Maple Tristars: Air Canada L-1011s
The sale was definitely assisted by the unusual deal that saw Rolls-Royce (manufacturers of the aircraft's troubled RB-211 engines) setup a company, Air Holdings, to resell a set number of Tristars outside of the USA and act as the worldwide sales distributors of the type. Though designed to appease US interests, angry with both Eastern and TWA ordering an aircraft powered by foreign engines, by creating 30 firm orders the Air Holdings agreement also had the benefit that Commonwealth nations like Canada were able to get tax exemptions on the engines.
The Tristars cost $18.1 million each and were fitted out in Air Canada service for 257 passengers. They were primarily puchased for transcontinental domestic services and the tourist routes to Florida such as Toronto-Miami. Rolls-Royce and subsequently Lockheed's near collapse due issues with the Tristar's engines are well documented however Air Canada stuck with the type (partly due to a $30 million advance deposit and 11 Canadian companies making components for the type) and the first aircraft entered service on March 15, 1973 between Montreal and Vancouver. Other Tristar destinations included Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax and St Johns.
In addition to the trans-con routes Air Canada upgraded some of its fleet with extra long-range fuel tanks so they could operate non-stop Edmonton-Prestwick-London and Toronto-Frankfurt services. As well as extra tanking a galley was built into the lower deck to enable provision of the extra meals required. Air Canada operated 12 standard length Tristars registered from C-FTNA-L.
The Canadians were not finished with the Tristar however and in April 1979 as part of their 10 year fleet renewal programme Air Canada ordered six of the shortened long-range Tristar 500s with options on a further nine aircraft. The initial order was worth about $125 million with deliveries commencing in February 1981 when C-GAGF was delivered. She was followed by C-GAGG-K with the last arriving in September. The Tristar 500s were bought primarily for medium density transatlantic services and served for about a decade. In 1991 all six of the Tristar 500s were sold to Delta Air Lines which was ramping up its own European operations. C-GAGF became N764DA and served with Delta for another decade until she was withdrawn at Victorville in early 2001.
Air Canada's standard length Tristars had all been withdrawn by November 1990, with several sold to Air Lanka in the mid-80s, however several frames were stored in the desert. Following the end of the early 90s recession Air Canada needed to increase its capacity and so three Tristars were returned to service and used exclusively on routes between Vancouver, Los Angeles, Montreal and Toronto. The aircraft were given a roomy 238 seat configuration and re-established themselves as customer favourites for three more years. Interestingly C-FTND and FTNF were the only aircraft to receive the 1988 double red stripe livery. The three reactivated aircraft (C-FTND, G, L) all received the white fuselage early 90s scheme. The last of the three aircraft, FTND, contined in service until late 1999.
8/1/2017 07:04:15 pm
Fascinating read! Love the L-1011 and they looked great in the red Maple livery. Just picked up a Blue Box one recently myself :)
6/6/2022 02:22:54 am
In 1983, I was on a flight from Victoria, British Columbia to Winnipeg on an L-1011.
21/1/2018 12:04:23 pm
The L-1011 operated regular services to Singapore too. To promote the new destination then the word Singapore in cursive was painted on every of AC's aircraft tail in the lead up to the launch of the service in 1984. Quite a conversation piece.
11/5/2020 01:39:06 am
I flew to Toronto at least times three times on Air Canada Tristars. I seem to remember them being quieter inside the cabin than the 747s. I believe the Tristar was nicknamed the 'Flying Dolphin'. They had the nose of a Dolphin
15/6/2021 09:12:04 pm
I flew on the L1011 many times. It was my all time favorite with the 747 a close second. The new Airbuses and the Boeings don't have that big heavy feel, with minimum bumps and comfort that the Tristar and the 747 delivered. Inn addition those planes delivered an economy section that was like business class today. First class overseas anytime in the 70s ,80s, and 90s, was , well, first class
David M Scott
24/11/2021 02:13:02 am
I travelled extensively in the 1970s throughout Canada and the U.S. and Air Canada's 1011 was my favourite way to travel. Although cabin service and food was normally superior on CP Air, their DC 10s weren't as comfortable or quiet. And.. on AC 1011 first class was a truly wonderful experience with Beef Tenderloin carved at your seat and agreat wine and spirt selection. The 70s were the pinnacle of air travel.
29/1/2023 04:17:03 pm
Thanks! Great article. My dad worked for Air Canada for 29 years and was captain on the L-1011 in the 80's. I remember as kids flying on the L-1011 from YVR to YYZ to visit our aunt and uncle in the 70's. It was such a big plane back then and exciting to fly on one as a kid. My dad move up from the DC9 to the L-1011 before he retired in the mid 80's. I remember him booking one of the last Air Canada flight on the Tristar before they were finally retired in the late 90's. I had a model of one as a kid. They were a great looking plane!
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: