A Quick Visit to Central America

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By Charlie Dolan

After spending several months concentrating on the airlines of the British Isles, I think we need to get some warmth into our bones with a quick visit to Central America. I might regret this decision because with September temperatures in the nineties and “feel like” temperatures in the hundreds here in Florida we might long for the north again.

I have a few insignia from that part of the world in my collection, but one of the carriers with the most extensive route structures and most colorful insignia is TACA. In the 1930s, TACA (Transportes Aereos Centro-Americanos) was founded by Lowell Yerex. It was started as a cargo carrier and eventually operated flights ranging from Miami in the north to Rio de Janeiro in the south. Most of these services were short-haul, but the presence of TACA touched just about all the countries of Central America, As air commerce developed in Central America, competition arose between TACA and carriers affiliated with Juan Trippe’s Pan American World Airways (PAA). TACA was based in El Salvador and maintains its headquarters there today. Over the years, its fortunes waxed and waned as it formed companies such as TACA of Venezuela, TACA Brasil, TACA de Costa Rica, and TACA de Nicaragua. Pan American-backed companies operated in Honduras (SAHSA), Nicaragua (LANICA), and Costa Rica (LACSA). The backing offered by PAA and TACA generally was about forty percent of the local carriers’ budgets. By the late 1940s the larger carriers had withdrawn their backing of the smaller companies.

Panama was served by Aerovias Panama and later Air Panama. Air Panama was backed by Spain’s Iberia and the earlier Aerovias Panama had been aided in operating to the USA by Trans Caribbean Airways.

There were a few independent airlines operating in Central America as well. One of those was Aviateca (Compania Guatamalteca de Aviacion, S.A.) of Guatamala.

I have some photos of one of this company’s Convair 440s taken by my father when he flew from Belize International Airport to Tikal to view the Mayan ruins.  He had been serving as a ship’s medical officer after having retired from private practice in New York.

So, here are some Central American airline insignia to check over. All are in my collection, with the exception of TACA Venezuela and Aerovias Panama. The heraldry of the “parent” companies can be seen in The TACA affiliates’ blue parrot and the Pan American style cap badge seen in companies operating in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and even as far as Afghanistan (Ariana). Hope you enjoy them.

Aerovias Brasil 1942 -1961. TACA partner until1947. Merged with VARIG Empresade Transportes Aereos Brasil S. A.
Air Panama 1968 – 1989. Bankrupt 1990. Operated as Air Panama International.
Aviateca GU GUG 1929 – present. Empresa Guatamalteca de Aviacion S. A.
Lanica NI 1946 – 1981 Lineas Aereas de Nicaragua.
SAHSA SH SHA 1945 – 1994. Servicio Aereo de Honduras, S.A. Merged with TAN Honduras to operate as TAN/ SAHSA
TACA TA TAI 1932 – present (as AVIANCA). Transportes Aereos Centro-Americanos. Operations spanned Miami, FL, USA to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
TACA Venezuela 1944- 1952. Linea Aerea TACA de Venezuela To LAV.

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