Hello, my name is Jakub. I’ve been an aviation buff for 10 years now, and I’m directing the marketing at Avia Prime Group. I haven’t realized I had a problem up until the news has hit me. There were some signals, but I thought it’s what everybody was thinking the same at the time. But I have to confess.
I’ve been secretly in love with… tri- and quad-jets. Let me explain.
It’s the 17th of April 2020. The global crisis caused by the pandemic of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in the aviation industry. Just yesterday, on April 16th we learned that Lufthansa is going to retire all their A340-600, more than two weeks after Virgin Atlantic did the same. The 747’s and even relatively new A380 are going to be retired as well, meaning that we will be stranded with twins.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the new airplanes. B787 is the most advanced airplane I’ve ever been on, the A350 looks amazing, and A220 is an absolute game-changer in the single-aisle industry in my opinion. Also, I was always very critical of the old-schoolers, criticizing the new technologies and advancements the same way I like them in – for example – automotive industry (I’m also a petrolhead and/or „electrichead?”). But there’s something very special about the old ways of making the airplanes, with at least one spare engine.
I believe it all goes to the fact, that triple and quad-jets were always innovative, and certain were a pinnacle of technological or general achievements of aviation. Let me refresh your memory and pay my personal tribute to those amazing, definitive articles in aviation history.
Just picturing sleek, the long body of the S-duct tri-jet, the workhorse of the airlines in the 70s and 80s give me goosebumps. This airplane introduced the Jet Age. And then you think about FedEx converted freighters, that flew domestically with cargo at the shocking age of 35 years. This steady machine is – I’ve been told one of the nicest to maintain and steadiest when flying. Ships and airplanes have the soul, after all, I guess.
The Queen of the Skies herself, Boeing 747
When talking about the Jet Age, when Pan-Am 747 took off in early 1970, the masses were able to fly across the World in the amazing comfort and space offered by the Jumbo. The revolution didn’t stop there since the next variants were better and better. the 747-400 introduced advanced all glass-cockpit and EICAS Synoptics to an extent never presented in commercial airliner before.
L-1011 Tristar, the S-duct financial problem
Speaking of the advancements, Lockheed’s only commercial jet airliner was an overengineered maintenance hog. First to show the OEM’s and airlines that non-twins are financial challenge. Build as the tri-jet because of the ETOPS60 restrictions of the late 60s, the Tristar is an engineering marvel. First to have autoland, advanced autopilot and some amazing systems, such as DLC and ALA. DLC stands for Direct Lift Control, meaning spoilers were used to stay on the glide path and minimize the pitch movement. Active Load Alierions, or ALA, now reintroduced in the most modern planes made the ride smoother during wind gusts and turbulence by un-loading the wing using ailerons. Simply amazing.
The successor of DC-10, the killer of the L-1011 program, was the first to be converted freighter and first to haul so much cargo at the time. Reliable, free of the DC-10 problems, good-looking, and advanced, MD-11 have also lost to twins, as ETOPS regulations progressed.
The long-boi, A340
The early CFM-56 engine option made the A340 climb only because of the curvature of the Earth (sorry flat-earthers). But the -600 variant with updated engines, astonishing range and for many years, the longest airliner in the world is the very pinnacle of the 330/340 program for me. And we were able to help provide line maintenance on one of those! What a beauty!
The Super Jumbo, A380
I have to be honest, I’m not into the looks of the A380. But the capacity, coupled with well… coupled, advanced avionic systems is another technological marvel. Not to mention this magnificent beast gave us the flying suites and 37 000 feet showers. Maybe not us, because even though I love my job and make good money, I’ll probably never going to be able to afford the ticket in one of those before they’re all gone. Few more years to try, though!
The stories of tri and quad jets are amazing. I’m fully aware of the maintenance costs of those were possibly one of the very reasons some of them are already gone, and many more will never be spotted in the sky again. However, to see them in one of our hangars would be an absolute blast. I love the new face of aviation, but we should some time slow down a bit and appreciate the ways of old. It’ll show you how much we’ve progressed and how many new, exciting tasks are ahead of us. Let’s go and explore them!