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Aviacion Cubana

The Cuban Civil Aviation in the eighties. Consolidation.

Ruben Urribarres

The eighties went economically the best epoch of the socialist Cuba and their airline, although the political changes of the communist Europe at the end of the decade, plunged the island in an unprecedented crisis.

logo of Aerocaribbean

But before, at December 2, 1982 is created the airline Aerocaribbean, with airplanes of Cubana, for flights of foreign tourists, and for other services in foreign currencies. It uses at the beginning small airplanes, as Cessna-402 and Piper Navajo, but receives of Cubana also various of their airplanes, as the An-24, An-26, Il-14, Il-18, Yak-40, Britannia, DC-3.  Later Aerocaribbean take in leasing a DC-8-43. 

  New equipment

In 1980 were acquired four Tupolev TU-154B-2 (serials CU-T1222, 1224, 1227, 1253, 1256), that intensely fly in regional routes. Then in 1985 are bought also other additional four Tupolev Tu-154M, new, manufactured that same year.  The first one of these airplanes begins to operate February 9, 1986.  Are received besides new Il-62M
Tu-154 in Miami
 Tupolev Tu-154B-2 CU-T1227 of Cubana in the internacional airport of Miami,  Nov 1982 (Courtesy of Don Boyd)

  New routes of the decade

April 8 is inaugurated the route Havana - Madrid (Spain) - Tripoli (Libya) - Bagdad (Iraq), with equipment IL-62, and in November the route Havana - Luanda (Angola), with the same equipment, way Sal Island. 
January 30 begins the route Havana - Santiago de Cuba - Granada, with equipment Antonov An-26. Since this 1981 begin to fly the new Tu-154B2 to Managua, Nicaragua. 

June 29 began the route Havana - Maputo (Mozambique), way Sal Island - Luanda (Angola), with IL-62M. 


 Tupolev Tu-154B-2 CU-T1256 in Varadero, 1997. Cubana receives eight Tu-154 in the eighties (Courtesy of Damiano Gualdoni)

In the month of May begins the route Havana - Varadero (Cuba) - Montreal (Canada), with right of traffic in Varadero (Cuba) and Havana, with Tu-154.  In June of that year began the route Havana - Paramaribo (Suriname), with Tu-154.  December 17, that year began to operate Havana - Brussels (Belgium) with IL-62M. 

In the first months of the year, was inaugurated the route Havana - Ciego de Avila. April 8, begins to fly Havana - Buenos Aires (Argentina), with IL-62M and December 16 began to operate Havana - Zurich (Germany), also with IL-62M. 

May 5,  is inaugurated the route Havana - Moscow (Russia), with IL-62M and April 27 begins to fly Havana - Bissau (Guinea Bissau), way Sal Island.  Stop operating to Port of Spain (Trinity and Tobago).  In 1988 began charter operations to Milán (Italy), Colony (Germany) and Vienna (Austria), with IL-62M. 

    Mirages against Iluyshin 

April 9, 1982 at 20.00 o'clock local hour of Brazil, the radares of the Brazilian antiaircraft defense grasp an intruder that flies without permission over the national territory.  At 21.00 o'clock local hours two Mirage-IIIE of the 1° GDA FAB intercept the infractor to identify, and they found an enormous one Ilyushin Il-62 of Cubana, that transported the ambassador from Cuba to Argentina. 
Il-62M of Cubana landing
 A Il-62M of Cubana is intercepted by brasilian Mirage-IIIE during the of the Malvinas Falkland´s conflict, and forced to land

Argentina was then in state of war with Great Britain by the Malvinas and Brazil watched for the neutralidad of its territory.  The center of operations orders to the Il-62 to land, but this ignores it.  Then the center instrye to the Mirage-IIIE to that they be shown the pilot and they show that they are willing to open fire if disobeys.  The Il-62 is seen obliged to land in Brasilia.  By curiosity, this is the first real action in the history of the Brazilian Mirages. 

