Air Transat holidays was offering a promotion for return flights YYZ-MCO for $114 Cdn return plus taxes. I looked up the Air Transat website and found that all available flights were A330 except for Jan. 1 2003 which was showing an L-1011-150 series aircraft. I had heard that Transat was phasing these out rather quickly and realized it was likely my only chance to ever fly to L-1011, so I jumped at the offer and bought the tickets. In the back of my mind I still thought it would be likely that the aircraft could be substituted to an A330 or A310 depending on the pax load.
The flight YYZ-MCO on the 25th was on an A330-200, unfortunately I was not able to see the registration. It would have been fun knowing it was C-GITS though The flight was okay, typical A330 quiet cabin but the seat pitch left a lot to be desired. Transat in-flight service was friendly and efficient, about what I expected, and a light meal was served. It was only a 2hr 15min flight, so the seat pitch didn't bother me all that much and I was able to arrive in Orlando relatively relaxed. I was glad to see that Transat had the Airshow program running. Needless to say I really enjoyed my time in Florida with weather between 23-27C every day, but that doesn't really belong in this post
Returning to MCO on the car rental shuttle bus January 1st, I was straining to see a Transat tail. I was very pleased to see the trademark L-1011 tail waiting at the gate, as I knew the incoming flight had been delayed more than 2 hours and I was really hoping there hadn’t been an aircraft substitution. The aircraft was a long body –150 series, I am about 90% sure it was C-FTNG but the registration was very small.
Photo © Jonathan Derden - SPOT THIS!
Being a charter flight, everyone had arrived early and the boarding commenced 20 mins ahead of schedule. Unfortunately I was not able to get a window seat. I had 34H, an aisle seat just behind the wing. The aircraft was full except for a couple of seats, the pax load being 350 in a 3-4-3 configuration. I found that the seat was slightly narrower but there was a lot more legroom on the L-1011 than the A330 that I had flown with Transat to MCO. I think I would definitely be comfortable on a transatlantic flight, and I am 6’3”.
The time from the flight attendants closing the door to pushback was relatively long for some reason, about 25 mins. I was thinking, “please, not technical problems!” but it turned out that some of the baggage had been delayed in loading. Sure enough, pushback started and I could hear the #1 engine spooling up. The #2 engine startup sounded really cool considering how close I was to the engine, and it really has a distinctive sound. Unlike the DC-10, you never will forget there is a giant turbofan engine right behind you, it is a high-pitched noise but this could only be heard at idle.
Soon enough, all three engines were started and we started out on a short taxi to the runway. The sound of the engines increasing and decreasing power like I said was very distinctive. With most of my recent flights being on RR Trent or CFM56 powered aircraft, all you hear is a muffled roar, especially sitting at the back of the aircraft. With the 1011’s RB.211s you can hear a lot more noises coming from the engine rather than just the roar of newer engines.
After takeoff, I was amazed at how quiet the cabin became. The #2 engine is quite loud at idle on the ground but is almost silent in flight. I would say the cabin is only slightly noisier than the A330-200 but is far superior in terms of passenger space.
Photo © Dean Allchin
(The aircraft I was on did not have the centre overhead bins, but otherwise the interior is very similar)
Looking at pictures on the site and hearing personal accounts, I knew that the L-1011 cabin was large. But the pictures don’t do it justice. IT IS MASSIVE. Almost like you are flying in an auditorium rather than an airplane, considering how high the ceiling is and how wide the cabin is, especially compared to the A330. The flight attendants were struggling to reach the overhead bins. In fact, the A330 doesn’t even seem like a widebody compared to the L-1011. Same things go with the washrooms – I could go in and actually not have to duck to avoid the ceiling like on the A330 or 767.
I must say that although Transat has been rightly maligned for their maintenance woes, they have done an excellent job keeping a 30-year old airplane looking relatively new, at least to a pax point of view. The seats looked relatively new and there were very little shakes or rattles from the interior of the airplane even on takeoff. And I am cursing my 4-year old Nissan Maxima with every little squeak going over a bump. Quite an accomplishment actually.
Soon enough, too soon actually (about 2 hrs 10 mins after takeoff) we were approaching YYZ. If I was counting correctly, the flight crew went through at least five different flap settings before landing – and he pulled off a greaser. Sadly, I was thinking to myself, this will be the last time I probably ever fly on an L-1011 with Transat phasing them out soon and very few other airlines still having them in operation.
While fuel efficiency is definitely a concern that we should all have, from a passenger’s point of view we are really going backwards by phasing out the old widebodies like the L-1011. Even with a 3-4-3 seating configuration and 363 seats in total, there was still plenty of space. I hope that I will be able to fly one again, but if not, I salute the old Lockheed birds and I now know why everyone would rave about them.