The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar is the third widebody airliner to enter service after the Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10. First flying in 1970 and entering service in 1972, the TriStar was perhaps the most advanced aircraft of its time.
Unusually for a US programme at the time, Rolls-Royce engines were selected to power the aircraft. The British company went into receivership in February 1971 which put the programme into jeopardy and delayed its entry into service.
Lockheed L-1011 Video
There is a video below all about the aircraft. Last week, I brought your attention to a video on the Convair 990 Coronado and the same people who made that video also did this one. It gives a pretty good snapshot of the aircraft and what happened.
TWA and Eastern Airlines launched the aircraft, with Delta Air Lines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific operating many examples. Just 250 TriStars were produced which was below the break even number.
How advanced was the aircraft? The design philosophy was to take the most advanced technology of the day and where it didn’t exist to invent it. It had a very advanced autopilot system with lots of redundancy meaning it could land on its own in fog, thus avoiding diversions.
The cabin was designed to be very spacious for passengers and it was built using a process to reduce corrosion. When the last aircraft rolled off the production line in 1984, it also marked Lockheed’s exit from the commercial aviation business.
An aircraft I would have loved to have flown on board is the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. It looked so graceful compared to the Douglas DC-10 and I think it looked amazing in the white and blue Eastern Airlines colours.
Another thing I like about the Lockheed TriStar is the fact that it turned out to be very safe. The Douglas DC-10 had a number of high profile crashes and incidents, several of which were due to design faults with that aircraft.
Did you ever fly on the TriStar? Who with? What was it like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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Featured image by Jon Proctor via Wikimedia Commons.
I have very fond memories of the L-1011. I climbed aboard in early 1976 to go to work for…wait for it…Eastern Airlines! I remember the incredible sense of acceleration as the captain ramped up the throttle and we got airborne promptly. We got to cruise altitude and then realized why Eastern called her the “Whisperliner.” I spent 10 great years at Eastern and was saddened by the company’s demise. Sorrier still for the ultimate fate of one of the grandest aircraft to ever grace commercial aviation. Side note: our SVP of Marketing at the time was none other than Russ… Read more »
Oh wow, you worked for Eastern? That’s fantastic! No doubt the picture I chose will bring back memories for you instantly. I would have loved to have experienced how quiet it was in the air – especially compared to the other old aircraft such as the Boeing 707s and Douglas DC-8s. Such a shame that both Eastern and the L-1011 are no longer around – but everyone remembers them, that’s for sure! Thanks for the comment!
Like Terry W, I worked for EAL and was able to fly the L-1011 quite often. It really was a beautiful airplane. As I recall, when Eastern launched it, there was both a first class and coach class lounge. Passengers could go to the lounge where a flight attendant staffed it and made drinks. Also, if anyone remembers the intra-California airline, PSA, it also flew the 1011 on CA intra-state flights like SDO to SFO. Quite a short hop for a “jumbo”. Also, if memory serves me right, they had a staircase that led down to the galley, but since… Read more »
Two lounges would have been super comfortable, plus getting drinks there would be an added bonus. It is very much like the A380 bars that some airlines have nowadays. I have read about PSA having the L-1011 with the downstairs lounge – they were unique for that, apparently. Great memories! Thanks for the comment!
I flew PSA L-1011 SFO-LAX once. There weren’t too many times to be on it as PSA had to pull them out of service when fuel prices shot up. They were parked in the Arizona desert. I remember the stairway. I’m sure I went downstairs to check it out, but can’t remember for sure what the configuration was downstairs but it seems to me it was regular seating. The L-1011, along with the hotels and car rental business that PSA expanded into (thinking they were a travel company rather than just an airline), eventually forced PSA to go out of… Read more »
You’re lucky, they weren’t in service that long with PSA as you mentioned. I’ve seen pictures of the lower lounge area those aircraft had. I think the lounges were removed when they were eventually sold on to other airlines. It’s a shame PSA is gone, I’ve only heard good things about them really! Thanks for the comment!
Not only do I remember the TriStar, it is my all-time favorite airliner. I think it was very elegant and I much prefer how it integrated the tail engine compared to the DC-10/MD-11. I remember seeing a Delta L1011 at Hartsfield Airport parked at the gate and it was absolutely huge nosed up to the window. I was lucky enough to take a round-trip to LAX from ATL in 1996, both directions on an L1011. Those are probably my most cherished flights given that the aircraft is no longer in service.
You’re definitely right with the word elegant – it really does look right. I don’t even think I’ve seen an L1011 in person, though I would have had to when I visited the USA in 1991. You’re lucky to have experienced a flight on board the TriStar – it’s something I wish I had done. Thanks for the comment!
