The history of Delta Air Lines and its TriStar fleet

As the oldest existing passenger airline, Delta traces its roots back to 1925, when, in its initial form, it operated crop dusting services such as Huff Daland Dusters with the Petrel 31. Nicknamed the “Puffer”, it was the first agricultural aircraft designed specifically to protect the cotton fields of the southern United States from the cotton boll weevil.

Independence and a Delta Air Service name three years later put the fledgling concern on the threshold of gradual growth.

A meager four-destination route network allowed it to serve Dallas, Shreveport, Monroe, and Jackson beginning on June 17, 1929.

Ditching its farmhouse image a decade later, it acquired the Lockheed L-10A Electra and Douglas DC-3 cabin jets, facilitating service after a route award to Savannah, Knoxville and Cincinnati, and from Chicago to Miami in 1946, though through these cities with an additional touchdown in Charleston.

Even larger, faster and more advanced four-engine piston liners enhanced its image, the Douglas DC-4 replaced the DC-3 in the Midwest-Florida race, the DC-6 replaced the DC-4 in December 1948 , and the DC-7 replacing it on April 1, 1954.

Its coverage increased significantly four years later, on May 1, when it merged with Chicago and Southern.

Delta entered the jet age on September 18, 1959 with the Douglas DC-8-10 and this was followed less than a year later with the Convair CV-880 in short to medium range sectors. Despite the speed advantage achieved with its Rolls Royce Conway engines, it was both heartbreaking and thirsty for fuel.

A southern route authority, granted in 1962, elevated Delta to transcontinental carrier status, allowing it to operate from Dallas to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Other service expansions included those from Atlanta to Jacksonville and Orlando and those from Phoenix and Las Vegas. However, like Eastern, it remained a primarily East Coast airline.

Too large and with more range than necessary, the DC-8 and CV-880 were replaced by the Douglas DC-9 twin-jet in 1965 in domestic short-range, low-capacity US sectors.

The era of the wide-body airline dawned early in the next decade with the Boeing 747-100 in 1970, the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10-10 two years later to provide the necessary capacity during Lockheed L delivery delays. -1011 and the TriStar himself. .

Acquiring Northeast Airlines on August 1, 1972 to obtain its much-demanded sun routes, it acquired Boeing 727-100 tri-jets and was able to inaugurate service from Montreal and Boston to Miami and count Bermuda and Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas in its la net.

Operating out of a downtown Atlanta, with secondary traffic hubs in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas / Ft. Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, and Tampa a decade later, Delta had expanded to become the third largest airline, carrying 34.7 million passengers in 1979 and operating 1,300 daily flights to 80 destinations in the US, Canada and Bermuda. , Bahamas, Puerto Rico, United Kingdom and West Germany. Their motto, appropriately, was “Delta is ready when you are.”

Its growth, accelerated with the purchases of the European routes of Pan Am and Western Airlines, became exponential. As evidenced by the voluminous 433-page edition of July 1, 1988 of its system schedule, it operated more than 2,200 departures with some 380 aircraft to 156 destinations in 42 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and 11 foreign countries. , including Canada, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, primarily from their hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City.

A considerably mixed fleet of Boeing, Lockheed, and McDonnell-Douglas included 727-200 (12 first class passengers and 136 passengers), DC-9-30 (12F and 86Y), 737-200 (either 12F and 95Y or 8F and 107Y), DC-10-10s (36F and 248Y), L-1011-1s, -250s and -500s (featuring various configurations, including 32F and 270Y, 12F, 54C and 203Y, 12F, 40C and 189Y, and 18F , 64C and 140Y), MD-88s (14F and 128Y), 737-300s (8F and 120Y), 757-200s (16F and 171Y), 767-200s (18F and 186Y), 767-300s (24F and 230Y) and DC-8-71s (18F and 194Y).

While emphasis was once on fleet standardization and a minimum number of aircraft types to reduce crew training, maintenance, and spare parts inventories, emerging megacarriers, such as Delta, which, for definition, covered all route lengths and densities, from the 100-mile feeder sector to high-capacity transcontinental and intercontinental travel, required a wide range of types and versions, as an integrated airline effectively had to do the work of many – Commuter, Grand Regional, US National, Major, and Megacarrier.

As a result, four major US regionals, operating as Delta Connection, collectively offered 3,900 daily departures to 240 cities in addition to Delta’s mainline flights and included Atlantic Southeast Airlines with DHC-7, SD3-60, EMB-120 and EMB-110s, Business Express with F.27s, SD3-60s, S-340s and B1900s), Comair with S-340s, Fairchild Swearingen Meters and EMB-110, and Skywest with EMB-120s and Swearingen Metros as this time.

Having been the world’s largest TriStar operator, with three versions and two subvariants, Delta, calling it the “queen of the fleet”, placed its initial order for 24 L-1011-s in 1968 to complement its existing DC-8s. however, they offer greater wide-body comfort and quieter, more fuel-efficient high-bypass ratio turbofans, once announcing: “The magnificent $ 18 million TriStar, the newest member of the flying fleet width of Delta Air Lines “. It left most of its other US competing airlines, including American, Continental, National, Northwest, United and Western, to order the DC-10-10 from the competition.

Forced to intermittently operate five of the McDonnell-Douglas counterparts due to the cessation of the Rolls Royce bankruptcy program, it eventually sold them to United, although they were leased between 1972 and 1975. It also deployed 747-100s on its transcontinental routes prior to that. His ability, at the event, overshadowed the demand.

Its first L-1011-1, registered N701DA, was configured for 50 first and 200 passengers by coach. But it was just the beginning of a story with a guy who would prove synonymous with the Atlanta-based airline, with 40 more acquired between 1973 and 1983.

Because its route system predominantly consisted of short- to medium-range sectors, it was in the air for about two hours at a time, connecting cities less than 1,000 miles apart.

Exceeding the scope of its first transatlantic route award, from Atlanta to London-Gatwick, it was complemented by two L-1011-100 leased from TWA, which were eventually also deployed in Frankfurt and Tokyo.

In 1980, it received three truly intercontinental L-1011-500s.

A second-hand TriStar acquisition program proved extensive. Fourteen L-1011-500s (six from Air Canada, three from Pan Am, and five from United) were purchased between 1984 and 1992 and ten L-1011-1s from Eastern between 1991 and 1992.

In addition to leasing two L-1011-200s with RB.211-524B engines, he upgraded one L-1011-1 to the -200 standard and the remaining six configurations to -250, allowing each to operate in higher-range sectors.

Instrumental in service of the European transatlantic routes it acquired from Pan Am, with up to 80 daily flights in the summer of 1992, the type, in its -500 form, regularly made the 5,074-mile Anchorage-Hong Kong trans-Pacific crossing, its longer.

Although budget constraints prevented Lockheed from offering what could have been the ultimate replacement in the form of the stretched L-1011-400, the guy continued to use Delta’s routing system until only about 30 daily flights counted for TriStar service at late 2000. Progressive replacements that have taken shape as the Boeing 767-200, -300 and -400 and the MD-11, perhaps McDonnell-Douglas’ latest triumph over Lockheed.

First delivered in November 1979, the N728DA aircraft, an L-1011-1, operated Delta’s last scheduled flight from Atlanta to Orlando and returned, on July 31, 2001, receiving a double water cannon salute. after landing on Georgia soil. He had flown nearly 31,000 flight cycles, 66,000 hours, and more than 27 million miles during his career.

The 70 TriStars of all versions that Delta had finally operated for more than a quarter century accounted for 30 percent of Lockheed’s total production.

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