DESIGN AND ORIGINS OF THE DC-9
The vision that Douglas had for the DC-9 was that it would be a highly reliable, quiet and economical short-range jet. It was to have the ability to operate from runways as short as 5,000 ft and with the goal of bringing the speed and comfort of the jet age to hundreds of smaller towns.
Initial studies were made for the DC-9 in the late 1950's. It was envisioned that the DC-9 would operate on routes between 100 and 1,500 miles in length, that typically had less traffic demand. It designing the DC-9, length of runways was considered. Most airports at the time were still adapted to the needs of piston aircraft and lacked the longer runways necessary for jets. Short field performance was critical to the success of the DC-9.
By the early 1960's Douglas began to focus on a short range plane design named the Model 2011. Douglas assembled a top design and development team to work on the program. Many of the employees had previously worked on projects tracing all the way back to the DC-3. This talent and experience would be critical. At the time Douglas began development, it was struggling with the costs of the DC-8 program and therefore the DC-9 was given a very meager budget. The designs were able to draw on their vast experience to reuse proven ideas and systems.
There were four key design attributes that from the inception of the program: 1. simplicity 2. reliability 3. maintainability 4. economics. The engineers wanted to design a short range aircraft that was rugged, reliable, easier to maintain than prop aircraft or the DC-8 and that could be in operations for long hours each day.
Before the DC-9's final design evolved Douglas studied a four engine DC-9, which was basically a shorted DC-8. Market studies led Douglas to abandon this approach and launch an original design instead. Two engines reduced both operating costs and complexity ... the design features that in the end made the DC-9 such a great success.
Prior to the launch of the DC-9, Douglas was running short on cash and entered into an agreement with Sud Aviation to market and sell the SE.210 Caravelle in the Untied States. An alliance was formed with SUD Aviation and Douglas committed to build the Carvelle in Long Beach if demand proved to necessitate. The partnership eventually broke up due to lack of demand. The end result of this partnership was that Douglas was greatly influenced by the Caravelles two rear-mounted engines.
Design of the DC-9 was frozen in 1963 and it quickly caught the attention of Delta Airlines. While it had the interest of Delta and a few other airlines, Douglas was competing against a BAC 1-11 that British Aerospace had already committed to build. So Douglas made the bold move of in April 1963 to formally announce the DC-9 with NO orders. Delta immediately signed up for 15 DC -9s. This would be the catalyst for a number of other orders that came quickly on the heals of Delta including: Air Canada, Allegheny and Bonanza.
And so the DC-9 was off and running.