History - L-1011

Please note that this information is believed to be correct, but without any guarantees. Any comments, corrections, updates or additional details will be appreciated. Please mail me!

Lockheed is undoubtedly more famous for it's military projects, than for its aircraft dedicated to the civilian market. They have, however, during the year produced some very nice products to be remembered a long time after they were withdrawn from daily use! I'm thinking of aircraft such as the Lockheed Super Constellation, built in 1950. This was the fastest propeller driven aircraft at its time! In 1955 started the production of yet another remarkable aircraft, in some countries used for passenger service, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Hercules is a part in many countries air forces and they are appreciated for their reliability and good performance. The most spectacular aircraft, built by Lockheed, is the SR-71. This aircraft is by far the fastest aircraft on the globe, capable of speeds up to Mach 3.5!

Lockheed L-1011 TriStar

In late 1960s the airline industry wanted a bigger aircraft for Coast to Coast service in USA. A request from American Airlines for an aircraft in the 250-passenger region gave birth to a new project for the civilian market. The aircraft should have sufficient range to fly routes like Chicago-Los Angeles nonstop. Soon it became evident that both McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed were working on very similar prototypes. The competition between the two would be very sharp! Slightly earlier Boeing launched the Boeing 747, jumbo-jet, and this giant aircraft became immediately a sales-success.

Both Lockheed and Douglas wanted to see their aircraft in the air first, and Douglas won that battle when their DC-10 flew in August 1970. Not far behind, L-1011 TriStar took to the skies in late November 1970.

Immediate problems

If the DC-10 were involved in serious early crashed, Lockheed got some serious problems of its own! All Lockheed L-1011 TriStar are powered by Rolls-Royce turbofan engines. When Rolls-Royce developed this engine, it featured a lot of modern technology and extensive research that eventually completely ruined Rolls-Royce. They were forced into bankruptcy leaving Lockheed with the unreliable RB211-engine as the engine still suffered from some teething troubles. Eventually Rolls-Royce were able to reorganise the company and correct the defaults on the RB211-22B engine. By this time American Airlines had announced that they had selected the DC-10 in favour of the TriStar, but in March 1968 both Eastern Airlines and Trans World Airlines (TWA) placed large orders and options for the TriStar with 50 and 44 aircraft respectively.

Notable airlines

After about one year of service no less than 110 aircraft had been ordered. And Lockheed were very pleased to see high-prestige airlines such as British Airways, All Nippon, Cathay Pacific, Air Canada and Delta Air Lines placing orders for the TriStar. This was of course important for Lockheed's reputation as aircraft manufacturer, but it also represented a kind of breakthrough. Until this point almost three-quarters of the L-1011s ordered came from American customers. This fact worried Lockheed a bit, as they knew that the TriStar had to win customers around the whole globe to become a sales success.

Longer ranged models

Soon airlines requested models with longer range. The initial model, designated L-1011-1 could fly some 5 394 km, enough for the American market. In late April 1975 the first L-1011-100 first flew. L-1011-100 has the same fuselage length, wingspan and engines but has two centre fueltanks. This gave the -100 model a range of over 6 500 km. This was, however, not sufficient to compete directly with the DC-10-30 model which could fly almost 3 000 km longer. In 1976 Lockheed introduced the L-1011-200 model. The -200 has the same external dimensions as the -1 and the -100 model, but it carries the updates of the -100 model with centre fueltanks and, unlike the -100, this model is equipped with updated RB211-524 engines giving almost 23 000 kg of thrust. This model, a lot more suitable for hot-and-high airports, were ordered by for example Saudi Arabian Airlines and Gulf Air for use from and to the hot airports in the Middle East.

The real long-range version to late

By this time it was quite clear that the DC-10 would win the battle in the sector for three-engined wide-bodied aircraft. Many claim that this is partly because of Lockheed inability to build a long-range version to compete directly with the DC-10-30. But in 1978 the L-1011-500 were introduced and with a range of 9 700 km Lockheed finally could compete with Douglas on the same routes. The L-1011-500 is in fact quite a different from the L-1011-1, -100 and -200 as the fuselage was shortened with 4.1 meters and the wingspan was increased with 2.7 meters. Among the customers for the L-1011-500 were TAP Air Portugal, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, LTU and BWIA. Many of the L-1011-500 has since been disposed and replaced with more fuel-efficient equipment. In 1984 Lockheed ended production with a total of 250 aircraft built. If you compare with the 446 DC-10s built, it's easy to figure out that the DC-10 can be called out as the winner!

New careers

A great number of L-1011 TriStars, however, still remains in daily service. Delta Air Lines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and BWIA among others uses the type on long-haul and short-haul flight frequently. But one fact is that the TriStars sooner or later will face the end of its career with the big airlines. But the career isn't necessary over forever. Many TriStars has been snapped up by charter airlines and start-ups around the world, appreciated for its high capacity and cheap lease rates. Examples of such airlines is American Trans Air (ATA), Air Transat, Air Atlanta Icelandic, Blue Scandinavia and Caledonian Airways. Another task for the TriStar is in the freighter business. A co-operation agreement between Lockheed and Marshall Aerospace saying that Marshall will convert a large number L-1011s from passenger to freighters. Especially the L-1011-200 with the higher take-off weight is popular. Already some ex. British Airways and LTU aircraft has been converted for among others American International Airways.

In the mid-80s nine of British Airways L-1011-500s were bought by the Royal Air Force (RAF) converting them to tankers and cargo carriers. Since 1993 the L-1011 is also a part of the American Space Program. One L-1011 has been converted to carry a rocket beneath its fuselage, replacing an old B-52. One TriStar has been snapped up by International Jet Charter for use as a flying hospital. Even though TWA has announced that they will replace their L-1011s on the 6th of September and that Delta Air Lines recently ordered a large number Boeing-aircraft in order to retire, among others, the L-1011 the aircraft still got a lot to offer their operators, for many years to come!

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