The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar took to the skies for the first time forty years ago today, November 16th 1970.
To me is the L-1011 is the airplane that started my love of airplanes, airlines, travel and the smell of jet fuel. The L-1011 was not only an airplane that flew over my house day and night growing up next New York’s JFK Airport, it was also the plane that flew me to Grandma (usually Delta and sometimes Eastern). On the windowsill next to my bed I had a collection of little white plastic Delta Air Lines L-1011s collected from every flight.
The L-1011 was born out of the need for airlines to have an aircraft that was capable of flying trans-continental and trans-oceanic routes, but with a capacity smaller than the Boeing 747. The design of the L-1011 was not only beautiful and graceful, but it was also revolutionary in its power to weight ratio efficiency and design … which made the aircraft’s design a significant selling point to airlines.
Although passengers loved the L-1011 and pilots loved the L-1011, the airplane was commercial failure, due in part to issues with the aircraft’s Rolls Royce RB211 engines. With fierce competition from McDonnell Douglas’ DC-10, which cost less than and offered greater belly cargo capacity than the L-1011, only 250 L-1011s were ever built … compared to 386 DC-10s.
Today the DC-10 continues to fly for airlines around the world, primarily as cargo aircraft, yet very few L-1011s still take to the skies. Delta Air Lines once flew the largest L-1011 fleet, with 70 aircraft (56 flying at the same time), now the largest fleet of L-1011s is operated by Britain’s Royal Air Force, who fly nine L-1011s as air-to-air tankers.
Soon, sadly, there are likely to be no Lockheed L-1011s in the skies … and that will be a sad day, but today with a few L-1011s still flying high … I’d like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite plane.
Below is an original promo photo of the Lockheed L-1011.