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The Troutdale DC-8

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  • Member since
    September 2012
The Troutdale DC-8
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, January 22, 2021 10:54 PM
The Troutdale DC-8
Here’s a story that I think about on occasion and continues to interest me.
The basics.
In the early hours of August 12th 1962, United Airlines flight 861 from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) is nearing the end of a redeye flight to Portland (PDX). 861 is N8001U, a DC-8-11 with 80 plus passengers aboard.
She’s the second Dc-8 in the fleet.
The flight is in contact with PDX approach and is on visual approach, about 10-12 miles east.
By most accounts the Captain is in the back, the First Officer is flying. Coming out of clouds on the descent, there’s an airport with lights on directly ahead.
The flight does an abrupt descent and landing.
However, they’ve landed at a public airport at Troutdale (TTD).
Without a lot of fuss, the DC-8 lands and stops well short of the end of the 4,800 foot runway.
Both TTD and PDX have a runway 280 along the south bank of the Columbia River.
In the ensuing confusion, passengers catch buses and taxis and continue into Portland. It’s about 0500 or so.
The recovery.
United of course has a number of concerns. Protecting the schedule that N8001U is on. Recovering the aircraft. And avoiding bad press.
By 0800 that morning a flight test crew and maintenance team is put together at San Francisco (SFO back then) and flown up to Troutdale.
The test crew are the usual tough guys, and there’s a couple of mechanics and a flight performance engineer.
Things are a little complicated because there are houses beyond the end of the runway and a perimeter road under the landing area.
No, Tex Johnson was not pried away from Boeing to fly this Douglas crate out, as there were reports.
By early afternoon, the performance engineer has figured out the takeoff weight, head wind required and air temperature to get them off the ground.
The take off.
The seats were not removed, although that’s been reported.
By now there’s quite a crowd.
The performance engineer puts away the slide rule and tells the left seat hero that it will work.
“Good news kid, because you’re coming with us”.
The aircraft is backed way up to the perimeter road in the grass. Full take off thrust and off they go. The aircraft actually rotates at about 3000 feet, right in front of the tower, and flies out to Portland.
I have dad’s extra point slide rule in front of my desk.

 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.


  • Member since
    October 2004
  • From: Orlando, Florida
Posted by ikar01 on Saturday, January 23, 2021 5:17 PM

In 1975 there was a slight mistake involving a small commuter aircraft and a C-5A.  They were both headed in the same direction and altitude as well.  The problem was that the civilian aircraft landed at the base and the C-5 landed at the municipal runway.  By the time the C-5 pilot caught the mistake he was already on the ground and didn't have enough runway to get back into the air.  They went off the end and into a farmer's field.  The C-5 came apart and I remember seeing photos of the wreckage, especially one of a wing sitting vertically with its leading edge in the ground.  I remember them saying that there was cargo scattered all over the place and the flight deck was sitting upright in the field.  Along with the pictures came a long flight safety lecture, emphizing that even though our C-130s might have gotten out of the situation, there was still no excuse for this to happen.


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