As we were driving along the road in Cotonou, Benin, I noticed an L-1011 just sitting on the beach. This prompted a visit!
I Found A Lockheed L-1011 On The Beach In Cotonou, Benin
When I saw the rusting L-1011 just sitting on the sand, I pointed to it and asked my driver to head over there. He tried to dissuade me, saying it was closed, but I insisted we check it out.
We parked on the side of the road about a half kilometer away and trudged through the sand to the aircraft. I was not expecting to be able to board it, but I at least wanted to look around it.
The Tri-Star had certainly seen better days…
Much to my surprise and delight, the aircraft was open and available for boarding. I walked up the stairs where a man was sleeping on a fold-out chair on the landing just outside the aircraft door. The clanking on the metal air stairs stirred him from his slumber. He asked for 7,500CFA (~14USD) to board the aircraft. There were no signs and he looked quite unofficial, so I shook my head and turned to my driver. Is this a scam? Why should I have to pay to visit an abandoned aircraft on the beach?
Well, after some back and forth we agreed on a price of 5,000CFA (~9USD) for both of us. I was handed a ticket…yes, apparently this was legitimate.
My first stop was the flight deck. The L-1011 operated back in the day when a flight engineer was needed. Compared to modern day “glass” cockpits, it looked so manual!
My tour continued through the aircraft, which featured a 2-4-3 all economy class configuration. The front cabin had red seats while the rear cabin had blue seats (smoking, non-smoking?).
No center overhead bins…
I believe this was the trolley that flight attendants used to bring up meals from the galley in the cargo deck.
Each seat featured a passenger control unit with a headphone jack, flight attendant call button, volume and channel control, light switch, and button for air (which actually makes a lot more sense than twisting the knob overhead).
In the front of each cabin was a screen along with a projector mounted to the ceiling. I’m old enough to remember these when I was a kid!
Behind the second economy class section the seats had been ripped out. Perhaps a section for cargo?
Lavatories were located in the rear of the aircraft.
Look at these small overhead bins:
There was even a few safety cards onboard. I was told this was last used for Orient Thai Airlines, but see below. That does not seem to be the case.
At the front door, a gold placard stated the L-1011 was owned by Air Rum Ltd. of Sierra Leone. My French was not sufficient enough to discern how it ended up on a beach in Cotonou.
Inside Door 1L was Lockheed’s original placard. This beauty was built in 1975. Looking at this history of 193P-1156, it was delivered to Japan’s All Nippon Airways and first flew in 1978. In 1996, it was old to Rich International Airways, then to Kampuchea Airlines in 2001 and finally Air Rum in 2004 where it was used to approximately 2008.
The visit was over. It was time to continue my tour of Cotonou.
A video really would have been appropriate here and I apologize for only thinking about it after we had left.
My uncle spent his career working for Lockheed in Burbank, California and helped to design the L-1011. One of my greatest regrets in terms of flying was never to fly this aircraft (I had the chance on ATA, but turned it down). But at least now I got to explore one…an absolute must-see if you ever find yourself in Cotonou, Benin.
Back on the road again we passed an old DC-3. I resisted a strong urge to stop and check it out. we continued on our way.
Any idea how this L-1011 reached the beach in Cotonou, Benin?
This story is part of my An African Adventure As The World Shut Down trip report.
Best jumpseat ever! Been on about a half-dozen L101 DL jumpseat trips and it was like being in your living room.
I, too sat in the jump seat of this great airplane a number of times on Fam trips. The window was HUGE! I also remember the airplane almost landing itself going into ATL. The aircraft intercepted the glide slope and descended on its own and the pilot kept his hands off the controls until the rotation just before touchdown.
My father-in-law was a pilot for Eastern at the time and sat in the right seat of the L-1011, though his favorite A/C was the B-727
This story brought up many thoughts and feelings both wonderful well as sad.
I was a coordinator on Delta Airlines when the L 1011 first came out. Hawaii, Germany we’re two of my routes. My first trip to Germany was the day 191 crashed at DFW. August 2, 1985 will always be a day or mourning for te passengers, the gentleman in a car going home to celebrate his birthday as well as the 1011 that crashed that day. Only a flight attendant would mourn an inanimate object such as an aircraft.
I used to fly those for BA some 4 decades ago..
That jump seat was really incredible. It felt like you were really in the air..
Sadly one of our crew members passed away when she was crushed by the elevator in the galley. It was very sad.
What memories it brings seeing these pictures
Absolutely fabulous. I think I want to fly to COO just to walk around that L-1011. I can only imagine how you must have felt just stumbling up it randomly.
