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Unclear Problems of the TriStar
- Lockheed L-1011 TriStar Articles: Volume 8 -
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Special thanks to Fred Goldman, former Eastern Airlines maintenance representative, for contributing these rare episodes. This article has been reviewed and edited by the editor. For corrections or comments, please email Ryosuke Yano.

At Eastern Airlines, we had problems with the DLC/AGSB system that caused the spoilers to deploy on final approach, usually in the rain. Replacing the truck tilt sensor wiring always fixed this problem. However, it is my opinion that it was not severe weather that caused that crash, but the failure of the DLC/AGSB system because of a faulty truck tilt sensor system. The tell tale evidence is that there was an open discrepancy on the DLC system saying it was inoperable. This is usually a sign that the truck tilt system is faulty. Eastern had a few aircraft that had their spoilers deploy up to 40 degrees (maximum on the ground is 60 and max in the air is 14) while on final approach. I remember the captain commenting to me that they had added full power and it was still sinking. Finally, he saw the spoiler handle deployed, stowed the spoilers and landed it. The FAA was always instructed not to get involved with Eastern's maintenance, so these failures never got to the industry. At least, I think it didn't, or Delta would have fixed their aircraft as they were very good with maintenance.

On another subject, N309EA (msn 1010) almost crashed and had many inflight shutdowns due to severe vibration. There was a problem with the RB211 No.1 location (thrust) bearing, which almost caused the grounding of the entire fleet. N309EA took off from Newark and as it climbed through 13,000, the No.2 engine fan and fan shaft forward of the No.1 location bearing separated from the engine, cutting its way through the S-duct, cutting three of the four hydraulic system lines with fan blades and exiting on the right side of the forward part of the duct. The aircraft was nursed to New York JFK where it was parked at the hangar and the passengers were deplaned from the left side and did not see the gaping hole in the tail. They also never knew how close they were to crashing, as a line on the fourth hydraulic system was nicked.

Eastern also had a TriStar that took off from Miami to the Bahamas encounter severe problems. Because the mechanics forgot to put "o" rings in the magnetic chip detectors, they lost all oil on all three engines. The captain made the mistake of choosing to turn back, which cost them valuable time. Because the RB211 had a oil hiding problem where the oil quantity would drop to a very low level in certain attitudes and then the oil level would mysteriously return to normal, the flight crew didn't take the decrease of the oil quantity seriously until the oil temperatures began to rise. From what i heard, they lost one engine on downwind, the second one on final approach and the third one right after touchdown. There had been many occurrences where a mechanic had left out the "o" rings on the chip detector of one engine, but until this event, it had never happened to multiple engines. I told my manager, the Manager of Technical Support, Jim Foucault that someday we will have an aircraft that will lose the oil on all three engines and he said that the probability was slim. I gave some suggestions as to how to prevent this from reoccurring, but he was more concerned with politics, which was a main motivator at Eastern. I cannot be absolutely sure, but the facts that were made public combined with the facts that I already know about this system and the fact that it usually fails in the heavy rain makes it a good possibility. Also, the investigating team may not have been very knowledgeable of the DLC system and if they noticed the spoiler positions being up, they may have asked the Lockheed representative who, to protect his job and company from lawsuits, said that it is normal for there to be spoiler deployment on final approach.

The last time I touched a TriStar was in 1989 when I worked for Hawaiian Air as a maintenance representative.

This article was posted on: April 23, 2000

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