Re: Why no Tristars?

Date:         29 Apr 99 22:10:08 
From:         Steve Lacker <no@spam.thanks>
Organization: Applied Research Laboratories - The University of Texas at Austin
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>       Sorry if this is an obvious question: I've checked the FAQ and
>it doesn't seem to be there.  The question is: having travelled in the
>US, Europe and Asia, I see plenty of DC10's and older 747's, but I
>never see a Tristar these days.  Why is that?  Did the marque fall
>from commercial favour or dod Lockheed withdraw support....or did they
>just _go_ somewhere?

I've read the responses with interest, as I've always considered the L-1011
to be one of those vastly superior products that was beaten in the
marketplace by a greatly inferior product (the DC-10) for various reasons. I
like the currently-used slang for this phenomenon: to be "Betamaxed" (anyone
who's seen a Beta videotape side-by-side with a VHS tape knows that the VHS
format is inferior, yet it succeeded while Beta flopped). I guess one could
also use terms like  "Microsofted" or "Intel'ed"  or  "Honda'ed"with equal
accuracy :-)

>From what I've read, the L-1011 was indeed superior to the DC-10 in
construction and certainly in terms of its field record since the VAST
majority of the airframes produced are still flying today, though many are
as freighters. One thing that hurt it, though, was that since it was solidly
built (and thus a bit heavy) it had to be *shortened* to produce an extended
range version (the L-1011 500) whereas the DC-10 was actually lengthened.
This wasn't attractive to buyers.

I've never heard anyone say it outright, so it may be wrong, but my gut
feeling is that the L-1011 is designed to a completely different philosophy
than the DC-10. Walking around and aboard a -1011, one gets an impression of
tremendous solidity. It looks like its built to LAST, with many features
seemingly over-designed and thus a bit bulky compared to a DC-10. This would
tend to be borne out by its service record too. Several L-1011's have
survived incidents that might have brought down a DC-10 (such as one which
lost the fan disk on its #2 engine- a similar failure to that which caused
the Sioux City DC-10 crash).  Unfortunately, the penalties paid for
over-building (increased weight, decreased payload and range) are far more
visible on the bottom line of an airline's accounting system than the
statistical odds of better survivability.

Also, the Rolls-Royce RB211 debacle hurt the L-1011 by delaying its launch,
raising doubts about its viability, and giving the competing DC-10 a leg up
on orders. Unfortunately for Lockheed, they were married to the RB.211 and
there was no altertnative engine, so a delay in the engine meant bad news
for the whole airframe (Hmmm! Good thing no one built an airplane around the
GE-90 or history might have repeated!)

-- Stephen G. Lacker
(slacker at arlut dot utexas dot  edu) <- convert to normal email format to
mail to me.