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Tales of the TriStar

stories and experiences

This page is for everyone! Whether you are or were a pilot, crew, maintenance personnel, passenger, or a L-1011 watcher, if you have memories of the L-1011 you would like to share, you are more than welcome to do so here. Please send your stories to Ryosuke Yano. All information posted here is believed to be correct but without any guarantees. For comments and corrections, please email them here.

Posted May 15, 2005

SCOTT KERHAERT


My two Delta L-1011 flights were in July 1995. I flew Cincinnati to Zurich and back. I wasn't really 'in' to planes then. I remember being disappointed that we weren't on a MD-11. I remember being amazed at the size of the cabin,as I hadn't been in a widebody before. I also remember the flight attendant had to attach the movie screen the the ceiling. The movie was 'Outbreak' (not sure why I remember that!). I remember seeing all those L-1011s lined up for European departures in Cincinnati. I didn't get the registrations, but everytime I see the movie 'S.W.A.T', where they are in that L-1011 in Mojave, I wonder if it was one of the two I flew on.


I also got a picture of N737D in Ft. Lauderdale a month before it was retired by Delta. I was also lucky enough to get a Delta L-1011 retirement poster for $5.00. I had it framed.

Posted March 27, 2005

LAUREN NELSON


I had the pleasure of being involved in the acceptance of Eastern's second L-1011 (N307EA) even though we had an engine failure over Texas and had to return to Palmdale. Was also the Chief L-1011 Project Engineer for Eastern through days good and bad. Rode jump seat frequently on fridays Miami - New York JFK - Miami to learn more about how "my" airplane was doing. Fortunately December 29, 1972 was not one of those nights when N310EA (ironically msn 1011) made its hard landing in the Everglades. Flew with the flight recorder to LAX and then on to Palmdale for several weeks.


Was involved in our lease and sale of several aircraft to Cathay Pacific so enjoyed about six trips to Hong Kong. Once went into a slightly sleezy bar there and a big booming voice said, "Lauren Nelson what in hell are you doing here?" It was Hank Dees with Lloyd Frisbee sitting beside him.


Was also involved with the L-1011 swap with LTU (2 aircraft). Aircraft were D-checked, repainted, interiors and avionics swapped at HAECO in Hong Kong. Since I knew the airplane a bit I got to be the flight attendant for the trip back and served breakfast out of Hong Kong, lunch out of Tokyo and dinner out of Seattle.


Have a picture here at home of me accepting the ceramonial key in front of N339EA (msn 1158), Eastern's last L-1011.


In later years I went to Jordan as head of my certification company and finished the STC for installing predictive windshear radar on the now deceased King's L-1011-500. Got a beautiful view of the Gulf of Aqaba during the flight test and it was nice of the King to put a flight attendant on his airplane to cook hamburgers for us because "Americans like hamburgers."

PAUL CALLAGHAN (from Falkirk, Scotland, UK)


The TriStar is the business! It has to be in my opinion, the best civil passenger widebody ever, and continues to be so today, although in a much reduced capacity. It gave us so many new innovations and features. It was an aircraft way ahead of its time and set the standards that others followed and tried to copy...


OK. Its a little old now, and it has three engines and a flight engineer. So...


I have many many fond memories of flying on the L-1011, mainly on Saudia aircraft, but also flew on Eastern, and British Airways TriStars, all over the world never ever having a bad flight. I got to know the Saudia crews through my parents (who worked for Saudia) and would sit for hours listening to their accounts of flights and adventures on the TriStar fleet. In the early days, before the simulator became available, Saudia would perform training flights on the aircraft themselves doing circuits around Jeddah, some at low level too over Saudia City (The housing estate for the employees and their families). It was great watching them go round all day and all night, screaming over our house sometimes with the undercarriage down. The twin rotating beacons looked quite cool too and added something different seperating the normal from the unique! The Red Sea/Corniche was part of the circuit (normally on the downwind leg for left base) and if you were at the beach you would get excellent views of the aircraft approaching Jeddah then swinging sharp left over the port, whilst preparing to land at the 'old' airport in the early days then the 'new' one further north on the other side of the city. One of the best experiences I had just before my parents left the airline to return to the UK, was to have a session in the L-1011 simulator at Saudia's training facility in downtown Jeddah. The Boeing 777 had been drafted into the fleet to replace the TriStars and they had almost all gone except for a few spare aircraft covering backup duties. The sim had been withdrawn too, but was still in place and fully functional. I had a great time doing everything from touch and goes, to emergency descents, to engine failures etc. The list goes on...