I used to fly those a lot in my childhood. ATL-LAX with frequency, and JFK-WAW once in 1998. Such an iconic bird. Seeing it on the beach in Benin just makes the experience all the more interesting.
Awesome! I am glad I got to fly on the L1011s of TWA, ATA, TAP, and Delta. Great airplane except for RB211s. There should have been a version with CF6s. That would have saved airlines from replacing bearings so often.
History repeats itself. Pre-pandemic, passengers wanted to board early so they would have space for carry on baggage. In the days of the L-1011, that happened for the same reason. TWA, Delta, Eastern all did not have overhead space in the center. It was form over function.
Another thing of that era is that the Rolls Royce engines would smoke a lot when starting, scaring some passengers. Still, the L-1011 was the most advanced passenger jet until the early to mid 1980’s.
As for that L-1011, it’s rare to see any but that one one is not encased in plexiglass like museums. Unfortunately, it’s not protected by the elements and not cleaned inside.
Some L-1011’s had a tray in the overhead bins so it had two levels. Or you could swing the tray against the side wall for bigger bags.
The magazine rack (rectangular bins pictured) was another reason to board as soon as possible though many people did return magazines when they were finished reading them. Occasionally, people would add their own to the rack but probably not Playboy, because those were typically hidden behind the drawers in hotels.
I flew the L-1011 in 1985 with my students, from J.F.K., New York to Paris!!
It was quite the beautiful, quiet, and marvelous flying machine!!
The rear section of coach/economy class was a real “cattlecar`, however!
The seat configuration was 3-5-3 ( a whopping 11 seats accross!) And if you
we’re unlucky enough to be seated in the middle section, middle seat,
that meant that there were 2 other passengers on either side of you,
And forget about finding your way out to an aisle and the toilet!!!
Perhaps that section was located where the totally vacant section is in
Thank You for sharing your “tour”!!!
Jack Ingalzo, Pine Grove, Pennsylvania
Imagine if Lockheed remained in commercial aviation and improved the L1011 technology over time (or for that matter McDonnell Douglas’ MD-11 which was planned to become a double decker). It’s unfortunate for those interested in civil aviation that the growing military budgets over time almost completely crowded out civilian aircraft production, such that we only have 2 major large civilian aircraft producers left in the world (maybe 2.5 if you count Embraer).
Both the L-1011 and DC-10 chased the same market though there was some initial consideration for a L-1011 to be twin engined, slightly smaller, and with a shorter range. If so, it might have killed the A300 before the other plane started but would have probably had low sales initially.
Great photos. I flew on the L1011 on Delta a few times. It was always good.
That plane from the road is not a DC-3. It may be a YS-11 but I’m not sure. But it’s definitely not a DC-3.
Good work!! Looks like a great trip.
Don’t think it’s a YS-11 as it appears to have four engines (the YS-11 only had two engines). I think a DC-4 or DC-6.
oh you’re right. A DC-4 or DC-6 most likely.
Actually it’s a Hawker Siddeley HS 748, formerly of the Benin Air Force. It does only have two engines, or more accurately did it appears which is a shame.
I flew on Pan Am a few times with these. I think they got them when they bought National.
Pan Am ordered the L-1011-500 model directly from Lockheed. They acquired their DC-10 fleet from National. Pan Am’s L-1011s went to United when they sold the Pacific routes. United operated them for a brief period of time.
Thanks, Ryan. Appreciate the update.
Pan Am bought their L1011’s new from Lockheed. Pan Am got DC-10’s from their merger with National which were eventually phased out of their fleet.
Flew multi-thousands of hours on the 1011 as a purser for TWA. Your photos brought back many memories. The “trolley” you referred to was one of two lifts to the lower lobe galley. Initially, that was a full-time working position. The person working there never came upstairs (except for take-off and landing). The main deck service centers were bolted to the floor but not attached to the ceiling. In turbulence and the occasional hard landing, they visibly “flexed” back and forth. In the early years-1973-onward, Lockheed engineers frequently rode our flights out of LAX “checking things out”. One told me the flexing was normal. Main cabin doors-electrically powered– popped inward about six inches, then rode on tracks up into the ceiling. When asked how that would work if the tracks were bent or broken in a crash landing, one engineer said the “springs” designed to open doors in an emergency were so powerful that they would literally shoot the door through the skin of the fuselage. Never had to find out for sure. 1011-11019-formerly TWA-sits at KMKC. It was ferried there years ago as part of the Airline History Museum. Intended to be “on display” it was never opened to the public. The engines were sold back I was told to held pay for the fuel for the ferry flight from Arizona. It was indeed generations ahead of the DC10 and 747.
