports can operate economically in and out of existing terminal facilities.
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