Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar: Strange Abandoned Passenger Plane Lies on Red Sea Floor

(CNN) — Stumbling upon this unexpected shape on the seabed is enough to take your breath away – so it’s a good thing you probably have a tank full of breathers strapped to your back.

The venerable old Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar aircraft, with its three engines, mounted on the wings and tail fin, would be a sight to behold in the air or on the ground, not to mention 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, was photographed by American underwater photographer Brett Hoelzer in a series of images that capture the eerie sight created by this aquatic jetliner.

The Lockheed Martin Tristar trimotor flew for commercial airlines in the 80s and 90s.

Brett Hoelzer/Deep Blue Dive Center

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

First registered in the 1980s and having served for several airlines including, according to Planespotters.net, Royal Jordanian, Portuguese TAP Air and Swedish Novair before, after a final stint with Luzair, another Portuguese carrier, it has was discontinued in the early 2000s.

After being parked and seemingly forgotten for years at King Hussein International Airport near the shores of the Red Sea, the plane was sunk in Jordan’s Gulf of Aqaba in a bid to encourage diving tourism and coral growth, according to the Jordanian news agency Petra.

Hoelzer says it is at a depth of 15 to 28 meters (50 to 92 feet), with the tail of the plane 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 Tristar’s fuselage, the middle row seats have been removed to allow better access for divers, but otherwise the jet is surprisingly well preserved.

“Divers can go aft of the last two exit doors, which are at a depth of 28 meters,” says Hoelzer. “Or they can exit through the middle doors, which are about 20 meters deep.”

The cockpit, rows of seats on both sides, lavatories and galleys are still in place, allowing divers to float around an almost intact commercial airliner, the photographer explains.

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

“It’s not uncommon to find octopuses feeding near coral heads,” says Hoelzer. Puffer fish can also be seen.

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

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

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

However, Hoelzer points out that this adventure might not be for everyone.

Because of its depth, he says, divers will need to be fully qualified professionals. He also recommends booking early, as the tour requires a boat.

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

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