Monday, February 11, 2013

The L-1011 Chased the Sun

The TriStar also marked the end of an era
by Grayden P.

In late 1959, I joined Lockheed-California Company as a sales engineer, after 11 years with Pan American Airways. In the late 1960s, Lockheed launched the L-1011 program. The market engineering and research department enlarged the sales support organization, and I was promoted to director!

Then came 1972, a critical year for Lockheed. It was marked by escalating fuel prices, trouble at Rolls Royce and low cash flow because of no deliveries. Consequently, banks would not loan us money with a government guarantee.

Corporate CEO and Board Chairman Dan Haughton pleaded our case for a loan guarantee before the Senate Finance Committee. I went with Dan as part of his support team during the hearing. Dan won agreement for the loan guarantee.

During that time, Rolls Royce was in serious trouble and facing bankruptcy. It had planned to use lightweight carbon composite for the fan blades on L-1011’s RB211 engine. However, the fan blades could not pass the FOD test, and Rolls Royce had to redesign the fan, using titanium. Rolls Royce needed government support to avoid “going under.”

Dan Haughton agreed to plead the case for Rolls Royce and appeared before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House of Commons. Again, I joined Dan in London as part of his support team. Dan “won the day” for Rolls Royce and Lockheed. I think it wouldn’t have been a major problem for him to change engines on the L-1011!

In 1983, the L-1011 program was cancelled for financial reasons. Lockheed had produced 250 aircraft, including the long-range L-1011-500. The L-1011 was the most technically advanced transport of its day. It was also the last commercial aircraft built by Lockheed.

The L-1011 is an important part of Lockheed Martin's history.