By the early 1960s, the world's airports were being overrun
(sometimes literally) by the first generation of jets. Noticeably absent from the jet race was Lockheed. While Boeing, Douglas
and virtually all other aircraft makers were busy making jets, Lockheed had bet on a turboprop - the first such aircraft built
in the U.S. But the L188 Electra had deadly design flaws and cancelled orders led to its demise in 1961.
By the mid-60s, the aircraft business was booming and the airlines came calling for a wide-body jet that
could carry far more than the 100-150 that the current crop of jets could, Lockheed responded with the L-1011 TriStar. As
with the Lockheed Constellation a generation before, it was loved by pilots and featured many technical innovations. Unfortunately,
circumstances beyond Lockheed's control would doom the excellent aircraft.
Lockheed was not the only one to
build a widebody. In fact, Boeing made the biggest one of all in the 747, though it was so big that it was really in a different
class. Douglas - which had reluctantly merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 after the former had faced financial difficulties
- designed the DC-10 to meet the airliner's range and load goals. Likewise, the newly formed Airbus was hard at work on its
first aircraft, the widebody A300.
One of the most important decisions an aircraft maker must make
is who will provide the engines? Unfortunately, Lockheed chose an unproven design from cash-strapped Rolls Royce. As the years
went by, it became clear Rolls Royce would be declared insolvent before it would get the troublesome engine finished.