I agree with you totally. It also is my all-time favorite airliner. Nothing else comes close. Love that it was over-engineered with multiple backup systems, safety record second to none. I also took a round trip to Orlando from Philadelphia on it in 1976, Eastern Airlines. I would give anything to fly on one again.
It really was a technological marvel for its day and as you say, very very safe indeed! Great that you got to experience it with Eastern Airlines. I would love to fly on one, that’s for sure!
Thank you so much, Trent, and the others who replied! This site is much more informative than even the official Lockheed website! I flew on a TriStar only once, in the early 1980’s, a short flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Daytona Beach, Florida on Eastern Airlines. But that supremely elegant flying experience stayed with me to this day. I was traveling with my beloved grandfather, who likewise had never flown a TriStar. We were both literally agog, like gleeful little boys, on that flight! The spaciousness of the cabin, with its high ceiling, expert lighting, and beautiful design, led me… Read more »
Wow, thanks so much for sharing your experience of travelling on the TriStar. It sounds like a memorable journey for you and for your grandfather. The way you describe it is brilliant and certainly evokes a lot of jealousy from this guy who has never had the pleasure of Eastern Airlines or the TriStar. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment – a great read!
As a youngster I used to fly on Tristars on BA to and from Jeddah to the UK. I can remember asking Mum and Dad to book me on the Tristar rather than the DC10, I didn’t want to fly on anything else. The aircraft was brilliant and I remember playing with the crew in the lift between the passenger floor and the galley below, I was an unaccompanied passenger and was looked after from take off to landing. I spent many happy hours no doubt boring the flight crew to death but I loved it. The noise it made… Read more »
That’s so cool that you liked the aircraft that much that you specified it. It is interesting when people get attached to a particular aircraft type.
Playing in the lift sounds like a lot of fun 🙂 You’ve certainly had some unique experiences there. Sounds pretty amazing! Thanks for the comment!
I worked for Caledonian Airways 1988-1995, they had all the old BA/British Airtours L1011’s, it was fitted out all economy 393 and had the underfloor galley with two elevators. I loved the aircraft and remember the 5 toilets which curved around the rear of the fuselage affectionately known as Penny Lane.
I always thought the L-1011 looked great in that Caledonian livery! I’ve certainly heard about Penny Lane 🙂 Great that you worked for them, very nice. Thanks for that – and the pic!
I used to fly TWA frequently in the late 1980s and early 1990s when I was a college student at Arizona State University. TWA operated the L-1011 on their evening flight to Phoenix from their hub in St. Louis. The same plane was then used on the first flight out in the morning from Phoenix back to St. Louis. I tried to arrange my travels to include those flights whenever possible, just to ride on the L-1011. It’s size and spaciousness were a rare treat on a domestic route that did not include one of the big coastal cites. I… Read more »
Great that they had that one daily flight that allowed you to take the L-1011. That is something I would do, deliberately choose the flight to get the aircraft I wanted. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I won’t get to fly either TWA or the L-1011, so I enjoy reading other people’s experiences like yours. Appreciate it!
My dad was a mechanic for Eastern. Flew in L1011s countless times. Was always my favorite plane in the fleet. The picture you posted of aircraft 310 was the plane involved in the crash of flight 401 in the Everglades. It was only in service for 7 months prior to the crash. Very lucky to have a photo of it! Thought you might like to know that detail.
Eastern is one of those airlines I wish I had got to fly on. Talk about a legendary airline! Ahh, thanks for that detail, much appreciated! An accident that was not the fault of the aircraft at all, that one. Thanks for the comment!
I had a few flights in the L-1011 with TWA.
It was far superior to the Dc-10/ MD-11.
Larger passenger area, smoother quieter , much more comfortable feeling and seemed faster on take-off and much smoother landings. It was a superior aircraft in all ways!!!!!
Many people agree that the L-1011 was the superior aircraft. Great to hear your experiences of it! I really wish I had the opportunity to fly on one. Thanks very much for the comment!
Check out tristarexperience.org. They have an operating L-1011 in Kansas City, they’re talking about opening it to the public over labor day weekend. Probably won’t take to the air, but the only chance you’ll get to see inside one. I flew it once, and it was everything those here have said and more. An engineering masterpiece that’s about to have it’s 40th anniversary, and no other airliner has yet to equal it.
That’s pretty cool indeed 🙂 Thanks for that.
