Lockheed’s legendary L-1011 TriStar first flew on 16 November 1970 and you’d be forgiven if you thought none were still flying today. In fact, there is just one, operated by Northrop Grumman, which is called Stargazer.
This aircraft was originally delivered to Air Canada in 1974 and was modified in 1994 to launch Pegasus rockets for Orbital Sciences. Today it is still used in that role.
The Last TriStar Still Flying
Stargazer is named as a homage to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Jean-Luc Picard was the commander of the Stargazer, prior to going on the Enterprise. In a related link, First Officer William Riker from the TV show once served on a ship called Pegasus. An interesting piece of information for your next trivia night.
Capable of carrying 23,000 kilograms to an altitude of 12,800 metres, it is used to air-launch Pegasus rockets. These can put up to 443 kilograms into low earth orbit. To date, there have been 44 launches, of which 39 have been completely successful.
The last launch was on 10 October 2019, when a Pegasus rocket launched ICON, which is a payload about the size of a fridge. It is designed to study changes in the ionosphere.
Northrop Grumman apparently has two more Pegasus rockets remaining in the inventory. Presumably this should mean at least two more flights for the venerable L-1011 before it is retired and another aircraft type enters the history books.
I am happy to see a Lockheed TriStar still flying. It is one of those aircraft that everyone seems to have fond memories of, from pilots to crew to frequent flyers. I’ve yet to come across anyone with any hate for the Palmdale manufactured jet.
It would be a lot of fun to be able to take a flight on board this one sometime. That would be an interesting experience, plus I’d get to add the L-1011 to the list of aircraft I have flown on board. One can dream!
Did you know the last TriStar was launching rockets? What do you think of that? Did you ever fly on an L-1011 and what was it like? Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image via DefPost.
10 October 2019 image via NASA.