Tag Archives: Lockheed L-1011 TriStar

16 November 1970

Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, N1011. (Lockheed)
Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, N1011. (Lockheed Martin)

16 November 1970: At the Lockheed California Company Plant 10, just north of Palmdale in the high desert of Southern California, test pilot Henry Baird (“Hank”) Dees, co-pilot Ralph C. Cokely (formerly a Boeing 747 test pilot), with flight test engineers Glenn E. Fisher and Rod Bray, took the new prototype Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar, N1011, on its first flight.

During the 2½-hour test flight, the airliner reached 250 knots (288 miles per hour, 463 kilometers per hour) and 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).

The prototype Lockheed L-1011 Tristar parked inside the production hangar at Plant 10, Palmdale, California. (Lockheed)
The prototype Lockheed L-1011 TriStar parked inside the production hangar at Plant 10, Palmdale, California. (Lockheed Martin)

The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar is a three-engine wide body airliner designed to carry up to 400 passengers on medium or long distance routes. It is operated by a flight crew of three. The prototype, the L-1011-1 and L-1011-200 production aircraft were 177 feet, 8½ inches (54.166 meters) long with a wingspan of 155 feet, 4 inches (47.346 meters). The longer range, higher gross weight L-1011-500 variant was 164 feet, 2½ inches (50.051 meters) long with a wingspan of 164 feet, 4 inches (50.089 meters). All TriStars have an overall height of 55 feet, 4 inches (16.866 meters). The interior cabin width is 18 feet, 11 inches (5.766 meters). Empty weight ranges from 241,700 pounds (109,633 kilograms) to 245,400 pounds (111,312 kilograms), while the maximum takeoff weight varies from 430,000 pounds (195,045 kilograms) to 510,000 pounds (231,332 kilograms).

N1011, the prototype Lockheed L-10ll TriStar, taxis to the ramp at Plant 10, at Palmdale, California, 16 November 1970. (Photograph © Jon Proctor, used with permission)
N1011, the prototype Lockheed L-10ll TriStar, taxis to the ramp at Plant 10, at Palmdale, California, 16 November 1970. (Photograph © Jon Proctor, used with permission)

The L-1011-1 aircraft were powered by three Rolls Royce RB.211-22B-02 high bypass turbofan engines, producing 42,000 pounds of thrust (186.825 kilonewtons). The -200 and -500 variants used the more powerful RB.211-524B4 which produces 53,000 pounds (235.756 kilonewtons). The RB.211-22 is a “triple-spool” axial-flow turbine engine. It has a single fan stage, 13-stage compressor (7 intermediate- and 6 high-pressure stages), single combustion chamber, and 5 stage turbine section (1 high-, 1 intermediate- and three low-pressure stages). The -22B is 10 feet, 11.4 inches (3.033 meters) long and its fan diameter is 7 feet, 0.8 inches (2.154 meters). It weighs 9,195 pounds (4,171 kilograms).

Lockheed L-1011 TriStar N1011. (Jon Proctor via Wikipedia)
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar N1011 parked on the ramp at Plant 10, Palmdale, California, 16 November 1970. (Jon Proctor via Wikipedia)

Depending on the model, the L-1011 series had a cruise speed of 520–525 knots (598–604 miles per hour, 963–972 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 0.95 Mach. The service ceiling was 42,000–43,000 feet (12,802–13,106 meters). Maximum range for the long range -500 was 6,090 nautical miles (7,008 miles, 11,279 kilometers).

The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar was a very technologically advanced airliner for the time. It was the first to be certified for Category IIIc autolanding, in which the airplane’s automatic flight system could land the airplane in “zero-zero” weather conditions.

Lockheed built 250 L-1011s between 1970 and 1984. Sales were delayed because of problems with delivery of the Rolls-Royce turbofans, giving an early advantage to the competitor McDonnell DC-10, of which 446 were built.

Few TriStars remain in service. The prototype, N1011, was scrapped at Ardmore, Oklahoma, in August 1996. A portion of its fuselage, painted in Delta Air Lines livery, is on display at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia.

Lockheed L-1011 protoype during Mimum Unstick Speed (Vmu) speed test. (Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed L-1011 prototype during Minimum Unstick (Vmu) speed test for FAA certification. (Lockheed Martin)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 December 1972

Eastern Airlines' Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, N310EA, the airliner that crashed 29 December 1972. (Photograph © Jon Proctor. Used with permission.)
Eastern Air Lines’ Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, N310EA. (Photograph © Jon Proctor. Used with permission.)

29 December 1972: Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, was enroute from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York, to Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida, with a crew of 13 and 163 passengers. The flight was under the command of Captain Robert Albin Loft, a 32-year-veteran of Eastern Air Lines. The co-pilot was First Officer Albert John Stockstill, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who had flown with Eastern as a flight engineer for 12 years before upgrading to first officer the previous year. The Second Officer (flight engineer) was Donald Louis Repo. He was employed as a mechanic by Eastern in 1947, and had qualified as a flight engineer in 1955.

On approach to MIA, the flight crew lowered the landing gear. The indicator light for the nose gear did not illuminate. Captain Loft informed the Miami control tower that he was abandoning the approach and requested a holding pattern. Miami Approach Control placed Flight 401 in a “race track” pattern at 2,000 feet (610 meters), west of MIA.

