Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar: Creepy abandoned passenger plane sits at the bottom of the Red Sea

(CNN) – Stumbling across this unexpected shape on the seafloor is enough to take your breath away – so it’s a good job, you’ll probably have a full breath tank strapped to your back.

The venerable old Lockheed Martin L1011 Tristar, with three engines mounted on wings and a tail keel, would be a sight in the air or on the ground, not to mention deep below the surface of the Red Sea, among fish and fish. coral.

The derelict plane, which sank in 2019 to create an artificial reef to encourage marine life, was photographed by American underwater photographer Brett Holzer in a series of images that capture the eerie spectacle the aquatic airliner created.

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

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

Brett Hölzer / Deep Blue Dive Center

According to Helzer, the plane has now become a haven for wreck researchers and underwater photographers.

First registered in the 1980s and operated by several airlines, including, according to Planespotters.net, Royal Jordanian, Portugal’s TAP Air and Sweden’s Novair, before being abandoned after a last stint with Luzair, another Portuguese carrier. in the early 2000s.

After being parked and apparently forgotten for years at King Hussein International Airport off the coast of the Red Sea, the plane was scuttled in Jordan’s Gulf of Aqaba to encourage diving tourism and coral growth.

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

“The cockpit is the smallest part of the wreck, and it faces the shore at a depth of about 13 meters,” Helzer told CNN in Arabic.

Swimming in an airplane

Divers can explore the cockpit and cabin.

Divers can explore the cockpit and cabin.

Brett Hölzer / 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 provide better access for divers, but the aircraft is otherwise remarkably well-preserved.

“Scuba divers can go to the last two exit doors, which are at a depth of 28 meters,” says Hölzer. “Or they can come out of the middle doors, which are about 20 meters deep.”

The cockpit, rows of seats on either side, toilets and kitchen are still in place, allowing divers to swim around the largely intact commercial airliner, according to the photographer.

After three years in the water, the plane’s wings are full of soft corals. The fuselage is surrounded by huge sponges inhabited by a variety of marine life.

“It’s not uncommon for octopuses to feed next to coral heads,” Hölzer says. You can also see puffer fish.

He says the real thrill is the uniqueness of exploring a passenger plane on the seafloor.

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

His underwater photographs were hit on instagramand some of his followers are now planning their own visits to the Gulf of Aqaba to see the wreck.

However, Helzer emphasizes that this adventure may not be for everyone.

Due to its depth, divers must be fully qualified professionals, he said. He also recommends making advance bookings as a boat is required to visit.

Correction: In a previous version of this story, the photographer’s name was misspelled. History updated.