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What Made The L1011 Tristar A "maintainance Hog"?  
User currently offlineJimbobjoe From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 648 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 6564 times:

Hi all,

I've read this idea before--that the Tristar was a bit heavy on the maintainance side. Perhaps that's because the Tristar didn't necessarily age well, or because parts were difficult to find for the Tristar in its later days--though I'm given the impression that it always required a bit more care than other aircraft.

Can anyone comment on this? Did the Tristar have any peculiar maintainance weaknesses that other aircraft did not? Were there anythings that went wrong with the aircraft that made an MX guy roll his eyes and say "oh no, not again" (because it was unusually hard to fix?) Did the Tristar age poorly, or were other factors at play?

Or perhaps, this reputation is entirely undeserved.

[Edited 2006-12-11 01:30:50]

[Edited 2006-12-11 01:35:08]

13 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineMiamiair From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (7 years 4 months 1 week 1 day ago) and read 6448 times:

I really don't care for the choice of materials in bonded components. Lockheed used different alloys of aluminum in the stack-up. Created lots of disbonds due to corrosion. Good example are the leading edges of the wing. They were always coming apart.

User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 12878 posts, RR: 12
Reply 2, posted (7 years 4 months 1 week 17 hours ago) and read 6294 times:

Another issue is like the DC-10/MD-11 and to a lesser extent the 727 and other 3 engined aircraft, is the access to the tail engine.

User currently offline411A From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 1826 posts, RR: 8
Reply 3, posted (7 years 4 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 5769 times:

Well, lets see.

Maintenance hog?

Not from my perspective, and I've been flying the airplane in command for 26 years.
Lets look at one of the models I'm flying now.
An ex-DAL -1, s/n 1226 I think, registration YK-KEU.
It flies 18 hours/day presently, and has only 2 defered defects, both minor.
I just completed an automatic approach/land (autoland) three hours ago at DNKN, and of course, just like it was supposed to, it worked as advertised....superbly.
Our ground engineers don't complain much, just do the necessary daily servicing.

The two others the company has seem to operate just fine, as well.
100% dispatch reliability, during the last month.

I would suspect that many who bemoan the airplane really don't know what they are talking about....or don't really care.

User currently offlineMiamiair From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (7 years 4 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 5684 times:

Quoting 411A (Reply 3):
I would suspect that many who bemoan the airplane really don't know what they are talking about....or don't really care.

Pretty broad statement. I have several years dealing with the L-1011 bonded components, should I know what I am talking about? I am not qualified to talk about the airplane's operational qualities, but feel I can comment about maintenance issues, and that is what this thread is about. So your comment sir, is a bit out of line.

We currently have trouble supporting L1011 spare components that are supplied to the RAF as spare parts are getting harder and harder to find. During heavy checks there is more work than you would find on a DC10.

User currently offline411A From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 1826 posts, RR: 8
Reply 5, posted (7 years 4 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 5677 times:

Spares hard to find?
Hardly, from my experience.
We have a LOT for our three airplanes, plus a large fly-away kit for each.
No trouble with spares at this end.
Yes, these could well become a problem in the not too distant future, especially for the -22B powered aircraft.

However, as far a regular line maintenance goes, our small three airplane operation seems to be going rather smoothly.
Can't say about the hangar issues however....not in my job description.
I'm ops and training....for a very long time in the TriStar.

A very nice airplane, and for us, very reliable.
When Lockheed rolled 'em out of Palmdale, they were built well, and have stood up to active service in the middle east quite well.
Can't say about elsewhere.

User currently offlineDeltaGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (7 years 4 months 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 5639 times:

It's a shame that they scrapped all of those ex DL birds out at MHV, something like 10 of them...they were bairley stripped too, could have at least been a good set of parts. IIRC the engines were trashed with them.

Alot of DL's L1011 problems can be traced back to Leo Mullin, and his systematic firing of mechanics, many of whom were very experienced on the L10 and could easily troubleshoot a problem on it. With the newer (yet qualified) mechs, they hadn't been around the jet as long to know exactly what it needed. I think DL could have pushed the L10 a bit longer, in hindsight.


User currently offlineJetstar From United States of America, joined May 2003, 1616 posts, RR: 10
Reply 7, posted (7 years 4 months 15 hours ago) and read 5503 times:
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I remember reading somewhere years ago that the L-1011 had wing spar cracking and was facing very expensive repairs. The article said that Delta, then the largest L-1011 working with Lockheed was going to be the primary contractor to do these repairs. Before Delta could start these repairs the price of fuel jumped up and Delta decided to retire its L-1011 fleet instead.

I think the article said that these cracks were discovered upon inspection of the TWA
L-1011 that had to abort its takeoff at JFK, which went off the runway destroying the airplane.

Any L-1011 people out there know anything about these wing problems.

User currently offline474218 From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 6340 posts, RR: 9
Reply 8, posted (7 years 4 months 14 hours ago) and read 5470 times:


L-1011 wing rear spar web and cap cracking was first found in about 1985. Small cracks were found on the rear spar web around the defuel valve doubler. Then several years later cracks were discovered in the wing upper spar caps. There were several service bulletins that address these cracks. Interim repairs added new doublers and reamed the holes to remove crack indications. The final repair being replacement of the rear spar web and caps from the wing root to just outboard of the MLG trunnion. The rear spar modification was a fairly large job, but most shops that were experienced with it could accomplish it in a couple of weeks. The cause of the cracking was stress put on the wing rear spar through the MLG trunnion during ground operations, landing and taxing.

