The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar is a medium-to-long haul cargo aircraft capable of transporting 55,000 kg via an internal pallet system. Cargo pallets require either a high-loader or forklift to access its main deck.
The L-1011 featured a highly advanced autopilot system and was the first widebody to receive FAA certification for Cat-IIIc autolanding, which approved the TriStar for completely blind landings in zero-visibility weather performed by the aircraft’s autopilot. The L-1011 used an inertial navigation system to navigate; this included aligning the navigation system by entering current co-ordinates of longitude and latitude.
It also had a unique direct lift control (DLC) system, which allowed for smooth approaches when landing, without having to use significant pitch changes while on the approach path. DLC helps maintain the aircraft on the glide-slope during final approach by automatically deploying spoiler panels on the wings. Thus, rather than maintaining the descent by adjusting pitch, DLC helps control the descent while maintaining a more consistent pitch angle, using four redundant hydraulic systems. Production also used a unique “autoclave” system for bonding fuselage panels together; this made the L-1011 extremely resistant to corrosion.
The prototype first flew on November 16, 1970.
TWA heralded the TriStar as one of the safest aircraft in the world in promotional literature in the 1980s when concern over the safety record of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, flown by rival airlines, was at its peak.
In recent years the L-1011 has been used by smaller start-up carriers, particularly in Africa and Asia. These operators mainly do their business in the ad hoc charter and wet leasing businesses.
The TriStar has also been used as a military tanker and passenger/cargo aircraft. The British Royal Air Force had nine aircraft of four variants. The aircraft were six ex-British Airways and three Pan Am L-1011-500s. All of the aircraft served with No. 216 Squadron, and were based at RAF Brize Norton.
Aircraft of similar role, configuration and era: Airbus A300, Airbus A310, Boeing 767, Ilyushin Il-86, McDonnell Douglas DC-10