I am currently trying to arrange one last flight on an L-1011 before the economies of scale render it too expensive to operate commecially. The Far East, Africa and Jordan seem to be the most likely possibilities but nothing has been finalised yet... I have lots of interesting stories to tell, and will do so one day... Who knows, maybe even in my own book!

Posted February 5, 2005

AARON OBRIEN (from Dublin, Ireland)


For as long as I can remember I have loved the Lockheed L1011 TriStar, but I had never had the pleasure of flying in one. However, last year for my summer holiday, I went to Barbados. When I got my tickets I discovered to my delight that the airline operating the flight was Euro Atlantic Airways. I would be flying in a TriStar at last.


When I was at Dublin Airport I saw a TriStar on the ramp, but this one belonged to Luzair. As it turned out, Euro Atlantic had contracted out our flight to Luzair. I flew on CS-TMP (msn 1248), which served with Alia Royal Jordanian, TAP Air Portugal, Caribjet, Air India, Novair, and Air Luxor, before being transferred to Luzair.


I had one of the best seats in the house, in the exit row beside door 2L. The seats were covered with leather and were very comfortable. But the ceiling panels, overhead lockers and restrooms were showing there age. The cabin was clean, but not very well taken care of, if you understand the difference.


After a great Holiday in Barbados it was time to return home.


Our aircraft for the return flight was Euro Atlantic's own TriStar CS-TEB. This TriStar is slightly older than the Luzair's, but looked as good as new and not 23 years old. The seat space was slightly smaller but overall the cabin was much better.


I don't think I will ever get to fly in another TriStar again, but am glad I got to fly in two of the last ones flying in Europe.

LEE


Her Majesty flew in a very modified Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. I was the Lockheed Field Service Manager assigned too British Airways from 1979-1987, and was the first American to fly aboard with Her. I was told that the L-1011 was Her Majesty's first time in a commercial aircraft with a civilian flight crew (British Airways). I was asked by the Air Vice Marshall and BA to be on all flights as advisor, in case of any maintenance, engine problems, etc.


She made seven Royal State Visits (flights) to China, Kenya, India, Kathmandu, Shanghai, etc. I have all the first day covers, regarding the Royal State Visits, and menus, etc. I gave the Queen an aircraft tour, including the under-floor galley, etc. She sat in the flight deck jump seat on several flights.


The very first L-1011 TriStar flight with Her Majesty on board was London - Fiji in 1980 and then onto the Bahamas, Bermuda, etc. Also, there was a Royal State Visit to Jordan and she spent several days with King Hussein. The King also had his own Tristar, in which he at times flew Himself. He was a good pilot, and he also flew our Lockheed F-104's. He signed a picture of Him and gave it to me.

Posted January 9, 2005

DAVID MATAYABAS (Waltham, Massachusetts, USA)


I have a story to share, about the best commercial flight I was ever on. You guessed it, it was aboard an L-1011.


Back during the holiday season in 1989, I had flown to Palm Beach International from Boston to visit my grandparents for Christmas. As it turned out, I stayed a week after the new year, not flying home until January 9. Imagine my surprise to learn that we would be flying aboard an L1011 to return home.


In those days, Delta would use a 727 on the route during 'off peak' times, and would put the L1011 on during high traffic times. I was expecting a smaller plane, but Delta had not yet switched back. Upon boarding, I discovered to my amazement that there were only 14 fare-paying passengers making the trip. With 14 flight attendants, we had 'one to one' service. I was able to pick any window seat I wanted, and after we got in the air, they ran the movie in the forward cabin, and left the aft cabin dark and quiet for anyone that wanted to sleep.


