The Introduction of the First Jets: DC8 vs 707
Jack Meade

After graduating from Purdue in 1953, I joined Pan American World Airways in Miami as a service engineer preparing modification and repair specifications on DC4 and DC6 aircraft. I was employed by MOB (Miami Overhaul Base), the overhaul and repair arm of Pan American which shared facilities with the Latin American Division.

Pan American had recently moved its facilities from its flying boat terminal in Coconut Grove to the Miami 36th Street Airport location.

During my tenure I also assigned to the Chief Pilot Technical's Office as an Operations Engineer. In the mid 1950s, Juan Trippe co-assigned the task of evaluating the first generation jets, Boeing 707, Douglas DC8 and Convair 880 to the Chief Pilot Technical in both the Atlantic and Latin American Divisions. As one of 3 operations engineers, our group's task was to evaluate the performance parameters, take-off and landing capabilities, payload capabilities and operating cost of these jet aircraft over the Latin American Division's central and South America routes. The evaluation would lead to an aircraft selection by Mr Trippe and be the first among the world's airlines.

Our first task was to visit all airports in central and South America and to survey and record critical information such as runway length, slope, obstacles, and wind and temperature variations. With this information and the performance manuals supplied by the aircraft manufacturers, calculations were done by hand because computers had not yet become a part of the business environment. Calculations were very laborious because iterations were required the most tedious being the take-off and climb segment analysis for each airport.

The study required two years to complete and in the final analysis, the LAD Chief Pilot Technical had selected the DC8 as the best aircraft. The Atlantic Division Chief had selected the B707, primarily because on short runways requiring high rotation angles on take-off, the longer DC8 was vulnerable to possible tail skidding on the runway. Consequently, Juan Trippe and Charles Lindbergh opted to split the selection and purchased 25 DC8s and 20 707s.

The first three 707s were delivered to Pan Am in Miami but Pan Am was not the first to operate them. For reasons unknown, Pan Am leased these aircraft to National Air- lines and they operated them on the Miami-New York route for a year or more.

Sometime later, as a result of a change in preference, the DC8s were dropped and Pan Am took deliveries of an all 707 fleet.