The L-1011 was a fine ride. If I remember correctly, there were switches in the armrest to adjust the airflow from the Gasper vent, as well as the reading lamp. I believe that was on the Tristar. One of Delta’s L-1011s was the last I rode – single-engine taxi on the tail engine from the gate and again after turning off the active to the gate. Comfortable plane. Only squawk I recall is having the flaps lock-out before departure on two different L-1011s, one Delta and one TWA. After brief delays, off we went. Also flew on Eastern’s Whisperliners for… Read more »
Everyone has great things to say about the L-1011, as you can see from all the comments here. It’s on my list of aircraft I wish I had flown. Nice to hear some details like the vent and lamp – that sounds like what I have heard as well. Thanks for the comment!
During the 80’s flew many times between Abu Dhabi and Bahrain on the Gulf Air Tristars. This was a short hop before an onward leg to Europe or Asia but still really enjoyed this aircraft compared to many types since.
Hey, every flight counts. I used to fly between Dublin and Shannon which is a 45 minute flight with no service on Aer Lingus as I preferred doing that to getting the bus. Glad to hear you liked the TriStar and Gulf Air! Thanks for the comment!
I had one flight as a passenger in a TriStar. It was in May 1990 and I was flying Dublin (Ireland) to New York (JFK) via London (LHR). The London /New York segments were with TWA and we flew out of London on a TriStar in late afternoon. It had Gulf Air markings (there was some arrangement between the two at the time). I had a seat on the right hand side near the back. I remember there was a cargo door just below me which was open when I boarded. The flight was great, particularly memorable as it was… Read more »
Interesting that TWA and Gulf Air were cooperating in some way. Awesome that you got to fly on a TriStar, it’s something I sadly never got to do. I can definitely understand your excitement, especially since it was your first time to the USA! Good times indeed – and you can’t knock a TWA 747 for the return either. Thanks for the comment!
I literally mourn the loss of this airliner, and am not ashamed to say I get teary-eyed when I read articles like this one. THAT’S how much I loved the Tri-Star. I could go on forever about all it’s amazing features and technology, but the most incredible thing was its spaciousness: eight-foot ceilings wall-to-wall. BTW, while it was a bit quieter inside, the “Whisperliner” nickname came from its engine quietness, the first jet to meet strict noise-level requirements. I’ve said many times: only Lockheed could have designed and built the L-1011.
I don’t think you’re alone in this. Out all the articles I’ve written about the aircraft (the “Do you remember the…” series) – the TriStar one received the most reads and most comments by a long way. I’ve always thought it was a superb aircraft. I’ve seen the interior pictures, it looks huge inside! Thanks for the comment 🙂
Upon retirement from the US Air Force, I found myself working for American Trans Air in Indianapolis. ATA was in the process of purchasing a group of L-1011 aircraft from Delta Airlines. Due to my maintenance training in the service, I was selected to be the designated trainer for ATA. I recieved very detailed training from Delata and TWA (the provider of our maintenance program. My experience on the TRISTAR eventually landed me in Greenville South Carolina with Lockheed in a FAR Part 145 Repair Station. During my 14+ years with Lockheed, I was privileged to be in charge of… Read more »
Hello Don, sorry for the delay in reply, I somehow missed your excellent comment above. It sounds like you have a serious amount of experience on the L-1011 there. I remember reading about American Trans Air. Sounds like you had a very good career with Lockheed as well. I read that Qantas and Lockheed had a great corporate relationship in the 1940s-1960s with the Constellation and Electra, so as far as I know, they’re a good company. You must know the L-1011 very well indeed if you were training people around the world. Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing all… Read more »
My Father worked for Delta out of FLL in Maintenance. Delta always flew their injured birds to FLL because my Father’s Line Maintenance Crew could fix ‘me when the folks throughout the system could not. Anyhow, flew the Delta L-1011-100 and -500 too many times to count. I have fond memories of these birds along with the B-727. Flew mostly First Class due to non-reving and Dad’s extremely high seniority. Delta’s Medalion and Royal Service flights were the bomb with perfectly cooked steak and ice cream. Back in the day they served breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the short flights… Read more »
Sounds to me like the Fort Lauderdale maintenance team knew what they were doing. You’re very lucky to have flown First Class on them as a non-rev. That would have been some experience – the food sounds pretty amazing. I’d love a decently cooked steak on board nowadays, but they’re certainly easy to screw up. I’ve seen pictures and video of those elevators to the galley, they just fit one person inside as I recall. I’ve read all about the crash of flight 401 and I read the ghost book too. Really interesting! Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad… Read more »
Never had the joy with that configuration but its cousin, the 4-engine L1011, evokes fond memories. Delta flew it MCO-FRA nonstop for many years (I partook of that route twice). In fact, it was one of Delta’s earliest non-hub routes to Europe to offer year-round service. Lufthansa covers the route now, alternating between A330, A340, 747 and 777 birds, year-round but not always 7 day a week.
