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Aviacion Cubana

The Cuban Army Air Force (FAEC) and Batista (1952-1955)


Ruben Urribarres





  Batista´s changes in the aviation. The FAEC


The March 10, of 1952, the then senator General Fulgencio Batista and Zaldívar, made a coup d'etat to the president Dr. Carlos Prío Socarras.  When Prio spoke about sending troops to fight to Korea the Army officials promoted previously by Batista; Diaz Tamayo and Ugalde Cart, began seditious campaigns against Prio inside the armed forces. Batista also took advantage of the discontent by the governments corruption and he struck before the elections, where the ortodoxos would be able to gain.

On the 23rd of April of the same year officially the name of the Cuban Army Air Corps was changed to Fuerza Aerea Ejercito de Cuba (FAEC) or Cuban Army Air Force. For the first time since Captain Mario Torres Menier in 1933, has a pilot as chief of the Air Force, Colonel Carlos Pascual Pinard, his command was very short lived because he died of a painful kidney deceased.
Batista y su tropa
The troop praises Batista after her coup d'etat

After his death Carlos Tabernilla Palmero was promoted to Chief of the Air Force with the rank of Colonel and later Brigadier General. Carlos Tabernilla was son of the General Francisco Tabernilla Dolz, Chief of the Cuban Army General Staff and Batista´s man.

His another son Silito was the leader of the combat tanks, in the base of Columbia and Marcelo was the Leader of the Bomber Squadron. In this way Batista intended to control the aviation. 



  Mutual Defence Programm with the United States


Immediately the Mutual Defense Air Program (MDAP) began to take effect, new equipment began to arrive and the cuban pilots, after receiving basic military training at Managua Army Military School in the province of Havana and spending some time training at Military Aviation School at Camp Brihuegas, also known as Campo Columbia, were sent to the United States, in order to receive the pilot courses offered, flying the must modern equipment of the time, the PA-18, the North American AT-6, and later the B-25 or the T-33 for fighter pilots before flying the F-84. Later groups flew the Beechcraft Mentor T-34, the North American T-28 Trojan before proceeding to the B-25 or the T-33. Some of the student pilots flew the T-37 a Beechcraft jet known as the Tweedy Bird. Some of the Cuban pilots flew the F-86 while on advance training during 1955. All the cuban pilots received the best and the must up to date instruction in instrument flying, formation flying and all the related subjects received by the USAF student pilots. 
 
Bell-47
 Bell-47 similar to them bought under the Aid Program in 1956, see down (Picture courtesy of  Phillip Treweek)

  Promotion of the Aviation School under the new programs


1952 Aviation School Promotion
Eulalio Beruvides y Ballestéros, Miguel Carro Suarez, Roberto Lam Rodríguez, Martell Monzón, Juan V. Reinoso, Eduardo Rodriguez, Leonardo Seda Reyes.

1953 Aviation School Promotion
Mario Alvarez Cortina,  Mario Bermúdez Esquivel,  Alfredo Caballero González,  Carlos Gómez Acosta,  Florencio L. González Rojas,  Antonio Hernández Martínez,  Martín Klein Schiller,  Jorge Morales,  Manuel Navarro Macho,  Hector Ors Pina,  Félix Sánchez,  Antonio Soto Vázquez.

1954 Aviation School Promotion in United States (first promotion here) 
Blas Balboa Auty, Bernardo Rodriguez Sardiñas, Virgilio García Cuéllar, Ricardo Rodriguez de Castro, José Laffite Franco, Alvaro Prendes Quintana, Roberto Fiad Cura, Gustavo Somoano Alvarez, Héctor González Fernández,  Enrique Zignago Perez, Israel E. Beruvides, Félix M. Monzón.

In 1953 are send to the Roosevelt Base in Puerto Rico, the Colonel Matamoros and the Lt. Travieso to receive machine gun shot, rockets and bombing training. In the first days of November of 1954 are transferred to Gary AFB in San Frameworks, Texas the Capt. Rafael Lima and the Lt. Jorge González Barreras to receive the helicopters pilots course. In June of 1955 are send to United States to the base Moody in Georgia Alvaro Prendes Quintana,, Ricardo Rodríguez de Castro and Virgilio García Cuéllar, to pass course of flight by instruments. 

