Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar: Eerie abandoned airliner sits on the floor of the Red Sea

Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar: Eerie abandoned airliner sits on the floor of the Red Sea

(CNN) — Coming across this unexpected shape on the sea floor is enough to take your breath away – so it’s a good job you’ll probably have a thoughtful breath strapped to your back.

The venerable old Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar aircraft, with its three engines, mounted on wings and tail fin, would be a sight to behold in the air or on the ground, let alone deep below the surface of the Red Sea, among the fish and coral.

The derelict jet, sunk in 2019 to create an artificial reef to encourage marine life, has been photographed by American underwater photographer Brett Hoelzer in a series of images that capture the eerie spectacle created by this aquatic airliner.

The three-engine Lockheed Martin Tristar flew for commercial airlines in the 1980s and 90s.

The three-engine Lockheed Martin Tristar flew for commercial airlines in the 1980s and 90s.

Brett Hoelzer/Deep Blue Dive Center

According to Hoelzer, the jet has now become a haven for wreck explorers and underwater photographers.

First registered in the 1980s, it saw service for several airlines including, according to Planespotters.net, Royal Jordanian, Portugal’s TAP Air and Sweden’s Novair, before, after a final stint with Luzair, another Portuguese airline, it was abandoned at the beginning of 2000.century.

After being parked and seemingly forgotten for years at King Hussein International Airport near the shores of the Red Sea, the plane was lowered into Jordan’s Gulf of Aqaba with the aim of encouraging diving tourism and coral growth, according to Jordan News Agency Petra.

Hoelzer says it lies at a depth of 15 to 28 meters (50-92 feet), with the plane’s tail at the deepest end.

– The cockpit is the shallowest part of the wreck and faces the beach at about 13 meters, Hoelzer told CNN Arabic.

Floating in a plane

Divers can explore the cockpit and cabin.

Divers can explore the cockpit and cabin.

Brett Hoelzer/Deep Blue Dive Center

Professional divers can enter the wreck through two doors behind the cockpit.

Inside the fuselage of the Tristar, seats in the middle row have been removed to allow better access for divers, but otherwise the jet is surprisingly well preserved.

“Scuba divers can go on the back to the last two exit doors, which are at a depth of 28 meters,” says Hoelzer. “Or they can exit from the middle doors, which are at a depth of about 20 meters.”

The cockpit, rows of seats on both sides, toilets and galleys are still in place, allowing divers to float around a largely intact commercial airliner, says the photographer.

After three years in the water, the plane’s wings now shelter many soft corals. The fuselage is surrounded by huge sponges populated by a variety of marine life.

“It’s not unusual to find squid feeding near the coral heads,” says Hoelzer. Pufferfish can also be seen.

The real thrill, he says, is the uniqueness of exploring an airliner on the ocean floor.

“This adventure provides a realistic diving experience inside a real commercial aircraft,” says Hoelzer.

His underwater photos have been a hit on Instagram, and some of his followers are now planning their own visits to the Gulf of Aqaba to see the wreck.

However, Hoelzer stresses that this adventure may not be for everyone.

Because of its depth, he says, divers must be fully qualified professionals. He also recommends making early reservations, since visits require a boat.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the photographer’s name. The story has been updated.

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