That’s really interesting information to know – everything changes yet some things always stay the same. It’s good to see the route is still popular! Thanks for the comment!
I seriously doubt that there was any such thing as a 4-engine L-1011.
Lockheed might have proposed a 4-engine passenger aircraft, but it apparently never came to fruition. Even if it had, they most likely would have called it something else, such as “L-1012”, or “L-1021”, etc., (depending on the numbering sequence/pattern Lockheed would have chosen) — because, after all, it would be a different aircraft type. Perhaps it’s nickname would have been “QuadStar” .
I actually remember once seeing a drawn image of a 4-engine Lockheed passenger jetliner, but I don’t remember the name/number for that hypothetical jetliner.
I agree, I have never seen anything about a 4 engine aircraft from Lockheed, well apart from the L-2000 supersonic proposal of course. Thanks for the comment!
I flew the 1011 3 times, all on TWA. ORD-LAS-ORD back in 1977 both ways. I was 12 y/o at the time and remember hearing The Spinners song “Rubberband Man” repeatedly on the audio system and to this day everytime I hear it I think of that trip. I was at Circus Circus in Vegas and won a very large stuffed walrus which took up the seat next to me on the LAS-ORD return. The FA’s would ask me if “He” would like a snack or drink! Having a bit of fun with me. My final flight was STL-BOS around… Read more »
I’ll have to look that song up as it doesn’t jump out as me as something I know. It’s strange when songs bring back memories – I have a few that do the same. Hahaha – it would have been a treat to see you travelling with a large stuffed walrus – how cool! Nice to see the flight attendants being fun – I like it when they are. Nice you got on the L-1011 one last time in the 1990s before it went out of service. Thanks for the comment!
I too very much enjoyed my many TWA flights in first class aboard L-1011s. The seats were like La-Z-Boys and it was so nice to have the extra space and 2 large lavatories. It was so sad to see TWA replace them with 757s.
It sounds like TWA really pulled out the stops when it comes to the L-1011 and how it was configured. Really great! Thanks for the comment!
I flew on the Tristar on a number of occasions back in the late 80’s from Heathrow to Vancouver with Air Canada.
I remember the wide cabin, how quiet the aircraft was and the smooth ride. I also the deep rumble of the RB-211 on startup.
Fantastic memories of days when aircraft were unique in design.
Yes, those RB211s have a distinctive sound – you could always tell those engines when an aircraft was taking off above you! Really nice to hear from someone who flew a different airline to most of the people who have commented. Thanks for taking the time to share!
Great memories of flying the L-1011 with TWA from Geneva to New York in the 80’s !
That’s great! A nice long flight too – thanks for the comment!
I flew that exact one from eastern. I remember being quite and having big windows. Beautiful airplane.
Nice that you got to fly that one in the picture! Wish I had done the same. Thanks for the comment!
I used to fly the BA Tristar as crew some 40 years ago. Incredibly spacious, comfortable and a machine of enormous beauty. The 100 series with a round area below the front of the rear engine and a galley in the cargo hold and a window virtually facing down towards earth (later a colleague of mine was crushed and killed with the galley lift that malfunctioned). I remember them fondly and more recently in Canada I saw 3 of the same birds in RAF livery do military transporters. I spent some of my best young years in those.
Sounds like you have had some experiences with the TriStar! A window virtually facing down towards earth? I’ve not heard of that before. Sorry to hear about your colleague 🙁 I think some of the RAF ones are still for sale and apart from one other, they’re the only ones around that may fly again. Glad to hear you remember the aircraft so fondly – it seems most people do! Thanks for the comment!
My father worked for Lockheed in their Skunkworks. Before any wide bodies were flying, Dad took me to see a mock-up of the 1011 interior. This was the first time any of us had ever seen the interior of a wide body.
That’s a pretty unique experience you’ve had there! I doubt many others have that claim – really cool! Thanks for the comment!
While I often flew the plane domestically on Delta, I flew it on Eastern to Bermuda and the Caribbean a few times. But, when my job had me traveling to Europe for business, I went out of my way to fly it on TWA. often using FF miles to upgrade to first which was great. The plane’s movable rear horizontal stabilizer made for a very smooth ride. My long time friend and neighbor flew it for Delta and he would tell me of its complexity and ahead-of-its time technology.
A few people have commented on choosing the TWA L-1011 over some others – they must have been doing things right at that airline. The movable horizontal stabiliser was certainly ahead of its time, as were a lot of other things on the aircraft. They certainly built it really well! Thanks for the comment!