    Changes in the headquarters 

June 13, 1987 is destitute and imprisoned Luis Orlando Dominguez, President of the Civil Institute of Aviation of Cuba (IACC).  It had committed crimes of corruption.  Before occupying this charge Dominguez was the First Secretary of the Union of Young Communists, and by his political importance, Fidel Castro he explained his dismissal in a special speech at the Cuban television in June 20.  In the same one transmisión Castro explained also the desertion days before of the the General of the Cuban Air Force Rafael del Pino

But here do not finish the changes. The september 4, 1989 a Il-62M of Cubana is crashed after the take-off at Rancho Boyeros, in flight to Rome.  The majority of died were Italian tourists.  This event provokes the decision of changing the direction of the Civil Institute of Aviation of Cuba (IACC).  In the President place is appointed the General of Division Rogelio Acevedo Gonzáles, that until that moment was the Leader of the Political Direction Office of the FAR, and he follows in his functions in the IACC until the day of today.

The nineties. Again the tourist 
 and the western equipment
  New politics

The terrible crisis in Cuba provoked by the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the communist countries of East Europe struck also the civil aviation.  The lack of pieces for Russian equipment and the wear of the airplanes obliges to exploit western built airplanes and to seek new sources of financiación, with the foreign turism as central axis, by first time since 1959.  And with the turismo change the traditional routes of Cubana.  The FAR also create their "filiales" to work with the turismo: Aerogaviota y Aerotaxi.
DC-10 of Cubana take-off from Paris
 DC-10-30 F-ODLY of Cubana-AOM take-off from Paris Orly January 5, 1992.  The DC-10 became the major airplane operated by Cuban in their history (Courtesy of Jean Charle Davot)

      New airplanes 

The fleet consists in 1990 in 14 long range Ilyushin Il-62M, 8 middle range Tupolev Tu-154, 38  turboprops Antonov An-24 and An-26, 8 Yakovlev Yak-40, and 2 old turboprops Ilyushin Il-18 and 3 biplan Antonov An-2.  Cubana uses for heavy loads the Ilyushin Il-76.  In 1990 are acquired four Yak-42.  In 1991 is leaseed a DC-10-30 to the French airline AOM, with capacity of 297 seats, that begins to fly the sept 24.  A second one DC-10 is leaseed in 1993.  In 1994 6 Dutch airplanes Fokker-27 are bought, with the objective of substituting to medium time limit they An-24 and they begin to fly March 24 in national routes and in the Caribe. 
Fokker F27 of Cubana
 Fokker F-27 Friendship adquired by Cubana in 1994. Image of the CU-T1289 in Varadero, 1998 (Courtesy of Damiano Gualdoni)

In 1994 was introduced a new paint scheme for the airplanes.  Was suppressed the strip along the airplane, and the name of Cubana in large letters is put under the line of windows.  In 1998 were incorporated to the fleet 4 French ATR-42-300, 2 for Aerogaviota and 2 for Aerocaribbean, bought by 30 million dollars to France.  These 46 seat airplanes will fly in domestic routes.  At the same time 2 Airbus A-320 of 268 seats were received for international flights, with the corresponding better confort and savings of fuel.  In this 1998 is announced officially that Cuba will substitute all its Soviet built airplanes, by western equipment.  In 1999 are received 3 ATR-72S for Aerogaviota and Aerocaribbean. 
At Dec 31, 1997 lands for first time the famous franco-british airplane Concorde in Cuba.  The flight of Air France London-Paris-Barbados-Havana was received in the airport "José Martí" by Fidel Castro, Rogelio Acevedo, president of the IACC and other personalidaes.  Castro up to the airplane, greeted to the crew and passengers, and examined the machine.

      Dismal find 

The Sept 19, 1999 was discovered the body of a Cuban citizen of 47 years, Roberto García Quinta, in the landing gear boxes of an airplane of Alitalia, that performed a flight of Sharm-the-Sheik (Egypt) to Milán Malpensa (north of Italy), as indicated the Italian police.  García Quinta, identified thanks to the documents that carried, was discovered in the landing gear boxes of an airplane of Eurofly, company charter of Alitalia, that had landed the previous night in Malpensa.  According to the investigators, García had died at least 48 hours before, given the body´s condition.  The victim could have hidden in the gear boxes the past Sept 10, date of the last scale of the airplane in Cuba, according to the calendar of the air company.  The airplane performed later various trips before the body of the victim is discovered.  The Attorney of Bust Arsizio begin an investigation. 

