SPANTAX SA Transportes Aereos

 

FLEET DEVELOPMENT

Spantax has operated many aircraft in its history. The fleet list in the appendices will show the over 100 aircraft that Spantax operated. This chapter will detail the development of the fleet and will attempt to explain why Spantax operated the types it did operate. It will also outline aircraft that Spantax considered acquiring, but did not for various reasons. This chapter will not analyse the air taxi types that Spantax initially operated.

 

 

Airbus A300

Never operated by Spantax

In the late 1970s, prior to the acquisition of the DC10, Spantax was looking at various wide-bodied aircraft available. The A300 fitted their needs perfectly, with one problem. The model of the A300 available at that time was unable to fly non-stop from Scandinavia to the Canary Islands. This was a prerequisite for Spantax at the time.

 

Boeing 737-200

Operated from 1983-1988

This was acquired at the time that Spantax was starting to feel the effects of the fuel crises. The CV990 was a very thirsty aircraft. In addition it was very old and Spantax were the only operator of the CV990. The decision was taken to obtain a fleet of Boeing 737s for their better economics. Initially two were obtained from Hapag Lloyd via GPA. Spantax had been considering acquiring models of the Boeing 737 since the late 1970s.

 

Boeing 767-200

Never operated by Spantax

This aircraft was never operated by Spantax. In 1988, discussions were taking place with China Airlines to acquire two Boeing 767s to replace the DC8s and the DC10s. However Spantax collapsed before the aircraft were introduced.

 

Concorde

This was never operated by Spantax

In an effort to continue being the market leaders, Spantax looked at further ways of differentiating themselves. They looked into the feasibility of operating a Concorde on Scandinavia to the Canary Islands.  The plan was to fly supersonic from Scandinavia around the UK and Ireland and then south to the Canary Islands. Spantax planned to lease Concorde time from one of the existing operators. However the studies showed that it needed an extra thirty passengers to make the project viable.

 

Convair CV990A Coronado

Operated from 1967-1987

The Convair CV990A Coronado was a financial failure for its builders. There were only 37 of these aircraft built. Convair lost an estimated $450million on the joint CV880 and CV990 project. Spantax acquired 14 of them to become the second largest operator of them in the world after American Airlines. At any one stage Spantax never operated any more than 12 at the one time. Spantax also operated them for longer than any other airline in the world. Rodolfo Bay was very pleased to be operating them and called them the “Maserati of the Air”. He was known as the King of the Coronado.

They were introduced in February 1967 when Spantax purchased two from American Airlines. Spantax initially operated them with 139 seats. Later on Spantax developed a new galley for the aircraft which enabled them to increase seating capacity to 149. Apparently the aircraft was more comfortable than most other charter airlines’ aircraft, even though it was at its maximum capacity.

 

Prior to the fuel price increases in the 1970s, Spantax used the speed of the CV990 as a selling point. It was the fastest subsonic aircraft flying at a maximum speed of 615mph (or 990 feet per second). It also could fly from shorter runways than comparable jets. Thus Spantax could operate non-stop from many airports in Northern Scandinavia to the Canary Islands, which was another selling point used by Spantax.

 

In order to reduce the fuel burn Spantax pilots were instructed to slow down. Also there were modifications made by Spantax to the combustion chambers of the engines in order to reduce the smoke trails. This also had the effect of reducing fuel burn.

 

Spare parts were becoming difficult to acquire, so by the beginning of the 1980s, Spantax was forced to start withdrawing the aircraft from service and cannibalise aircraft for spare parts. EC-BJC and EC-BJD were two aircraft that were used to keep the others flying.

 

The last CV990, EC-BZO was withdrawn from service in September 1987.

 

De Havilland Twin Otter

Operated from 1969-1981

This aircraft was delivered factory fresh to Spantax and was used on flights from    Malaga to the Spanish enclave of Melilla in North Africa. The flights were operated under contract to Iberia.

 

De Havilland Dash 7

Operated from 1978-1981

In order to upgrade the Malaga-Melilla shuttle Spantax upgraded the service from the Twin Otter to the Dash 7. This provided a much higher capacity on the route. Spantax was the first airline in Europe to operate the Dash 7. However Iberia awarded the contract for the shuttle to Aviaco in 1981, so Spantax had no use for the Dash 7 and it was sold.

 

Douglas DC3

Operated from 1960-1976

This aircraft was purchased for its renowned ruggedness. The initial air taxi types were having difficulties with the environment of the deserts. By this stage Aero Taxis de Espana were operating oil prospecting flights from the Canary Islands to the Spanish Sahara. The type was also used to open up charter flights within Spain. In latter years they operated the DC3s in cargo mode

 

Douglas DC4

Operated from 1963-1973

When the decision was taken to move into the Inclusive Tour Charter business and to operate flights to the rest of Europe, it was realised that bigger aircraft were needed. A number of DC4s were purchased from Iberia for this expansion.

