Aviation Historian 34
K.Hayward - Collapse of an icon
The prototype L-1011 TriStar, N1011, made its first flight on November 16, 1970, powered by three Rolls-Royce RB.211-22 turbofan engines. Lockheed was suffering from its own financial woes at the time, having run into difficulties with its development of the military C-5A transport and AH-56A Cheyenne helicopter projects.
The port RB.211-22B of a British Airways TriStar during a flight over London - Buckingham Palace is visible at lower right - after the type’s entry into service with the airline in late 1974. Despite early problems with its Hyfil (carbon-fibre composite) blades and weight issues, the RB.211 finally began to deliver on its promise.
The TriStar made its UK public debut at the SBAC show at Farnborough in September 1972, the fifth production example, N305EA, being displayed in a hybrid BEA/Eastern Airlines colour scheme. The aircraft was actually one of the first batch for Eastern. The type was never operated by BEA, but did serve with British Airways.
Daniel J. Haughton, Chairman of the Lockheed Board from May 1967, presents a model of the company’s L-1011 wide-body airliner, flanked by models of two of the manufacturer’s previous products - the Electra (left) and Constellation. The building of the airliner was to some extent dependent on the delivery of its Rolls-Royce engines - and vice versa.
The power and - eventually - the glory. A Qantas Boeing 747’s starboard pair of Rolls-Royce RB.211-524s, still working hard in July 2007.
In June 1977 British Airways became the first airline to take delivery of the RB.211-524-powered Boeing 747, the famous Jumbo having been powered by American Pratt & Whitney JT9Ds up to that point. Qantas followed suit, having discovered that British Airways ’ RB.211-powered 747s burnt some seven per cent less fuel than its JT9D-equipped fleet - a saving of about $1m per year per aircraft.
In the 1980s the RB.211 evolved again to become the RB.211-535, which was selected by Boeing to power its 757 narrow-body medium-range jetliner, the first time the British company had supplied a launch engine on a Boeing aircraft. Variants of the RB.211-535 went on to power Boeing’s 767 and the Russian Tupolev Tu-204 airliner.