A Caledonian TriStar climbs out of London's Gatwick Airport. (Photo by Airline Images UK)
Caledonian Airways, one of the most well-known and respected names in British skies, will disappear when it merges with Flying Colours by the end of 1999, giving birth to a new airline named "jmc Airlines". Along with the merger, they have decided to reorganize their fleet. This plan calls for retaining the DC-10s and A320s, increasing the B757 fleet, and phasing out the long-serving L-1011 TriStars, and November 1 saw the sad moment for these Lockheed trijets with the golden lion on the tail.
Caledonian first operated the L-1011 in 1982, when it was still the charter arm of British Airways as British Airtours. The airplanes were directly leased from the parent company. However, the L-1011s were only leased for vacation seasons, and it was not until a few years later that the airline signed long-term leases of TriStars. In 1988, the merger of British Airtours and British Caledonian occurred, when Britain's second largest airline was taken over by British Airways. The British giant recognized its former rival's relavance, and thus British Airtours was renamed Caledonian Airways. The airline's fleet of six leased L-1011s were unaffected by the merger and they continued to soldier on, though one aircraft was disposed of in 1994. The company departed the British Airways group in 1993 when Caledonian was wholly acquired by Inspirations, a British tour company, and soon after, its five L-1011s were purchased from British Airways. The type has since been deployed mostly on high capacity holiday destinations especially in the Mediterranean. The fleet was almost doubled in 1998 when four L-1011s were leased from Air Atlanta Iceland to cope with the boost in vacation travel.
However in 1999 came the first sign of the TriStars' final days; G-BBAI was retired in mid 1999, due to high repairing costs after it was damaged in an accident in Greece. It was followed by the last passenger flight of the TriStar with Caledonian a couple of months later, which took place on October 31. Flight CKT 035, operated by G-BBAF departed London Gatwick bound for Larnaca at 19:45 local time. The aircraft arrived back from the aforementioned airport at 06:10 local time on November 1 at London's Gatwick. A final farewell flight to Salzburg for Caledonian's L-1011 crews was planned, but never materiazlized due to the unavailability of time with them. They were too busy training on the Boeing 757s. Meanwhile on the same day on October 31, the TriStars that were leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic were returned to its lessor.
One aircraft was ferried to Abu Dhabi each day from November 1 for maintenance by GAMCO. After maintenance, they will enter a period of storage at the airport. However, rumor has it that they are going to be ferried to the US for long-term storage. All four L-1011s have been posted for sale by Fortis Aviation, which has been contracted to remarket the TriStars. The company also remarketed L-1011s of Trans World Airlines in 1997.
Each TriStar was scheduled to arrive at 18:40 with the last one G-BBAJ arriving at 19:40 GMT, due to a flypast.
G-BBAJ performed a flypast at London's Gatwick for all the Caledonian employees who were out to wave farewell and see off an end of an era. Also many other airport staff were there to watch it fly by and depart for the last time. Each TriStar departed performing a wing-waggler wave to say good-bye to everyone. It brought tears to the eyes of all the people who worked with Caledonian.
The Lockheed trijets have served Caledonian well as it was its main type for well over 13 years. November 4 saw the end of the L-1011s with the distinctive golden lion. They may never be forgotten by the spotters, passengers, and the people who have worked hard with the L-1011. The airline's identity is scheduled to follow the same path soon.
Below is the schedule of the four ferry flights to Abu Dhabi.
|Register:||Date of Ferry:||Time of Ferry Flight:|
|G-BBAE||November 1||departed Manchester at 12:00|
|G-BBAF||November 2||departed Gatwick at 12:00|
|G-BBAH||November 3||departed Gatwick at 12:00|
|G-BBAJ||November 4||departed Gatwick at 12:15|
Forever the Caledonian TriStars
Forever the Golden Lion