I moved to the center of the plane (with the five seats), lifted all the armrests, turned on the overhead lights, sprawled out just like on the bed at home, pulled out my book and made great use of the free headphones, drinks, and anything else we wanted. I think the flight crew enjoyed that flight as much as the passengers did.


On a side note, I think my favorite thing about the TriStar was the sound. I really can't describe it, but that low-pitched buzz/rumbling sound the Rolls-Royces make. I'm a fan of the Rolls-Royce aero engine (particularly the Merlin) and I always enjoyed the chance to fly an aircraft with engines that had that magnificent heritage behind them.


Thanks again for your website. When the last L-1011 shuts down for the last time, I shall mourn.

Posted December 27, 2004

JASON ARCHAMBEAULT (Pueblo, Colorado, USA)


I was 10 years old, the first time I flew on the L-1011 TriStar. Our family was moving from New Hampshire to Colorado. We normally flew on American Airlines, but due to a dispute with them, we went with TWA, giving us the opportunity to fly aboard the TriStar.


It was an average day for us until we went aboard and took off. As big of a fan as I am of the classic DC-10 series, I have to tell you I was amazed with the power and agility of the L-1011. It was exceptionally quiet and very smooth from pushback to parking. When we took off, the flight crew decided to put the takeoff on their movie screens in the cabin so we could watch them. The crew was very impressive in their handling of a bird of this size. When we took off, the power of all three of the engines was amazing, pushing me back into the seat until the wheels came up. She took to the skies like she was a natural, like she was born for it. The climb and cruise were smooth and very comfortable for all of us.


When we finally arrived in STL (St. Louis Lambert Airport) for our layover, my father surprised my brother and I by taking us into the cockpit and letting us look around. Watching the pilot, first officer, and flight engineer all work together and then take the time to show us around the cockpit was a dream-come-true for a young kid like me. When I sat in the pilot's seat, I knew that this is what I wanted to do for a living.


Looking back on those fond memories I have as a young boy and remembering such a magnificent bird in all of her glory, it saddens me to no end when I see all of the horrible pictures of such a legend slowly dying in the desert heat. To me, seeing something like that is the equivalent of being crucified and that is no way for such a respectable workhorse like the TriStar to die.


It is a wonderful feeling to see that there is such a large following of people remembering the TriStar and all of the wonderful experiences they have had. One thing is certain, there will never again be an aircraft that will be as memorable or as well respected and loved like the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar "Whisperliner".

Posted July 20, 2004

JOE ANGERS, passenger


It goes back to when I was a young boy living in Puerto Rico. I had a family who lived on the mainland, and flying up to JFK (New York) or Logan (Boston) to visit was a summer ritual for my mother and myself. Now, back in the days before deregulation, there were only three major airlines who provided flights to San Juan from Logan or JFK: American, Eastern, and Delta. Of those three, only Eastern and American provided regularly scheduled service. However, even then, Eastern WAS the major player in Puerto Rico and had a huge devoted following. Well, if you're flying to or from the northeast, you were either flying an American DC-10, or an Eastern L-1011 (this was before the 757 and 767 came in and took over the route).


The first flight I ever remember taking from Luis Munoz-Marin International (TJSJ) was in 1979 aboard an Eastern L-1011 in white livery. Back in those days, San Juan didn't have jetways, so you went out in the humid air, walked the tarmac and climbed the stairs to board the plane. I was awestruck by the sheer size of the plane. Waiting on the stairs to board the plane, I just sat taking in all the details, the chrome shining off the Rolls-Royce RB211s, the cleanliness of the S-duct. Once inside, I couldn't wait to see what the plane could do, and I wasn't disappointed.


Over the next decade and a half (at least until Eastern's demise) I flew regularly between San Juan and Boston Logan (KBOS), even after my mother and I moved Massachusetts. Most of those flights were on shiny chrome finished Eastern L-1011s. A couple of times I flew on American DC-10s, but more out of necessity rather want. The L-1011 was easily the most comfortable plane I ever flew on. And the nickname "Whisperliner" was perfectly apt, because beyond the a slight hum more akin a ventilation fan than a jet engine, the L-1011 was extremely quiet. It was nothing for me to take a snooze in an L-1011 without a problem, even when sitted at the very aft of the plane. Compared that to an American flight I took Frankfurt in a DC-10. I was sitted in the aft, right under the number 2 engine...... and it was deafening.


