30 Years of Cargo Facts: Sir George

L-1011 SF

In January, 1996, Cargo Facts reported that Arrow Air would soon begin taking delivery of three converted Lockheed L-1011’s – all three to be based in Miami. Lockheed’s foray into wide-body commercial airliners ended badly for the company and that’s well detailed elsewhere. A new-build freighter variant never emerged from Palmdale, but after production had long since ended, several ended up being converted.

All three of the aircraft that ended up at Arrow were originally sold to Gulf Air, serial numbers 1131, 1133, and seen here, 1138.

The L-1011 was an odd choice by any standard as the aircraft had been out of production for 12 years and already passenger airlines were beginning to retire the type. The plane also had range and payload issues when compared to the DC-10, and these were exaggerated in freighter configuration.

Nevertheless, at least ten civilian freighters (and nine more aircraft for the RAF) were converted by Marshall Aerospace in the 1990s. The Marshall-converted TriStars (all L-1011-200s) had a 23-pallet main deck configuration with room for eight LD3s each forward and aft in the belly – plus space for bulk cargo.

One more Tristar, an L-1011-1, was converted by Monarch Aviation in Florida.

Arrow received “Sir George” – a title applied to the nose of the aircraft after it got to Miami, some time after this photo was taken in the U.K. – in the late January, 1996 and flew it for five years (with one short-term lease to Rich International in ’96). During that time Arrow went through one of it’s periodic crises and was bought by Fine Air, but then the merged company slipped into bankruptcy and emerged as a reconstituted Arrow Air.

Withdrawn from use in 2001, “Sir George” was sold to Avtec for parts in 2004 an then damaged in a hurricane a year later. Arrow replaced the L-1011s with DC-10s.

A decade later, the L-1011 is a rare sight now, with just eight in non-military service (the RAF still operate nine of them) and those mostly used infrequently by private owners (such as the Las Vegas Sands, who operate one as a VIP aircraft along with a 767 and two 747SPs and many smaller private jets).

Marshall Aerospace of Cambridge remains a thriving concern, mostly working on military-related projects such as RAF tankers and transports and the Boeing P8 Poseidon. It also helped restore the RAF’s Avro Vulcan in 2007-2008.

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