The Lockheed L-1011 Flies Into It’s 40th Year

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.

Happy Flying!



  1. I have flown in a RAF Tristar trooping flight to Canada it was really cool not many passengers and a trip to cockpit (1993 post 9-11 of course) I didn’t know the RB 211’s were not that good heard that engine saved RR aero engines

  2. Honestly, as a former frequent flyer of Delta, I’m glad they are gone.

    They had a lot of maintenance issues – especially on the route I was on between Tampa and Atlanta.

  3. Glen,

    The RB211 did save Rolls Royce, but it hampered the L-1011 because of their delivery issues associated with Rolls Royce’s engine manufacturing going bankrupt.

    Happy Flying!


  4. My favorite is the L1011-500, probably the first commercial aircraft with advanced digital avionics. Royal Jordanian operated 8 -500s. The aircraft had one of the smoothest most comfortable rides ever. But it also suffered form RR RB211-524B4 Bearing failures. In the usual RR flair for covering up, these failures were caused because the RJA aircraft were flown at low EPR settings. The fix was g\Gothic arch bearings (similar to those on the CF6).

    Eventually, the problems were fixed and the L1011-500 reliability was improved. Lockheed was planning to offer a new engine, the GE CF6-50 as another variant but the production line was closed before any offerings were made.

  5. I loved watching the Royal Jordanian L1011s at ORD in the 1980s… beautiful. I only flew on a couple of Delta flights on them, and remember how fantastically noisy the engine startup was (depending on your seat, of course).

  6. Oh how I loved the L-1011 too. Darren, I agree with you about the engine start up….that booming sound as a big cloud of smoke would go up:) I also loved how the interior would shake and creak during take off especially when the nose gear lifted off and just before the main gear came off the runway.

    I got straightened out by an Eastern flight attendant as I was being the precocious and maybe obnoxious young flier I was. After I smart talked another stewardess, the Senior Flight Attendant came flying out of the lift from the lower galley and let me know that my fresh mouth was not going to fly! I learned something that day:)

  7. I was lucky to see the Airline History Museum’s L-1011 arrive at MKC in January 2010. A wonderful sight and probably one of the final L-1011 flights in the continental US. There are many videos of the event on YouTube.

  8. she was queen of the skies although i too only flew her in eastern or delta liverys shell always remaim my favorite. first class ny to lax or sfo was the best.roomiest flight ever.

  9. I have the same fond memories…To SF from NY on a TWA L1011, Disney world on Eastern L1011s and one crazy trip from JFK during the infamous blizzard of 1996 to Orlando on a TWA L1011…last flight out of JFK that day. The rumbling, smoking, shaking Rolls Royces just didn’t want to start that day! What a scene…

  10. As a retired Delta employee, I can say it was a good a/c to work on and fly on. Sure it had some problems. So did the MD-90 when that was first introduced in ’95. We’d push it out and would keep out fingers crossed – will it come back to the gate or will it not – will the brains come on… For that matter, many a/c had their share of problems. But the L-1011 was a 3 seater, 3 engines. Too expensive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *