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Aviacion Cubana

The Cuban Civil Aviation after the Revolution of 1959

Ruben Urribarres

  New Times
The January 1, 1959 triumph the Cuban revolution, and begin a difficult phase for the airline.  Abruptly were cut the supplies of pieces for the airplanes and other equipments, many routes were suspended and great part of the pilots deserted or exiled. 

But the compañia found new forms of exceeding the difficulties.  Cubana it continued functioning, but in other directions and with new equipment. The American embargo and the lack of bonds with America Latina converts to the flights to the Soviet Union and Europe oriental in a vital matter for the country.  That same year of 1959, when Cubana counted on 30 years, the Company receives the special prize of the Interamerican Council of Security by not had accidents since its foundation. 

       The legendaryes Britannia 

In 1959 is received a second Bristol Britannia for the route Havana - New York. In that same year two more Britannia BB-318 are received for the route Havana - Madrid, that they begin June 5, and for the special flights.  With the flights of the Britannia to Spain begins to displace to Iberia of this route. At January 17, 1959 a Britannia of Cubana breaks the record of time in the route Havana - New York, flying 2,370 km in 3 hours 28 min., with a velocity average of 685 km/h.  In March of 1959: The Britannia begin to fly among Havana and New York, doing strong competition to the American companies. 
Bristol BB-318 Britannia of Cubana
 The noble airplanes Bristol Britannia BB-318 of Cubana served irreproachable during decades

Then in February of 1961 an agreement is achieved with the airline Czechoslovak, CSA, to operate the Britannia among Havana and Prague, being this the first route that joined a country of America Latina with the Socialist bloc. The Costellation maintain the service to New York.  The Cubans coach to the Czechs in the Britannia.  In April 28 is inaugurated the line Havana-Prague by Cubana. 

       Cubana, the one airline of the country 

May 25, 1959 the company is intervened and fused with the other aerolíneas Cuban (Aerovías Q, Cuba Aeropostal and Expreso Aéreo Interamericano), losing its private character and becomes a company administered by the Cuban State: the Empresa Consolidada CUBANA de Aviación. June 7, 1961 the company is finally nationalized. 

Ilyushin Il-14 of Aerocaribbean
 Cubana begins to receive Soviet airplanes, as this Ilyushin Il-14.  Photo of the CU-T925 yielded to Aerocaribbean. Varadero, 1997 ( Courtesy of Damiano Gualdoni)

       Confiscated the airplane of Fidel 

September of 1960: The government of the United States embargoed the airplane Vickers Viscount CU-T670 that conducted the Prime Minister Fidel Castro to the city of New York, to attend the XV General Assembly of the United Nations.  The measurement was taken in answer to the nationalizations in Cuba of American companies, as part of the American embargo.  The relations with United States follow getting worse and in 1961 are canceled the routes Havana - Miami and Havana - New York. 

       The Bay of Pigs and Cubana 

April 15, 1961 are bombarded the airport "José Martí" of Rancho Boyeros, the "Antonio Maceo" airport of Santiago de Cuba, and the air base of the FAR in Ciudad Libertad by airplanes of the Brigade 2506, as planed blow of the disembark in Bay of Pigs, produced two days later.  In this airports are destroyed various airplanes of Cubana. Among them, the DC-3 CU-T172 in Santiago of Cuba. 

       The new soviet airplanes 

Il-14 of CubanaThe American embargo and the political changes of Cuba orient the country to the purchase of equipment in the Soviet Union.  Already in October of 1961 begin to be operated the Ilyushin Il-14 in domestic routes. 

December 23, 1962 begin the exploitation of the new four-motor Ilyushin Il-18, cuatrimotores, in routes Havana - City Mexico and Havana - Santiago de Cuba, route that is carried now in 1h.20 min. and with 90-100 passengers.  May 5, 1966 arrive the first Antonov An-24 of a total of 6 acquired.  This same year begin to be used the Antonov An-12 for cargo. 

An interesting chapter was the beginning of the direct flights Soviet Union - Cuba in July of 1962.  These are done with the famous Tupolev Tu-114.

In Sept 1964 is created the Instituto de Aeronáutica Civil de Cuba -IACC (Civil Aeronautic Institute of Cuba) to direct all the job of the branch.  In March of 1966 is produced a depuración of personnel in Cubana. In November of 1966 is opened the new airport "Frank País" of Holguín. 
 The Antonov An-24 since 1966 are the main airplane of Cubana for the short short distance flights

       A Cuban in the Guiness 

June 4, 1969, a Cuban, Socarras Ramirez, fled Cuba being hidden in the landing gear box of a DC-8 of the Spanish company Iberia.  He flew 9,000 kilometers from Havana to Madrid.  This fact registered in the famous book Guinnes of récords, in the chapter dedicated to the aviation, as the secret passenger more corageous.  Socarras said to the doctors that he fled Cuba being hidden in the landing gear box a short time before the plane take-off, and lost the knowledge some 15 minutes later.  It does not remember more nothing.  The doctors say that was almost frozen after the trip to -35° of temperature.  Socarrás went with a friend, that disappeared, possibly fell and died.  In all the other similar cases the polizontes die in the trip.

The seventies. Toward new continents

       New equipment 

In 1976 Cubana leases airplanes DC-8-43 to Air Canada.  This it is one of the rare times in which Cuba employs airplanes of not communist production until the dissolution of the USSR years later.  After the explosion by terrorists of one of these airplanes, all the DC-8 they are returned to Canada (See down). 

In 1970 other two Antonov An-24 airplanes were acquired. A new one Ilyushin Il-62 begins to fly in April of 1972 in the route Havana - Madrid.  February 9, 1978 arrives a second Iyushin Il-62M, of four bought. In August 21, 1979 the fifth Il-62M arrives to Cuba.
Il-62 take-off from Toronto
  The new Ilyushin Il-62 are since the seventy the main ships of Cubana. Here we see the Il-62M CU-T1225 when take off from the airport Toronto- Lester, April 16, 1985 (Courtesy of J ohn Kelley)
Two Yak-40 of Aerogaviota
  Two Yak-40 in Varadero, 1997. These are the CU-T1232 and CU-T1448 of Aerogaviota, that inherited them from Cubana in the nineties (Courtesy of Damiano Gualdoni)

April 11, 1977 arrive the new Yakovlev Yak-40, that begin to operate in May 14, in the Oriental zone and toward Havana.  In the year 1979 arrive other 3 Yak-40. 

   The routes of the decade

June 26 was inaugurated the route Havana - Santiago de Chile, with technical stop in Lima (Peru) with equipment Il-18. April 24, 1972 is utilized for first time the equipment Ilyushin IL-62, in the route Havana - Madrid way Azores, and September 19 is utilized in the route to Prague (Checozlovaquia). 

1973 January 8, the Il-62M begin to fly in the route Havana - Santiago de Chile, with commercial stop in Lima (Peru).  This route to Santiago de Chile is suspended after the coup d'etat of the 11 of setiembre of 1973 and the death of the President Salvador Allende, but the flights follow until Lima (Peru). 

April 3, 1973 is inaugurated the route to Berlin (East Germany), with Il-62M.  In this way East Germany was joins with America by first time with these flights. 
Il-62 of Cubana take-off from Lisboa
 Ilyushin Il-62M CU-T1228 in Lisboa Oct 24,1998 (Courtesy of Bruno Carlos Monte)

October 3 is inaugurated the route Havana - Bridgetown (Barbados) - Port of Spain (Trinity and Tobago) - Georgetown (Islands Caiman), with IL-18.  Also begins the flights to Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinity and Tobago. 

March 29, 1974, Cubana sign a agreement for flights with Malev, of Hungary.  December 18 begins to operate the route Havana - Kingston (Jamaica), with IL-18.  In 1975, July 24, is inaugurated the route Havana - Panama, with Britannia BB-318.

In 1975 The War of Angola provokes the need of routes toward that country and July 29, 1976  is inaugurated the route to Africa with the following itinerary: Havana - Bridgetown (Barbados) - Conakry (Guinea) - Freetown (Saw Leona)- Luanda (Angola), with Britannia BB-318.  In March, begin the operations to Montreal (Canada), with DC-8. 

       Crime over the sea: The DC-8 exploited in Barbados 

October 6, 1976 is perpetrated a terrorist sabotage to the airplane DC-8-43 (ex-CF-DJI, N°45611, built in 1961) of Cubana CUT-1201, in a flight originating in Barbados to Cuba. 73 Persons die (25 tripulantes and 48 passengers) from among them 57 Cubans, included the 24 members of the youthful team of sword sport that they had just to obtain all the golds medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship; 11 Guyana citizens, 6 of them selected to studies medicine in Cuba, and 5 citizens of the Popular Democratic Republic of Korea, all member of cultural delegation.  All, without exception, perished. 
DC-8 of Cubana in Montreal
 DC-8-43 CU-T1210 (ex-CF-TJJ de Air Canada, N°45612) in the airport Dorval International, Montreal, November of 1977.  A DC-8 as this was bombing by terrorists in October of 1976 (Courtesy of  Pierre Langlois)

The ship had just to take off from the international airport of Barbados, when in their interior exploit two bombs.  The airplane rotated to return, but fell to the sea at sight of the beaches near the coast.  The bombs were put for the CORU, organization of Cuban exiliateds related to the CIA. 

Already July 9, that year had exploited a bomb among the luggages to load in an airplane of Cubana in Kingston, Jamaica (by pure coincidence did not exploit in the air) and August 18 exploits a bomb in the office of Cubana in Panama.  Previously March 24, 1974 exploited a bomb in the office of Cubana in Mexico, causing material damages.

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1913. Audacious Flight of Rosillo and Parlá
1933-1938, Cuban Military Aviation. The 1933 Revolution and her consequences.

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