Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tristar Turns 40

(Today's post had originally intended to run last week, but was preempted by the C-17 retirement event)

Thursday, April 26th, marked a quiet little milestone in commercial aviation history, the 40th anniversary of the introduction of Lockheed's L-1011 Tristar airliner. Launch customer Eastern airlines took delivery of their first L1011, N306EA, on April 26, 1972, and immediately put it into service on the Miami-New York run.

To celebrate, I'm featuring the only L-1011 photo currently in the MojaveWest archive, a color 8x10 print that was taken of Delta's first L-1011, N401DA (c/n 1041) as it took off from runway 25 at Palmdale's Air Force Plant 42. This plane, the 41st Tristar built, rolled off the Lockheed assembly line on September 7, 1973 and was delivered on October 3rd. There's no way to tell whether this photo is of its first flight or the delivery flight, but those two date do give a bracket for about when it was shot.

After flying with Delta for just over a decade, 701 then saw service with Total Air, Air America, Egyptair, Air Algerie and ATA; she was scrapped in Roswell NM in 2006. (A cool website documenting the last flight of a Delta L-1011 can be found here.)

At the end of their lives, some of Delta's Tristars came back to the Antelope Valley where the sat for years out at the Mojave Airport before being cut up for scrap. I was working as an inspector out there at the time, and after about 10 years of sitting there, the ownership of the boneyard fleet had just transferred to a different company, and me and my crew were tasked with inventorying them. These planes were had galleys on the lower deck equipped with big ovens, and we were surprised to find that there were ceramic dishes of dessicated, mold-covered "food" still in them!

There are plans to bring an L-1011 back to Palmdale for permanent display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark on the south side of Plant 42.

Note of irony: so one day, I was standing out in the sun next to the runway at Palmdale shooting a test event...almost in the exact spot that the above L-1011 photo was taken. A couple of days later I went on vacation and drove 360 or so miles north to visit family in the Sacramento area, and went antiques shopping with my brother. There, in a glass case in one of the local shops, was the 8x10 color print that is featured above. Weird!

1 comment:

  1. Delta's first 1011 was Ship 701. Tristars for DL started with the numeral 7 designator. Ship 401 was a B727-200