LAUNCH OF THE DC-9
The go ahead for the DC-9 was announced by Douglas on April 9, 1963.
At the time of the launch, Douglas had no orders. Douglas felt that there was a significant market that existed for this type of aircraft based on the feedback it received from the airlines.
The first order was made by Delta Airlines on April 25, 1963 for 15 DC-9-11s plus options for 15.
From the beginning, the DC-9 was targeted for and marketed towards the short-haul market. It was designed to replace the piston powered planes that were serving these routes. These planes and the routes they flew were typically money losers for the airlines due to the high costs for repeated landings and takeoffs. In addition, most of the jets that were available, lost money on flight that were under 300 miles. In the 1960's 75% of all flights were shorter than 250 miles. The DC-9 was designed to be able to break even in this environment with just 25 of the 90 seats filled. Douglas was able to successfully market the DC-9s on this premise with great success.
The launch of the DC-9 was an important milestone for Douglas. At the time of it's launch, the Douglas DC-8 was being far outsold by the Boeing B707. Boeing had only just announced the decision to build the B737 3 days before the DC-9 launch. It would make some design compromises due to requirements by Lufthansa and ultimately would not debut until 1967. By this point, Douglas would have 200 orders. It would take the Boeing B737 20 years to catch the DC-9 in the sales race. The DC-9 also fared well against it other main competitor the BAC-111. The BAC 1-11 which began development in 1956 and received its first order on May 9, 1961 eventually fell behind by the time the DC-9 was rolled out. At roll-out, the DC-9 had 58 firm orders and 60 options, versus 74 firm orders and 16 options for the BAC 1-11.
The DC-9 would prove to be instrumental in allowing airlines to bring the same level of comfort, convenience and operating efficiencies that the jet age had brought to long-distance travel. At the time of debut, the DC-9 was able to operate in 98% of all commercial Airports.