 

Douglas DC6

Operated from 1965-1979

Unlike the DC4, they were pressurised, like the DC7s which Spantax already operated. They were also operated in a cargo configuration. In fact EC-BBK was converted to a swing-tail aircraft by Sabena Technics. The aircraft completed a tour for Ford Tractors in 1967. The DC6 was still in passenger service on Spantax routes to Africa in the late 1970s.

 

Douglas DC7

Operated from 1963-1978

These were operated by Spantax in both cargo and passenger configuration. They improved passenger service as the aircraft were pressurised, like the DC6. They were larger than the DC6 and had a longer range than the DC6 as well. They were withdrawn by 1977 but remained in use as back-up aircraft for a while. Two former Spantax aircraft are still existent today on the island of Gran Canaria. One of them (EC-BSP) is parked on the apron in Las Palmas airport wearing AENA titles. The other one is at El Berriel airfield near Bahia Feliz.

 

Douglas DC8-61

Operated from 1973-1988

In the early 1970s, Spantax was in an expansion mode, but could not find any more CV990s on the market at the time. At the same time American Airlines had taken over TransCaribbean and was disposing of their DC8s. Spantax bought them. The DC8s were also used to fly the newly opened up transatlantic routes. The DC8s were fitted with 253 seats and were the largest aircraft in the Spantax fleet at the time. They were also the most utilised aircraft in the fleet, averaging 2700hours per annum each.

 

Douglas DC8-71

This conversion was ordered by Spantax but never taken up

Cammacorp offered airlines the opportunity of replacing the noisy, inefficient JT3C engines on the DC8-61 with quieter more fuel efficient CFM56 engines. These engines are fitted on all Boeing 737 versions (except the 737-100 and 200) and on a lot of the Airbus A320 family. This upgrade was ordered by Spantax for their DC8s and was guaranteed to save fuel costs and increase the range of the DC8. However various sources state that this order was cancelled due to the financial situation of Spantax.

 

Douglas DC9-10

Operated from 1974-1983

The DC9s were initially acquired to replace the piston engine aircraft (DC6 and DC7) on flights between Palma and the UK, France, Holland, Germany and Switzerland. They would also supplement the CV990s on these services and would open up new routes that were uneconomical for the larger CV990 to operate.

 

Douglas DC9-30

Operated from 1982-1983

These were operated as a stop-gap measure prior to the delivery of the Boeing 737-200s and were phased out after the 737s introduction.

 

Douglas DC9-50

Never operated by Spantax

Spantax had ordered two of these in 1975 however the order was later cancelled. Depending on the source that is used, the reason for this is either Spantax was unable to raise the finance or the DC9-50 could not fly non-stop between Scandinavia and the Canary Islands. Bearing in mind that Spantax was able to raise $46million to purchase the DC10, it would appear that the latter was the reason that the aircraft were never delivered.

 

Douglas DC10

Operated from 1978-1988

Spantax shelled out $46million for their first DC10 in 1978.  When the aircraft was introduced, Spantax received assistance from United Airlines. Two United engineers worked with Spantax for 14 months to help ease the integration of the DC10 into the Spantax fleet. Within a year they announced their intention to order a DC10 for delivery in 1982. This aircraft was never delivered. The DC10 was chosen as it best fitted their needs for both short haul and long haul flights. The first DC10 crashed in Malaga and was replaced by another example. At the time of the collapse the airline operated 2 DC10-10 versions. The DC10-10 is a shorter range version than the DC10-30 which Spantax had operated up until 1987.

 

Fokker F27 Friendship

Operated from 1967-1972

These were seen as a replacement for the DC3 aircraft. They were operated on inter-island flights both within the Canary Islands and within the Balearic Islands. In 1972, the aircraft were leased out to Aviaco who purchased them from Spantax in 1976.

 

Lockheed L1011

Never operated by Spantax

There were reports in some magazines in the mid-1980s that Spantax were intending replacing their DC8 aircraft with Lockheed L1011 Tristars. These plans never came to fruition.

 

Mc Donnell Douglas MD83

Operated from 1987-1988

Aviation Finance Group, on the take over of Spantax, announced that they would renew the fleet. They announced that they would lease six MD83 aircraft. Two of these were delivered and another one was fully painted in Spantax livery pending delivery, but never delivered. These were the first brand new jets operated by Spantax.

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