Unfortunately, towards the late 1980's the L-1011 was used with less frequency by Eastern. With the Boeing 757 and 767 (both very fine jets in their own right), the airlines could get the same number of people down to San Juan more cost-effectively than they could with the TriStar. By then, even American had completely abandoned DC-10 flights to TJSJ in favor of the 757/767. If you were lucky though to get on a flight during peak travel periods, chances were good you would get on an L-1011.


Overall, the L-1011 takes me back to the days of Eastern, one of the best airlines in terms of quality of service, and to simpler time in my life. It'll be a sad day when the last L-1011 no longer flies. The L-1011 did its job in the best way possible... quietly and comfortably.

Posted May 1, 2004

DARREN BOON, passenger


My flights on BWIA TriStars were pleasant and memorable. I didn't fly on a TriStar until November 1999, when I flew with BWIA from London (EGLL) to Port-of-Spain (TTPP), via Antigua (TAPA) and St. Lucia (TLPL). My First impression of the TriStar 500 was its stubby looking appearance. "9Y-TGJ" was much shorter than I expected! There weren't many passengers on the flight to Antigua, so we could sit where we wanted ... that was a pleasant surprise. During the long taxi to Heathrow's runway "9 Right" I noticed how noisy the flap mechanism was. The flap mechanism was far noisier than the 767s, A300s, MD-80s and 747s I had flown on previously. The engines were spooled up to takeoff power on the runway ... what a noise!


The flight across the Atlantic was punctuated by occasional turbulence, but it was still a good flight. The arrival and departure at VC Bird (Antigua) was perfectly normal. The arrival at St. Lucia was more "memorable", however! The approach was standard, but the touchdown was far harder than normal... the undercarriage made a rather loud thud, and some overhead lockers came open. A few months later I studied an approach chart for the airport and found a good explanation: "Expect turbulence near the runway threshold!"; the remainder of the flight was normal. On arrival at Piarco (Trinidad) I noticed that BWIA's "9Y-TGN" TriStar was in the hangar being painted into the new livery... this aircraft was scrapped at Piarco in late April 2004.


My return flight to London happened a few weeks later, but this time I flew on "9Y-THA". There were three Bwee TriStars on the apron at Piarco that evening: 9Y-THA, N3140D, and 9Y-TGJ. The flight to Barbados (TBPB) was nice and smooth. We took on PAX and fuel for the flight to Heathrow. A lot of passengers got on at Barbados... Trinidad isn't as popular to the tourists. The trans-Atlantic flight was as smooth as silk! It was very nice. On approach to Heathrow we were put into a holding pattern (Ockham VOR), but not for very long. The most significant thing about the landing was the delay in using reverse thrust. The crews don't normally do that at Heathrow... they want aircraft off the runway as soon as possible!


The distinctive sight of the Bwee TriStars approaching Piarco will never be forgotten!

JAMES SNELL, certified public accountant


How I loved this plane. I flew round-trips from Vancouver to Toronto on Air Canada often during the 1980's, and I was always pleased when the equipment for any given flight was an L-1011 instead of a 747. This bird was so smooth, that I twice remember landings that were imperceptable to the feel. That's right, in the passenger compartment you literally could not feel the touchdown as the plane hit the tarmack. Never before or since have a flown any type of aircraft I could say that about.