I also was a Flight Service Manager (purser) logging many hours on the TWA L-1011. I even made a commercial for TWA’s L-1011 in the early years of service. I am still flying and it will always be my favorite aircraft. I also own 2 first class seats which are in my family room.
Was my favorite jet to fly TATL many decades ago in TWA. Thanks for the post and bringing back good memories!!
One of the writers on http://www.airlinereporter.com wrote up an article on this plane last year, I believe. Forgot if he set out to see it or stumbled upon like you did.
Cool find. What was the temperature like that day? Would imagine touring that plane would be an unpleasant endeavor on a hot sunny Summer day.
I have very fond memories of this plane, on hundreds of regional flights around Asia; mostly to/from Kai Tak on Cathay, in what were the golden years of the airline.
Very cool Matthew – I wish I had been able to fly the L-1011. And thanks to the readers for sharing stories above.
Oh to plug in an APU and watch those analog instruments wake -up. I would bet most of them would come alive. 1011 was the most advanced analog aircraft ever designed. Best auto flight system. 3 IRU’s Oh the memories! An expensive wing spar AD killed them. Thanks for sharing. I had friends who flew this at Rich.
Air Rum was one of the dodgiest in a long line of dodgy carriers registered in West Africa. It was one of the first few airlines added to the EU blacklist when it first came out in the mid-2000s.
The best Air Rum story was the 2005 diversion in Peru, where they faked an emergency so that a bunch of Gambian football fans could attend a FIFA Under-17 World Cup game there. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction!
Any idea how this L-1011 reached the beach in Cotonou, Benin
Could be one of the many times white Republican males tried to bring/force democracy in other parts of the world while suppressing it at home.
@debit – It was abandoned at Cotonou in the late 2000s and then towed from the airport to the beach with the abortive plan of converting it into a restaurant.
Like Obama with the Arab Spring?
I hated this aircraft
Is anyone else impressed by just how nice the interior, particularly the flight deck is? Going from the exterior, I expected it to either be ripped out or showing significant decay. Looks like a great detour!
Are my eyes deceiving me? That looks like 3-4-2 seating.
The initial seating was 2-4-2 with a “mini’ garment bag hanger down the middle of the fuselage. That didn’t last long. TWA’s final configuration was 2-5-2 to minimize the middle seats. Yes, the overhead bins were useless. Doors 1R, 2R and 2L housed large carry-on luggage racks to take the carry-on’s. F/C offered swivel seats in the center section which, when swiveled, permitted a “dining table” insert. This created a “table for four”. Flight attendants hated it. Prone to collapsing in the middle of the multi-course meal service.
Brings back so many memories of flying in the 80’s and 90’s on Delta. The 500 series was a cool shorter version that they used back and forth to Europe that I was often on. Back when they flew the IAD-FRA route daily.
My first ever flight to Europe at 18 years old, a backpacking trip for the summer, I flew the L1011 from Atlanta to Shannon. I can still picture myself on that plane and the excitement. I never slept a wink.
It was a great bird. So sleek, and was much prettier to me compared to the DC10, which seemed more muscular and industrial.
Add to it an incredible safety record. It was truly one of a kind.
Great post, Matthew. Ranks in my top 10 reviews you ever did.
I too flew on these for TWA from 1977 till they retired them. They initially were a incredibly well thought out plane ( cabin wise ) until management took out the numerous galleys and carry on luggage racks and garment bag electric lifts and added a 5th seat in the middle. It was way ahead of it’s time in Cat 3 landing ability. Able to land in zero visibility especially in London when every other airplane had to divert elsewhere. One of the greatest planes ever made , besides the 747. Loved the L1011
This brought back many memories. As a kid playing in the cockpit and riding the scary lifts. They were even scarier after hearing of the ghost stories of flight 401. Taking many flights on the L1011 between FLL and ATL and of course routes flown with this aircraft. Boy I sure do miss those Royal Service flights between ATL and DFW and definitely those Medallion Service flights between ATL and LAX/SFO. Sadly, I never got to fly the European routes or the ATL nonstop to HNL on this bird. This was way back when flying was fun and cool. The most awesome thing is that this bird flew with an incredible angle of attack in level flight which gave the flight attendants one hell of a workout pushing the carts up the aisle and holding on to them going down the aisle. If it wasn’t for my Dad I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career. Thanks Matthew for reminding me of some good times I experienced growing up.
How hot was it inside the airplane? I reckon it nust be sweltering there inside the TriStar!
Compared to DC 10, the way the third engine blended into the tail is much more elegant. However, from design and manufacturing point of view, this must be a more costlier route, compared to DC 10’s third engine which looks like it was simply put on with no integration into the fuselage. The blended design must be more aerodynamic, but could it be less efficient because the intake air had to make two bends to reach the engine? Also, will it be harder to maintain because it’s buried in the fuselage so it’s less accessible? For one thing, how do you inspect the front of this third engine without using some kind of mirror or scope? Additionally, will this make it more noisy compared to DC 10’s which was totally outside of fuselage? Granted the engine was at the rear.
