Home Classic Airliners United’s Short-Lived Lockheed TriStar Fleet

United’s Short-Lived Lockheed TriStar Fleet

by Matt Falcus

Most legacy airlines in the United States are known for particular types of aircraft in their fleets.

Often an airline would show loyalty to a manufacturer, or work with them on developing a new type. We saw this with Pan Am and the Boeing 707 and 747, Delta and the L1011, TWA with the Lockheed Constellation, and American Airlines with the McDonnell Douglas DC-10.

However, on occasion, an airline would briefly fly a type that they were not associated with, and often only for a short period of time.

American and Delta briefly flew the Boeing 747, while Delta also flew the Airbus A310. And in the case of this article, United Airlines briefly flew the Lockheed L1011 TriStar.


How did United Acquire the TriStar?

Pan Am L1011-500 N504PA "Clipper Natural Eagle"

Pan American, or Pan Am, was a major US airline. But by the 1980s its financial situation was beginning to worsen.

It had acquired a fleet of Lockheed TriStar 500s in 1980 in a bid to modernise its fleet and add new capabilities. However, it was not a wise choice and only added more expensive training and maintenance costs onto its already loss-making network.

As a result, the airline started to sell off some of its assets to raise cash to pay off debts and keep flying.

In 1985, Pan Am sold off its Pacific network, which was based out of Tokyo Narita airport in Japan, to United Airlines.

With the sale came the airline’s fleet of DC-10s (acquired from its merger with National Airlines) and L1011 TriStars, which were seen as incompatible with the mainstay fleet operated by Pan Am at the time.



United’s TriStar Fleet


United flew a total of six L1011 TriStars, all acquired from Pan Am in February 1986. They were:

  • N501PA (cn 1176)
  • N510PA (cn 1194)
  • N511PA (cn 1195)
  • N512PA (cn 1197)
  • N513PA (cn 1208)
  • N514PA (cn 1210)


What Happened to United’s TriStar Fleet?

Delta Air Lines L-1011 TriStar 500; N760DH@ZRH;07.10.1995

United only had a brief fling with the Lockheed TriStar.

The six examples in its fleet flew from early 1986, but all had been sold on by 1989 (with four leaving in 1988).

Five of the examples (N501PA, N510PA, N512PA, N513PA and N514PA) were sold to Delta Air Lines and re-registered.


N511PA was sold to LTU International in Germany as D-AERV.

All are though to have now been scrapped, apart from N511PA, which was last seen stored at Fujairah, UAE as VP-CGF.


Did you ever see a United TriStar, or even fly on one? Leave a comment below!




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EJ Aerorunner August 27, 2022 - 5:23 am

N503PA, N508PA, N509PA all went to the Rotal Air force and have not been scrapped

Diane Gembala October 28, 2023 - 2:21 am

I and my late husband worked for United at LAX Maintenance. I remember watching, from the UAL Hangar, a 747SP that we had just gotten from Pan Am; it was the first Pacific Route plane to takeoff. The wings were pouring out av gas since she was topped up to the max. We all had tears watching. A really momentous day.


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