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Flashback Fridays: Oakland International in the late 1970s Part Two

Aviator C

In part one of our previous Flashback to Oakland in the late 1970s, we primarily looked at the scheduled airlines and cargo charters.  In this final installment, we take a look at some large first generation jets serving the Oakland Airport (OAK).  There was a 20-year period from the end of World War II to the introduction of the 727 and DC-9, when the words “four-engine equipment” were a selling point to airline passengers.  That meant you would be flying on the newest, most comfortable aircraft around instead of an unpressurized DC-3.  In 1978 and 1979, DC-10s, L-1011s, 727s and 737s were taking over the airways with the 757, 767, and A-300 soon to arrive.  Yet at OAK, the early four-engine jets like the 707, Convair 880 and 990, and the DC-8 were still common.



Even in late 1978, this Delta DC-8-51 was an aviation veteran.  Along with United, Delta introduced the DC-8 to the world.  The aircraft above, N806E, was delivered in 1959 and it was the last of the five original Delta DC-8-11s with straight turbojet engines.  It was converted to a DC-8-51 with fan jets in 1963.  The DC-8 was always a favorite of mine to ride because of the large windows.  The DC-8-51s retained curtains instead of window shades and the window seats all shared one padded arm rest that ran the length of the cabin.  The Flight Attendant call button rang an actual bell, instead of an electronic chime.  We had one DC-8 flight a day, when I worked in OAK for Delta.  It would arrive about 4:00 p.m. from Dallas/Fort Worth and San Francisco, just across the bay.  We would clean it, and it would depart around 8:00 p.m. in the evening for Las Vegas and Dallas/Fort Worth.



Yes, the airplane above carries the Delta livery, and it did belong to Delta at one time.  It is a DC-8-33, N8166A, and it belongs to charter operator Michigan Peninsula Airway or MPA.  The -33 was the first international version of the DC-8, and this example flew with Pan American before being sold to Delta.  Pan Am had purchased DC-8-33s because they had a greater range than the early 707s from Boeing.  Unlike the DC-8-51 at the top, this aircraft retains its noisy, smoky turbojets.  This aircraft is on one of the auto parts charter flight that we mentioned last week.  It would go on to serve other charter carriers before being scrapped in Angola in 1988.



Captiol Airways was a Memphis-based charter operator that utilized DC-8s on regular charters to Hawaii from OAK.  The aircraft above, N911CL, is a DC-8-61 or as they were popularly called, a “stretch eight.”  This aircraft had flown with National before they merged with Pan Am.



Trans International (TIA) was one of two locally based charter airlines in OAK, the other being World.  TIA operated charters to Europe utilizing the DC-6-63 and newly delivered DC-10-30s.  The DC-8-63 had different engines than the DC-8-61 and it possessed a longer range.   This aircraft, N872TV, spent most of its life flying with charter airlines.  It was delivered to Flying Tigers, and went on to serve with FedEx and UPS.  The building under the tail is still standing, but cargo buildings are located near where the airplane is parked.



One of the rarest airplanes to serve OAK was the Convair 990 above.  Less than 40 were delivered to airlines, and while the airplane was one of the fastest airliners ever built, it was very expensive to operate.  This aircraft, N8259C belongs to the Denver-based travel club Ports of Call.  Members owned the aircraft kind of like a time share, and their cost to go on one of the club’s flights was relatively inexpensive.  Besides Ports of Call, other travel clubs with airliners were based in Detroit, and Indianapolis (where ATA—American Trans Air later became a scheduled operator).  This airplane began life with Varig in Brazil; then went to Modern Air Transport; before it joined Ports of Call’s fleet.  OAK was a popular charter destination because of its proximity to San Francisco.



Finally, this photo reflects the changing nature of the OAK Airport due to deregulation that was passed in 1978.  One of the first steps on that path was the Civil Aeronautics Board assigning unused route authorities to new carriers.  Overnight, Braniff went from zero to 21 flights a day in OAK.  Braniff went to the used aircraft market and among the items they acquired were some of the Delta DC-8-51s.  This is N820E, which had flown into OAK wearing the Delta livery a few months earlier.  Now, in the photo above taken March 9, 1979, it is operating nonstop service for Braniff from OAK to Fort Lauderdale. 


I still have a fond spot in my heart for OAK, and whenever I fly in there, it is a bit like coming home.