Previously, in August, to the airport of Crowrey, London, had arrived in the landed gear boxes of other airplane the frozen body of  the Cuban Felix Julian García, 28 years.  In the Christmas of 2000, appeared near Gatwick  airport, London airport, the body of two Cuban youth, after they in Havana were introduced in the same boxes of an British Airways airplane.  They were Alberto Esteban Vázquez and Maikel Fonseca, both of 15 years and students of the Military Schools "Camilo Cienfuegos".  The bodies of both fell when the airplane, a Boeing-777, removed the gear. 

  Black week of Cubana

December 21, 1999 has crashed a DC-10-30 when landing in Guatemala with result of 26 dead persons. Four days later, December 25, runs the same luck a Yak-42 in Venezuela.  22 dead persons.  With these two disasters is qualified Cuban as the most worse one of the world in security in 1999 in a study of the Boeing.Co.  More in detail of all these accidents to see in the section Accidents and Terrorism.
DC-10 crashed in Guatemala
 Espectacular fall of the DC-10-30 of Cubana in Guatemala.  By luck the inertia was exhausted before the plane enter the town (Courtesy of Air Disaster)

Previously, July 11, 1997, Cubana suffered the loss of a An-24 that fell to the sea after the take-off from Santiago de Cuba.  44 persons die. 
August 30, 1998 has crashed in Equator a Tu-154 of Cubana, with a total of 81 dead persons.  The airplane tried to take-off several times, but separated of the trail late, and fell on the outskirts of the airport. 

In the image a crane raises the Tu-154, to be carried the remainders to a base of the Ecuadorian AF to investigate. 

Tu-154 crashed
  The American Embargo. "Throwing him to the stars" 

March 6, 2000 in the preparation of the demands from Cuba to the States United by the embargo, are included its effects in the civil aviation.  Is informed that when the legendaries Brittania and Constellation of Cubana de Aviation crossed the Atlantic to Europe, the Cuban pilots navigated until "throwing him to the stars", being guided for the stars to navigate.  Thus it was known in the session of the Provincial Court of Havana City, that made the process named "Demand of the Cuban people to the United States government",  by economic damages. 

Washington ordered to its companies to not sell anything to Cuba.  And it included its air navigation systems, advanced for the epoch.  As result, to obtain its exact position over the ocean, the captains of the Island should draw a triangulación through an opening in the cockpit of the airplane.  The calculation utilized the observation of the polar star, the schedule that had in that moment and the coordinates of the altitud. 

The list of damages by the embargo to the Cuban civil Aviation is extensive.  They ascend, in total, to 1,407 360 288 dollars.  And the lack of access to modern technology throws a balance over the 120 million dollars.  The expenses in time and flammable to travel toward Canada without American territory overflights also they went of enough millions of dollars.  (This measurement finished in 1998). 

The figures grow when it adds the confiscateds goods of Cubana in United States banks. 

To the triumph of the revolution is canceled the permission of landing in Bermudas and Lajes, which obliges Cubana to do more long flights.  The scales had to be done in Madrid, Prague, Terranova and Shannon.  When beginning the flights in Il-62, has to do its scales in Madrid, Barbados and then Havana. 

In the 1966 year the flights to Prague be alternated with the Il-18, that only could transport 65 passengers, while the Britannia carried 110 passengers. 

How declares one of the witnesses, a veteran pilot of Cubana "The Vickers Super VC10 is equal in form to the IL-62, but with greater rangea and less consume, and could be utilized like cargo or for passengers. ...How we said previously, we had airplanes Vickers that we utilize in the Miami route.  When the Miami route was canceled, this airplanes not had utilization.  The airplane dies by hours of flight or by calendar.  Many motors were unrepared and like consequence we stop utilizing some airplanes ..the quantity of pilots that remained in United States was large"

  Reclamation of flights over the United States 

In July of 1996, Cuba presented at the International Aviation Civil Organization (OACI), a demand against the United States for its denying during 15 years to the Cuban airships the utilization of the air runners established over its territory in the itinerary between Cuba and Canada. 

June 17, 1998 was known that United States will permit the overfly of Cubana airplanes, what puts end to the dispute that was going to be seemed that week by the OACI.  Cuba never has denied that commercial airplanes of United States utilize their air space in their trips toward America Latina.

  Related articles
The Trasatlantic Flight of Menendez Pelaez
1913. Audacious Flight of Rosillo and Parlá
1933-1938, Cuban Military Aviation. The 1933 Revolution and her consequences.

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