Posted March 24, 2004

MARK S. DANIELS, news service editor


I was reading up on the accident involving N310EA (msn 1011). I've flown on N318EA (msn 1039), the aircraft that took the replacement parts from that destroyed L-1011. Flew to Atlanta on that aircraft years ago... even have a shot or two of the No.1 engine as we were climbing out. In case you're not aware, that aircraft N310EA was tied into two stories, one by Adi Kent Thomas-Jeffries about the Bermuda Triangle, and the other called "The Ghost of Flight 401" in which the author claimed that Repo's ghost haunted a couple of other L-1011 flights. Thomas-Jeffries made the same claim in the Bermuda Triangle book. Eventually made into a TV movie starring Earnest Borgnine, who was in the movie "Marty, From Here to Eternity" and on TV's "McHale's Navy and Airwolf". Borgnine played Repo. They did an exorcism to allow him to finally depart. They believe he stayed on in spirit because he was trying to protect his wife and other crews, if you believe in such things as I tend to. In knocking the control yoke, it was later found that only fifteen pounds of pressure could take the control yoke and move it enough to disengage the autopilot. The descent was too shallow for them to even notice they were in anything other than level flight. One thing they did look for was the possibility of 'subtle incapacitation of the pilot' as he was found to have a brain tumor during autopsy. Surprising that N318EA is now a restaurant or going to be one... she sure could climb.


Sorry to see so many L-1011s go. I know the guy at Mojave involved in breaking them up. Went to his facility and there was a TriStar cockpit there looking like it was just off the assembly line ready to be mated to the fuselage. I remember seeing N301EA (msn 1003) at Palmdale. We were driving past the plant during an enormous summer thunderstorm and she took off and climbed out over Old Highway 14 (Sierra Highway) right in front of us. Spectacularly beautiful sight with the white top and the hockey stick scheme of ionosphere and Caribbean blue. She later went to Paris to represent Lockheed at the Paris Air Show. I saw her fly over our house on her return from Paris as Lockheed was saluting its employees at nearby Burbank Airport. I was at Burbank for the delivery flight of the first Gulf Air TriStar. A beautiful plane. Saw the first two Cathay Pacific L-1011s and the PSA TriStars at Palmdale during flight test. Also saw the prototype during the spare engine test and was at the Mojave Air Races in 1979 when they brought a British Airways TriStar 500 over the field with a spare engine slung to that. Quite a sight to see a four-engined TriStar!

Posted February 26, 2004

AARNE LANGLEY, former Eastern Airlines flight attendant


I was an EAL (Eastern Airlines) FA from 1977-1989. Spent lots of time on the TriStar. If you could only add the sound of an RB.211 cranking on a cold morning... what memories! EAL had a ship go through the terminal wall at one of the gates next to Post Office Building. This was before Midfield opened. The mechanics shut down the engine that the hydraulics were running off of and subsequently lost all brakes. The impact significantly damaged the nose. No one was hurt as the plane was coming from the hangar and they managed to jump out of the seats in time. The plane had a tent structure built over it and was next to the EAL hangar for months. A nose was put on from the TWA L-1011 that had a fire but left the nose undamaged. I can't find any mention of this anywhere and wondered if you may come across anyone that would recall this event. I can't remember if it was N313EA or not. Thanks again for the hard work. While it is extremely sad to see these aircraft being torn apart in the desert, the other memories associated with that time in our lives is treasured by most all from any company that flew this great plane.


PS. I never did like the "Whisperliner" name. TriStar was A-OK by me.

LOUIS PEDNEAU, former Eastern Airlines employee


One day, at ATL (Atlanta), the maintenance crew was taxiing N313EA to the terminal when the number 2 engine shutdown by itself. EAL (Eastern Airlines) mechanics were not the best trained and this mechanic didn't realize that the wheel brake system used B and C system hydraulics. The number 2 engine drove the B and C system hydraulic pumps. Normally, the ATM or air turbine motor driven pumps for those systems would be set to auto, so that, if they lost hydraulic pressure, those pumps would take over. This did not happen and as they attempted to slow the aircraft as it closed on the gate, they realized that there was no more brake hydraulic pressure. The mechanics evacuated the cockpit just before the nose penetrated through the wall of the terminal. NO one was hurt, but the complete nose section was replaced and you can tell this aircraft apart from the others by the doubler patch that goes completely around the fuselage just behind the cockpit. It looks as if a zipper was installed around the fuselage. This is where they replaced the whole nose section.

Editor's Note

This page was last updated on: May 15, 2005