1955 Aviation School Promotion
Ángel Alvarez Castillo,  Pedro Bacallao Fonte,  Juan Bermúdez Esquivel,  Luis D. Buria Acosta,  Francisco Chappi Yanes,  José Crespo Grasso,  Luis de Vale Rojas,  Guillermo Estévez de Arcos,  Rafael Fajardo Morejon,  Rafael García Iñiguez,  Jorge Intriago Telledo,  Orlando Izquierdo Ramírez,  Oscar Más Machado,  Justo Morón Ruiz,  Pablo Ors Pina,  Roberto Pérez-Valdes Montiel,  Osvaldo Piedra Negueruelas,  Luis Soto Camacho.

  New equipment


For the feasts of the 50° anniversary of the Republic of Cuba (20 of May of 1952), the headquarters of the FAEC wants to have new equipment. They kept in mind the degradation and loss of the equipment received by the program of aid ARP in 1947, and the equipment confiscated to the Caribbean Legion that same year. 
 
F-47D-30 of FAEC
 The new FAEC F-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt (Picture from the book of Dan Hagedorn "Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The Final Chapter. Latin American Air Forces Services")

Cuba received until the middle of 1952 the following equipment, some purchased and others obtained through the Mutual Aid Plan

F-47D-35RA Thunderbolt FAEC 452 in Columbia Camp, june 1953
 Republic F-47D-35RA FAEC N°452 of Columbia Camp, June of 1953.  So far at is known, this was the only FAEC F-47 to have two color (red-yellow) cowling.  Others being painted entirely blue, white, red, green or yellow.  Sign "FAEC" appeared lunder the port wing and on the upper wing panel (Picture and note from the cited Dan Hagedorn´s book)

  The Sound barrier and others events


In February of 1953 visit Cuba an Squadron of British jet bombers Canberra, in promotion flights. Two years later, in February of 1954, visit Cuba the famous american acrobatic team "Thunderbirds" with its F-84G.  The demonstration opened a F-86 Sabre that broke the barrier of the sound in dive. This it is the first time that occurs in Cuba. During the summer of 1955, while flying an AT-6 over the town of Bejucal on the Havana Province, Lt Florencio L Rojas Gonzalez, suffered a deadly accident after trying a "Split S" at low altitude, on the day of his wedding. Lt Rojas was the youngest one of an aviator's family and the second member of the family to die while piloting an aircraft. 

  The F-47D Thunderbolts. Activities and accidents


The FAEC buys the F-47 by the RMSA program and in May of 1952 the first begin to arrive. By December 1953 the Squadron was still fully up-to-strenght. The FAEC used a unique method of calculating utilization at this time - throught measurement of air miles flown. The first three years of service these figures are:
1952      390
1953   2,265
1954 13,260
 
F-47D to Chile crashed in Havana F-47D-40 destined to Chile that crashed in Columbia, Havana, following lost of power on take off.  Their pilot, the 1LT  Bill Morris suffered only light injuries and the remainders of the airplane were delivered to the FAEC for to be used like training (Picture and note from the cited book of  Dan Hagedorn.)

For that date the Cuban pilot averaged betwen 150-200 hours of flight in the F-47. Anxious to show off their new mounts and competence, the FAEC sends from Havana to San Juan of Puerto Rico two F-47 on July 15, 1953. They visit the Sqn.PRNG of F-47N in Isla Grande. They were accompanied by the C-46 CU-C434. They returned on August 4 via Guantánamo naval base. This dramatic increment of the activity of the olds and eroded F-47 provokes a series of accidents. The F-47 in Latin America in general sufered habitually by the tropical climate, which also provoked (among others things) losses of power and fires by the zone of the pipes.



-Parts of this article are based on the work "History of the Cuban Military Aviation", of the Captains Manuel Iglesias Ramirez and Esteban L. Bovo Caras (that use as one of its sources the Dan Hagedorn´s book "Central American &Caribbean Air Forces"), and the Dan Hagedorn book "Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The Final Chapter. Latin American Air Forces Services".

  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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