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March 21, 2009

L-1011 cockpit DVD - quite an adventure

Air Utopia's Trailer

When I came across with Air Utopia and the trailer of their L-1011 DVD, I was really amazed by the spectacular images of the preview but a little bit skeptical about this producer since I never heard of them although it seems they're in business for quite a while.

Despite being an unconditional fan of the L-1011 (hell! I started working as a Flight Attendant and one of the reasons - if not the main one - was because I wanted to fly the TriStar again and that was the only way to achieve that goal) it took some time until I decided to purchase a copy of this DVD.

The aircraft depicted in this film is the oldest L-1011 in the world still flying and the first one to be converted to a freighter standard in 1987. We are talking about MSN 193A-1012, the 12th TriStar coming out from production line.
This particular aircraft (a dash 1 TriStar) was delivered to Eastern Airlines in November of 1972 (more than 37 years ago!) with N311EA registration. Then it was converted to an L-1011-1F freighter and delivered to Tradewinds in 1991.
After 2004 it was exported to Thailand where it flew for SkyEyes and Thai Sky Airlines, the last one having ceased its operations in 2006 and leaving all its three TriStars in storage at Bangkok (DMK). In 2006 and after two years without flying, a new owner decided to pick up MSN 1012 and that's where our adventure starts.

Before jumping into the movie itself, let's see some technical information about this aircraft from Lockheed's Goldenrod Issue:
  • Type: -1
  • SN: 1012
  • Config: F (= Freight)
  • Engine: 22B
  • GTOW: 430K (pounds)
  • MLW: 358K (pounds)
  • ZFW: 332K (pounds)
  • FUEL: 160K (pounds)
  • Hrs: 61.460
  • Cycles: 27.086

Air Utopia's DVD begins with the final inspections and preparations for the delivery ferry flight from Bangkok (DMK) to Dhaka (DAC) in Bangladesh. This is a short hop flight of approximately 830 nautical miles:

Flight Route

Inside the airframe they were also carrying a spare engine.

We can see refuelling procedure and the use of drip-sticks to ensure they have the correct fuel quantity reading in the cockpit gauges.

They pressurize the hydraulic systems still without engines running (with the help of the Air Turbine Motors) and cycle the landing gear on the ground by pulling the lever to the up position. Obviously the landing gear wouldn't retract (unless the aircraft was completely jacked up) but they done that to guarantee there were no hydraulic fluid leaks.

A rather unusual and spectacular view of the TriStar is given when they are checking #2 engine, entering the S-duct as shown in the trailer. As they check the fan blades one by one, one can clearly understand why they do that "tac-tac-tac-tac" sound when they are windmilling.
Then a complete walkaround inspection and cockpit pre-flight preparations and checklists are carried out with lots of technical details explained by the narrator. The L-1011 cockpit provides the best panoramic view of all widebody jets with large and curved windshields.

A quick peep of the FESC (the electronic bay as it is called on the TriStar) is also shown.

Finally we have a successful start-up of the engines filmed from inside and outside where we can hear the typical and amazing low-frequency sound from those RB211-22B engines. First they started up #2 engine as it's nearer from the APU and you will have less pneumatic energy losses along a shorter duct. Then they open the crossbleed valves and slightly advance the #2 power lever in order to have more pneumatic pressure to get #1 and #3 engines into life. This is a very usual procedure for starting up the TriStar engines and that I saw many times when I worked for Luzair.

Take-off is filmed with simultaneous dual perpectives: one from inside the cockpit and a RH wingview from the cabin.
After cleaning the wing, the crew tries to engage the autopilot. And then the first difficulties start to come up. The autopilot 'A' handle switch is completely stuck in the OFF postion and autopilot 'B' always trips OFF shortly after being engaged. The brave crew of this aircraft decides to proceed with the flight and handflies the L-1011 until a cruise altitude of 27.000 feet, demonstrating the recognised handling and aerodynamic qualities of the TriStar. Somewhere during their cruise the crew resets some pitch and roll C/B's and autopilot 'B' becomes operational. We can ear someone saying "Now we can relax, who wants a Martini?"!

But they were wrong... Suddenly engine #1 oil pressure reading gauge in the Flight Engineer panel shows zero and they have to cutoff the engine to avoid damage to it. With so many adversities happening and that are normal for an aircraft that was in storage for so long, it's amazing to see how this experienced crew handles the situation without any sign of stress. They decide to return back to Bangkok and fortunatelly now they have the help of the autopilot. If you couldn't see the instrument gauges in the front panel you could never say they were flying with a wing engine out. However, final approach and landing is perfectly handflown by the captain and he achieves a really smooth touchdown. With one engine reverse inop and perphaps due to the assymetric braking, the brakes of one main landing gear became hot and captain decided to taxi-in with idle reverse on engine #2.

What was intended to be a delivery flight happened to be a fantastic test-flight which Air Utopia had the luck to record with their cameras.
Everyone that's ever been involved with aircraft [L-1011] has a special place for it in their hearts and it's gonna go down in history as one of the classic widebody transport of all time.
In my case I really do miss it. Today Airbus may build the A380 and other great aicraft. They're still too small when compared with the TriStar!

With a running time of 115 minutes, I really would like to thank Air Utopia for this great production. I have some other L-1011 cockpit DVD's but this is clearly the best insight view of the TriStar I have ever seen.

If you are interested you can easily order your examplar from Air Utopia website.

March 20, 2009

News from several TriStars all over the world

  • Barq Aviation has recently bought all three airworthy L-1011-500's from ATA Airlines which went bankrupt in April of 2008. These aircraft (MSN 1220, 1229 and 1238) were in storage since then at Victorville Air Base (VCV) and are now being readied to fly towards their new home and owner somewhere in the Middle East as we can see in this photo. Barq Aviation also owns msn 1230 (ex-N194AT)
  • The only active L-1011 left in the FAA registry is now N140SC from Orbital Sciences. This aircraft is supposed to be modified into a -200 standard (currently is a -100) in order to get RB211-524B engines which still have technical support from Rolls Royce and from some MRO shops
  • CS-TMR (293B-1241) of Luzair, currently stored at Victorville, seems to be listed for sale
  • CS-TEB (293B-1240) of euroAtlantic is finally getting its modified engines installed and being prepared for return to service. Together with CS-TMP from Luzair, these are the last portuguese TriStars left
EDIT: in fact, there is still another active N-registered L-1011: N388LS from Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Thanks to visitor Howie for the correction.