1960s Era Commercial Aviation Achievement Timeline


  • The first computerized travel reservation system, SABRE, begins at American Airlines; designed by IBM.
  • First flight of the Beechcraft Baron 58; begins a run of Beechcraft airplanes: Beechcraft Model 19 “Musketeer” (1963), Model 90 “King Air” (1964), Beechcraft 60 “Duke” (1966), Model 76 “Duchess” (1974).


  • Eastern Airlines starts a shuttle in the busy Boston-New York-Washington corridor. At peak during our period in 1968, there were 228 American commuter airlines with an estimated 1,272 aircraft carrying about three million people a year. Planes included various efficient twin-engine machines, including the Cessna 402, the Piper Navajo; as well as turboprops by de Havilland (Twin Otter), and the Beech 99 that entered service in 1968.
  • United Airlines becomes the first US carrier to purchase the Sud Aviation Caravelle with its rear-fuselage-mounted twin-jet engines.
  • Initial flight of Convair’s 4-engine, narrow body 990 Coronado: slightly smaller than Boeing’s 707 (maiden flight, 1957) or MD’s DC-8 (1958)


  • Kirk Kerkorian’s Trans International Airlines (TIA) purchases a Douglas DC-8 and became the first supplemental air carrier to fly jets; becomes largest and most profitable supplemental; operated a variety of civilian, military, and transport venues, including moving 7,000 head of cattle from Texas to Chile in 1968.
  • North American introduces its Saberliner business jet


  • First flight of the Boeing 727
  • Air Wisconsin begins service.




  • Douglas Aircraft announces Super 60s series (61-62-63) of the workhorse DC-8 introduced in 1958; Super 70s series (71-72-73) certified in 1982.
  • Air California established.
  • Air Midwest starts.


  • DC-8 61 introduced: stretches original DC-8 by 36 ft.
  • Inspired by the grand style of the Boeing 314 Clipper of the 1940s, Juan Trippe of Pan American persuaded Boeing Aircraft to build a “wide body” jetliner more than double the size of the 707; to be called the Boeing 747 with four Pratt and Whitney JT9D turbofan engines. Pan American preorders 25 747-100s for $525 million.


  • McDonnell Aircraft Corporation merges with Douglas Aircraft Company (April).
  • Maiden flight of the short-haul twin-engine Boeing 737 (April 9).


  • Launch customers United and American Airlines place orders for McDonnell Douglas’ wide-body DC-10; maiden flights in 1970, deliveries in 1971.


  • Boeing’s 747 jumbo jet makes maiden flight; First Lady christens Pan Am’s first plane January 15, 1970, which starts service one week later.
  • Maiden flight of British-French supersonic passenger airliner Concorde (service 1976-2003).


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  • Fred Smith buys a controlling interest in Arkansas Aviation Sales, the start of Federal Express Corporation which he incorporated in June 1971 as a small package airline, and locates in Memphis. Takes advantage of the downturn in commercial aviation as well as the niche to fly at night when others did not.
  • Lockheed’s wide-body jet, the L-1011 TriStar, makes maiden flight; delivered to launch carriers Eastern and TWA in 1972; Rolls Royce engines.
  • McDonnell Douglas’ DC-10 debuts
  • Pan Am makes its inaugural flight of the Boeing 747 (The Clipper Victor [N736PA], January 22): New York’s JFK to Heathrow: landmark in affordable long-haul flying


  • Southwest Airlines begins operations in Texas, modeled on the cut-rate intrastate flights in California pioneered by Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA).


  • Air Florida established.


  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport opens (September)





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