AirUtopia – L-1011
A review by Marlon Carter
AirUtopia is by no means a newcomer to the world of Aviation documentaries. Over the years they have released many interesting DVDs and this time we will be having an exclusive look at the “rebirth” of an L1011 freighter aircraft.
L-1011’s are not a common sight today and it is very rare to have cockpit footage of this aircraft. In this DVD we follow a team of loyal L-1011 enthusiast who bring back to life an L-1011 that was parked for a long time at Bangkok airport. Let’s have a look at some of the highlights.
This program begins with a narrated commentary on the history of the L1011 alongside various video clips of the Thai Sky Cargo L1011 being featured. During this program you will have the opportunity to see the flight crew and ground crew make final preparations for a delivery flight which doesn’t go quite as planned!
The L1011 being featured in this program is MSN1012 that was among the first 15 L1011s ever built. Over the 36 years since its first flight, msn 1012 has amassed well over 60,000 flight hours and has passed through numerous airline operators. The first airline to make use of this aircraft was Eastern Airlines and it was registered as N311EA. Today, after being converted to a freighter aircraft, our beloved L1011 is now being prepared for its final destination to an operator in Bangladesh.
After spending 2 years in storage at Bangkok airport, it takes months of hard work by the mechanics and flight crew to bring this aircraft back to an airworthy status. Leading this team is a well-respected L1011 aficionado who takes us on an exclusive tour of the aircraft.
During this tour, we learn about this history of the aircraft in greater detail along with explanations as to why the L1011 was never a very successful cargo airliner. The information in this presentation was very insightful since many may argue that the L1011 should have continued flying as a freighter. The bottom line however, is that the L1011 was simply outdone by the larger carrying capacity of other cargo airliners.
As we move into the final preparations for our flight, the ground crews check the fuel systems to ensure that the fuel loaded onto the aircraft matches the indicated fuel in the cockpit. After sitting on the ground for 2 years, there are no taking chances with this delivery flight. Next we move on to the landing gears where they are checked and tested. The tests that were done to the landing gears mainly focused on the gear doors and allowing them to extend and retract.
One of the checks that I enjoyed the most was the engine check that involved a literal walkthrough of the “S” duct which houses engine number 2. I was blown away by the immense since of the “S” duct that can comfortably allow an individual to walk through to the engines blades. The benefits of this design truly showed that Lockheed engineers were among the best in the business. Having the “S” duct allowed for easy access for maintenance and required less support structure for the engine on the tail section of the aircraft.
To complete our final preparations, we take a final detailed exterior workaround of the aircraft before going to the cockpit for the cockpit instrument checks. During these checks we take a short tour of the cockpit with a few comments on its unique size and view from the cockpit which is unmatched by any other aircraft. After the checks have been completed, we start up the engines of our aircraft for taxi and takeoff that is where the real action starts. After our departure it seems like our aircraft started to show its true colors. First of all, the crew soon realized that the autopilot A was not working and autopilot B would engage but trip off for some reason. This meant that the Captain had to hand fly the aircraft past 27,000ft where some more autopilot troubleshooting was done. Finally, after resetting the pitch and roll circuit breaker, the crew finally gets the autopilot B to engage.
While this was a visible sign of relieve to the crew, their troubles had only just started. While flying over Myanmar, the engine no.1 oil indicator showed a drop in pressure. Soon thereafter the engine stopped working and the crew had to fully shutdown the engine. The L-1011 could have flown with 2 engines to its destination, but due to inconsistent readings on the engine no.3 oil pressure gauge, the crew finally decides to return to Bangkok rather than to risk having to land in Myanmar. The landing back at Bangkok was uneventful but due to the hot brakes after slowing down, the captain had to use the number 2 thrust reverser to slow the aircraft while making their way back to the ramp.
After an unsuccessful delivery attempt, the crew decides to fix the aircraft later that day and they successfully depart the following day to Bangladesh. Sadly, the producer wasn’t able to film the delivery flight, but nonetheless, what was captured on film thus far was already an extremely unique experience.
At a price point of $14.99, I think this is a must have item and one that L-1011 fans will cherish for a very long time.