To the best of may knowledge all of Delta's fleet had the rear spar modification accomplished. The TWA incident at JFK involved a very late rejected takeoff and subsequent failure of the rear spar.

User currently offlineJetstar From United States of America, joined May 2003, 1616 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (7 years 4 months 13 hours ago) and read 5450 times:
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Thanks for the info


User currently offline411A From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 1826 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 5081 times:

474218 is indeed correct with regard to DAL L1011 aircraft...they were all fitted with the rear spar kit, all work done in Atlanta, IIRC.

With regard to the TWA L1011 accident at KJFK, the aircraft actually became airborne, the throttles were closed, and the aircraft landed on the runway...all because the operating FD crew were unable to ascertain that the stall warning stick shaker received after liftoff was due to a stuck AOA sensor, with many previous writeups in the technical log.
All that was necessary was to unlatch the respective AOA/stall warning channel and fly the airplane.

User currently offlineTristarSteve From Sweden, joined Nov 2005, 3930 posts, RR: 34
Reply 11, posted (7 years 3 months 3 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 5067 times:

In the mid 90s I looked after the Nordic East Tristars at ARN.
We had 3 aircraft all ex CX flying manily European charters.
We had no spares on station except wheels and brakes and were supported by BA at LHR.
The reliabilty was very good. In three years we only changed one engine, and that was time expired!. We shared a hangar with a fleet of DC10-10s doing the same work. They changed 22 engines in the same time.
We had problems, but the aircraft kept flying. The Tristar was a good aircraft to work on, but you needed experience as there was nearly no BITE or other help. What kept it going was the redundancy. There was three of anything, and one could be u/s.
The biggest problem I remember was trying to source door slides, which were always going time-ex, but we had a good spares man who used to find them in the desert!

User currently offlineBroke From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 1322 posts, RR: 3
Reply 12, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 4996 times:

The early days of the L-1011 were pretty traumatic and the primary cause was their engine at the time. The initial versions of the L-1011 were equipped with Rolls Royce RB211-22C engines. RR tried to advance the state of the art with high by-pass ratio turbofans in several ways and ended up with some serious problems that took much time to fix.
The engine was the first 3 spool engine to be certified for civil use and that in itself was not too bad.
RR had planned on using composite fan blades on the RB211 and tested such blades on Conways installed on VC-10's. During a flight in the early '70's, a VC-10 with a composite fan Conway flew through a rain storm and the impact of the rain drops on the fan blades caused them to delaminate. RR dropped the composite fan blade from the RB211-22C, but this caused several redesigns of the engine. The fan disc had to be completely redesigned to handle the more numerous and heavier titanium fan blades. This also required a redesign of the LB bearing, the casing that supported the fan, and the LP shaft.
This was one of the reasons RR went bankrupt in 1971.
Once the L-1011 went into service, the reliability of the RB211-22C was extremely bad with high power compressor stalls (these were pretty impressive to see), numerous engine failures, and regular inflight shut downs. I was on 2 myself during revenue flights.
The engine had major problems with the compressors, the turbines, the gear boxes (among other things) and was a miserable engine to start in cold weather. During a bitter cold winter, engine starting became extremely difficult resulting in long delays and numerous starter failures and other component replacements.
It was standard practice to ferry an airplane to a maintenance facility on 2 engines when an engine failure occurred; but after several engine failures while on a 2 engine ferry flight the practice was stopped until the engine reliability improved. Engines were being trucked or flown all over the place to accomplish remote location engine changes on downed L-1011's, not an easy task which took several days to accomplish.
The redesign of the engine in so many areas resulted in its redesignation as the RB211-22B. I don't why the "C" preceeded the "B", but that's the way it was. The "B" was better but not a whole lot better and more development was required to make it a more satisfactory engine.
On the airframe side, the airplane made extensive use of analog electronics in its systems and avionics. If an airline tried to make do with the philosophy of maintaining a strictly hydromechanical airplane for the L-1011, they got into reliability problems in a big hurry. Delta was generally more successful than Eastern, because they learned how to change their approach to maintaining the analog electronics.

User currently offlineTristarSteve From Sweden, joined Nov 2005, 3930 posts, RR: 34
Reply 13, posted (7 years 3 months 2 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 4887 times:

Quoting Broke (Reply 12):
During a bitter cold winter, engine starting became extremely difficult resulting in long delays and numerous starter failures and other component replacements.

Thanks for that. I became involved with the L1011 when the BA aircraft were delivered in 1975 and we had -22B engines. Then they were no worse than the Speys we had on the Trident.
When BA started L1011 operations there was a maintenance dispute which meant that for the first 18months, no maintenance was carried out at LHR. All work was carried out at CDG and AMS by line maintenance. I was sent out to AMS to assist with our first Nbr2 engine change, using a fly away engine stand. This was after a year of service without an aircraft getting grounded at LHR, which was quite impressive.

The cold starting problems continued. In the winter of 1996 we had a -22B L1011 at ARN which did not fly from Sun to Fri. So on Thur afternoon we went out and started it up. Up to max motoring, oil pressure goes off the clock high, and oil quantity goes down to zero. Fuel on and clouds of smoke out the engine and after another minute the rumble begins and EGT starts to rise. If you were lucky you got to self sustaining before the 5 minute starter cycle finished!
The problem was that the surge margin was so small. This meant that the extra fuel you can put in was very small over the steady running state, so the starts were slow. Even aircraft in service could produce clouds of smoke in the cold winters. I had the fire brigade turn up once when we filled the cul de sac with smoke from a TWA L1011 on a one hour turnround.

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