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.
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
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.