I flew on this aircraft in the mid 1980’s on a Delta version. It was a redeye Atlanta to Gatwick hop if I recall correctly. My memories are that it was indeed spacious, clean and a bit elegant. I recall it being cavernous inside, and feeling bigger than a 747 — I had flown one of the Pan Am 747 clippers to London too (before Lockerbie of course), and it was more cramped and certainly less elegant (at least coach was).
I’ve seen some pictures of the interior and it seems that it was designed so that the bins were along the sides and the middle was open which made it seem really spacious. It certainly looks enormous from the pictures I’ve seen! Thanks for the comment!
This is true. The bins were all on the sides, which left a high vaulted ceiling in the middle. Although it greatly diminished bin space, it wasn’t a huge issue, as larger bags were not allowed in the bins back then and the move to carry-on only travel hadn’t really started yet. Of course, by the nineties, it was a problem, but most were exiting (or had already) by then.
Yes, cabin baggage was a completely different beast back then, wasn’t it? I’d say if they had kept the L-1011 in service for longer they would have had to add centre bins and whether that would have been cost effective or not is another matter. Thanks for the comment!
When I moved from New York to Las Vegas in the mid 1970s I always flew TWA flight 148/149 LAS/JFK. For some reason that was just a great flight. Nice and roomy in economy. The few flights I took in first class was amazing. How else would I remember the flight numbers from 40 years ago? Very pleasant memories.
I like the way you always chose the same flights – I am the same with the BA830 LHR-DUB. The timing is perfect, I enjoy the afternoon tea in Club Europe and I get home in good time to do what I need to do and relax. I never had the chance to fly TWA either, that would have been something great! Thanks for the comment.
I was on a 1011 a number of times I got to go on the elevator down into the galley in the belly of the plane. Truly was a dream plane. Spacious and quiet.
That would have been very cool to go down into the belly! Wish I had the chance to do the same. Thanks for the comment!
I remember flying the Tristar twice. Once with TWA in First Class which I only remember as very plushy and as I was a child at that time the seats were too big and the second time with the LTU, a German charter carrier which eventually ended up in the Air Berlin group. There I remember the huge cockpit with Pilot, Co-Pilot and Technician and a sort of Thorne seat for the flight instructor. As I was allowed to also be in the cockpit landing this big bird on the airport of Kreta, I think it was 1984 it was… Read more »
That’s great that you did it with TWA in First Class. The seats would be too large for a child, that’s for sure! All the room in the world to a child.
Now a cockpit landing in a TriStar – that’s really something unique you got to experience there with LTU. It sounds like your pilots were really happy to tell you all about the aircraft too, which most pilots would still do given the chance. What a fantastic experience – I’m very jealous! Thanks so much for sharing that!
Yes you probably seating just behind the captain in the “jump seat”. That seat was incredible because you are seating so high and the window so big that it felt you are actually audience in the air.. If you where a child at the time that must have been a most incredible experience. Well done Kai
It definitely sounds remarkable!!
It was my first widebody flight in 1976. My family flew on a Delta L-1011 from Atlanta to Orlando. A full dinner was served on this short (and full) flight. I was 12 and it was amazing. I recall passing a galley and seeing the lifts to the lower level kitchen areas.
I ended up many years later with a Delta FA partner. It remains his favorite fleet plane ever due to the space and layout.
Sounds to me like the memory is definitely quite vivid! It’s a shame more people didn’t take pictures of airline food back then, but considering film only had a certain amount of shots, all the ones out the window were probably more interesting. Those lifts to the lower level galley were cool! Glad to hear your partner who worked on the aircraft has it as his favourite. I think a lot of pilots are in the same boat with the TriStar. Thanks for the comment!
Great looking airplane. Quite advanced for its day. And extremely loud in the aft cabin compared to the DC-10 IMO.
Now that’s something I hadn’t heard before – it makes sense though, as the aft engine was much closer to the passenger cabin than on the DC-10. I guess that’s another reason why they used to put the smoking section at the rear 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
I have flown on several DC 10s but only remember one L1011 on a flight from Heathrow to Belfast in late 1975 when I was about 13. They took our luggage onto the runway and asked us to identify out particular items before boarding. This probably wouldn’t have worked post 9/11. My vague memories are I preferred the 1011 to the DC10 but I can’t say why. Mostly they are associated with the DC 10. My favourite widebodies are the A380 upstairs and the Qantas 747-400 upstairs. I have never actually flown downstairs on an A380.
I agree, the Boeing 747 upper deck is a great place to fly, as is that on the Airbus A380. Identifying luggage on the runway I’ve heard about before, for security reasons. Great that you’ve been on the L-1011 though, something I wish I’d had the opportunity to do! Thanks for the comment.