Flights on AC (L10 & L15), UL (L10), BW (L15) and CX (L10). Always loved this aircraft which I felt much safer in than the D10. Lucky you.
That is really cool. I was lucky enough to fly the Tri-Star once on DL. Summer of 1997 from ATL-SJU. My dad hated flying but was obsessed with the L-1011 for some reason, so he was unusually excited to be flying that day.
As a male FA in 1979 and early 1980s this was my favorite aircraft to work. The galley was the best place as you literally ran your own show down there. Those were the wild and crazy days of flying. If you wanted a quick nip…you just left the elevator doors ajar which prevented the use of the elevators. If you were dating one of the stewardesses on the fight…certain things did happen in that galley. Occasionally on night flights while prowling the cabin after service was completed a female pax wanted to see the aircraft…the down galley was the best place to join the mile high club!
Matthew looking like Sonny Crockett. Five o’clock shadow suits you.
The DC3 Looks more like a HS748 OR a Convair 240.
Great pictures, Matthew! That plane on display by the road is not a DC-3. It’s a Hawker Siddeley HS-748 Series 2A, registration TY-22A, that belongs (or belonged) to the government of Benin. I got curious and just had to track it down online, you know. Lol. Check it out: http://www.aviationcorner.net/show_photo_en.asp?id=230587
I saw this, on a Facebook post (https://fr-fr.facebook.com/AirlinerExperience/posts/500238050124751) about how this L-1011 ended up on this beach:
Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, 9L-LFB recently seen parked at it’s final resting place, the beach of Cotonou, Benin, West Africa.
It is unclear why the aircraft never left Cotonou Airport (maintenance, administrative/financial issues), but after some 6 years there the TriStar was bought by a Beninese businessman who arranged for it to be moved to a beach location some 400 meters from where it was stored at the airport. He has plans to open an aircraft restaurant.
The TriStar first entered service in 1978 with All Nippon Airways as JA8522 and then it passed to Rich International Airlines in 1996 as N309GB. Kampuchea Airlines of Cambodia acquired the aircraft in 2001 as XU-100 before ending up with it’s last operator, Sierra Leone airline, Air Rum who had up to five Tristar’s in their fleet between 2003 and 2006.
The name ‘Barakah’ on the nose of the TriStar is a reference to a spiritual presence in Islamic mysticism. Powered by 3 x Rolls Royce RB211-22B engines, this old workhorse completed 37,779 flying hours and over 24,161 landings.
The address of the Facebook post is: fr-fr.facebook.com/AirlinerExperience/posts/500238050124751
I absolutely loved flying the Tri-Star! Big and roomy (avoid the back), lots of luggage space, quiet, it was a treat on those longer flights. This was one of my favorite planes to fly on!
I believe that is an HS 748 and not a DC-3. I have great memories of my TriStar flights with CX and TW.
The aircraft had a long and varied operational history. It started in Japan with All Nippon Airlines (ANA) as JA8522. ANA operated it for 18 years before it was sold to US-based Rich International Airways in 1996, tail number N309GB. In 2001 the TriStar was moved to southeast Asia where it operated for Kampuchea Airlines of Cambodia as XU-100. Kampuchea Airlines was partly owned by Orient Thai who also operated the aircraft. The TriStar was finally purchased by Air Rum in 2004, who named it “Barakah.” Air Rum collapsed in 2008 and left its fleet of six TriStars at various airports, including this one in Cotonou where it had been conducting hajj charters for a Cameroonian company.
“Barakah” sat in a corner of Cotonou airport until 2015 when a local businessman bought it and towed it 400 meters across the road to the beach. The plan is to make the aircraft into a restaurant, a similar fate to other preserved aircraft around the world. Four years later, there hasn’t been much progress on the project apart from the removal of the engines and the whitewashing of the fuselage. There was decay in the cabin as the doors were left open, exposing everything to the rain and sea air.
I am from Benin, but living in USA. It just remember a sad memories. This plane crashed after takeoff from Benin airport near this same beach on 25 December 2003 because of overweight. It skidded into a building on front the beach before exploding into the sea. They’re 140 passengers but Only 15 people were rescued. Most of the people are Lebanese. They put it there for memories.The plane has been transformed to a bar.
Clive Raymond should write a book on his various adventures.
Hi Matt. I was a Captain for Rich International Airways and I have flown that aircraft. Thanks for sharing your experience.