The flight crew confirmed that the landing gear was operating properly, and confirmed that the incandescent light bulb for the gear position indicator was burned out. Still, all three members of the flight crew, as well as a fourth Eastern Air Lines employee who was in the cockpit, continued to investigate the light’s malfunction. While they did so, the airplane entered a very gradual descent which went unobserved by the crew.

The following partial transcript is from the airplane’s Cockpit Voice Recorder:

Miami Approach Control: “Eastern, ah Four Oh One how are things comin’ out there?” [2341:40]

Eastern Air Lines Flight 401: “Okay, we’d like to turn around and come back in.” [2341:44]

Miami Approach Control: “Eastern Four Oh One turn left heading one eight zero.” [2341:47]

First Officer: “We did something to the altitude.” [2342:05]

Captain: “What?” [2342:05]

First Officer: “We’re still at two thousand, right?” [2342:07]

Captain: Hey, what’s happening here?” [2342:07]

Radar Altimeter Altitude Alert: BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP [2342:10]

(Sound of ground impact) [2342:12]

At 11:42:12 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Flight 401 impacted the surface of an Everglades swamp, 18.7 miles (30.1 kilometers) west-northwest of the end of Runway 9L. The TriStar hit the ground at 227 miles per hour (365 kilometers per hour) in a 28° left bank. Of the 176 persons on board, 99 were killed and 75 were injured. 2 of the injured died later.

Wreckage of Eastern Airlines Flight 401.
Wreckage of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401.

The cause of the accident was “pilot error.” In the simplest terms, the crew failed to Fly The Airplane while dealing with an inconsequential technical issue. At the time, this was the highest number of fatalities in an aircraft accident in the United States.

PROBABLE CAUSE: “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the fight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final 4 minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew’s attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed.”

Aircraft Accident Report, Eastern Air Lines, Inc. L-1011, N310EA, Miami, Florida, December 29, 1972, Report Number NTSB-AAR-73-14, Adopted 14 June 1973, Chapter 2.2 at Pages 23–24

Following the crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, and the similar crash of a United Air Lines DC-8, Flight 173, at Portland, Oregon, 28 December 1978, airlines developed a system called Cockpit Resource Management to ensure that the flight crews stayed focused on cockpit priorities while dealing with unexpected issues.

The cabin crew of Flight 401, 29 December 1972: Back row: Pat Ghyssels, Trudy Smith, Adrianne Hamilton, lead Flight Attendant, Mercy Ruiz. Front row: Sue Tebbs, Dottie Warnock, Beverly Raposa, Stephanie Stanich. Laying on the coat rack, Patty George. Not shown, Sharon Transue. Pat Ghyssels and Stephanis Stanich, seated next to each other in jump seats, were killed. (Sharon Transue/Eastern Airlines)
The cabin crew of Flight 401, 29 December 1972: Back row: Pat Ghyssels, Trudy J. Smith, Adrianne Ann Hamilton, lead Flight Attendant, Mercedes V. Ruiz. Front row: Sue F. Tibbs, Dorothy M. Warnock, Beverly Jean Raposa, Stephanie Stanich. Laying on the coat rack, Patricia R. Georgia. Not shown, Sharon R. Transue. Pat Ghyssels and Stephanie Stanich, seated next to each other in jump seats, were killed. (Sharon  R. Transue/Eastern Airlines)

Flight 401 was a Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, a long-range variant of the “wide body” airliner, FAA registration N310EA, (serial number N193A-1011) which had been delivered to Eastern Air Lines 18 August 1972 had entered service three days later. At the time of the crash, it had 986 hours, total time on the airframe (TTAF).

The L-1011 was a very technologically advanced airliner, operated by a flight crew of three, and could carry a maximum of 330 passengers. The –385 was 14 feet shorter than the previous TriStar versions, with a length of 164 feet, 2.5 inches (50.051 meters). It had longer wings, spanning 164 feet, 4 inches (50.089 meters). Its overall height was 55 feet, 4 inches (16.865 meters). Empty, it weighed 245,400 pounds (111,312 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weigh was 510,000 pounds (231,332 kilograms) and maximum landing weight, 368,000 pounds (166,922 kilograms).

N310EA was powered by three Rolls-Royce RB.211-22C turbofan engines, with two suspended on pylons under the wings and one in the rear of the fuselage. They produced 42,000 pounds of thrust (186.83 kilonewtons), each.

The L-1011-385-1 had a maximum speed of 0.95 Mach. Its cruising speed was 604 miles per hour (972 kilometers per hour). Range with maximum passengers was 6,151 miles (9,899 kilometers). The service ceiling was 43,000 feet (13,106 meters).

The Lockheed L-1011 was in production from 1968 to 1984. 250 of the airliners were built at Palmdale, California.

Eastern Airlines CEO, Frank F. Borman II (Gemini 7, Apollo 8) in the cockpit of a Lockheed L-1011 with Lockheed's test pilot Henry Baird ("Hank") Dees. (Eastern Airlines)
Eastern Air Lines CEO, Frank F. Borman II (Gemini 7, Apollo 8) in the cockpit of a Lockheed L-1011 with Lockheed’s test pilot Henry Baird (“Hank”) Dees. (Eastern Airlines)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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