Late this morning, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar owned by The TriStar Experience is expected to depart Tucson on a ferry flight to Kansas City. This flight is the culmination of over a year of work to make the aircraft airworthy again after having been parked in the desert for more than 15 years.
Serial number 193L-1064, now registered N910TE, has an interesting history. It started its career as the first L-1011 built for Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), where it and a subsequent twin were nicknamed the Mother Grinning Birds for their large size and the smile painted on the nose of PSA's aircraft. Where other L-1011s had a lower galley and part of the forward cargo hold, PSA's aircraft had a lounge with 16 revenue seats. N910TE still has the lower-deck door just ahead of the #1 engine that allowed boarding through the lounge via fold-out stairs.
After a brief career with PSA, curtailed by rising fuel costs that made operation of the L-1011 on PSA's intra-California routes unprofitable, both PSA L-1011s moved on to Worldways Canada. The one now owned by TriStar Experience was acquired by Operation Blessing International in 1994 and converted into a Flying Hospital, including three surgery rooms, pre- and post-operative facilities for 12 patients, facilities for dental and opthalmological care, a pharmacy and laboratory. The self-contained stairs on the lower deck allowed patients access from ground level. As a hospital, the aircraft traveled to 29 countries and supported more than 80,600 medical services to patients.
Today's Featured Map depicts the ferry flight. Although the aircraft will be maintained in airworthy condition its new career will be on the ground, supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education for students and to inspire them to pursue aviation- and aerospace-related careers.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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