Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cameroon Airlines: Systemwide Network

Although Cameroon Airlines never abandoned its psychadelic-jungle imagery, it apparently had, by 1996, divested in original graphic design, seeming to opt instead to scrawl its network over a readymade map.

Its not clear from this artifact (borrowed from the incredible archives of Timetable Images, specifically the collection of Björn Larsson) what the red lines indicate, as opposed to the green lines, or why some destinations are in red type and others, such as Harare, Libreville Brazzaville, have no demarcation beyond what the atlas already provided. This leaves some details unclear: for instance, while the Douala-Garoua-Jeddah and Douala-Garoua-N'Djamena routes can be made out, it is difficult to determine whether the airline served Point-Noire or Lomé, or if the East African route, from Brazzaville to Nairobi, used Bujumbura, Kigali, Entebbe, Goma, or Kivu as way stations.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cameroon Airlines: Systemwide Network, Summer 1976

One of the earliest and most marked secessions from the Air Afrique consortium was the Republic of Cameroon, which withdrew in 1971 to found its own flag carrier, Cameroon Airlines.

This overbright document, colored and typefaced like a Chinese menu, exemplifies the very singular presence of the airline's quasi-Maoist, neo-hippie branding, from its Star-and-crane logo to its jungle-chic Paris ticket office. from the incredible archives of Timetable Images.

A dense domestic network, was concentrated on the English-speaking southwest and zig-zagged northward to terminate at N'Djamena. Long-range ventures out of Douala reached Marseille, Paris-Orly, Geneva and Rome, likely with B707s-- the pride of fleet B747s, rarely native to tropical Africa, did not arrive until 1982. No international or intercontinental flights out of Yaoundé (Nsimalen International Airport now enjoys service from Air France, Brussels Airlines, and Swissair, at least).

Like many Air Afrique replacements, Cameroon Airlines did not last, and the country is left with fledgling, marginal re-iterations: Camair Co is scheduled to begin flying tomorrow to--where else? Paris. Also here.

This, like several other recent installments, is from the incredible archives of Timetable Images, specifically the collection of Björn Larsson-- reprinted with appreciation.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Air Mauritanie: Systemwide Network, 2002

Continuing with those national carriers which sprang up in the wake of the Air Afrique collapse, here is a combination timetable and route map of Air Mauritanie, the flag carrier of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

This 2002 snapshot shows a dense domestic network, as the vast, unforgiving Mauritanian terrain can most efficiently be transversed by air. This was the original purpose of the airline, which was founded in 1962, about the same time as Air Afrique itself, which was concerned with external destinations.

The Nouakchott-Paris route is a point of pride, and the Nouadhibou-Las Palmas route is interesting, perhaps made viable by fishing and shipping industries. Air Mauritanie also tried to take slices of the more lucrative Dakar-Bamako-Abidjan triangle (the Francophone West Africa equivalent of Dakar-Bamako-Abidjan) with an extension to Cotonou.

Unfortunately, Air Mauritanie, like Air Afrique before it, did not last, folding in 2007. Furthermore, its successor, Mauritanian Airways, also proved unviable, particularly after being black-listed from EU airspace in the Fall of 2010. A third iteration of a national airline, Mauritania Airlines International, is currently operating.

This has been graciously lent to Timetablist from the incredible website Timetable Images;this particular gem is part of the collection of Arthur Na, via Timetable Images founder David Zekria.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Toumaï air Tchad Systemwide Network, March 2005

Continuing to examine West African state carriers in the wake of Air Afrique's demise, this posts credits, with special thanks, the incredible, encyclopedic Timetable Images website for freely lending the above artifact, dated March 2005, from the personal collection of David Zekria.

From its fortress hub at N'Djamena, Toumaï air Tchad runs weekly flights to neighboring capitals as far as Cotonou and Brazzaville, as well as the north Cameroonian town of Garoua. Some sort of cooperative service connects Jeddah and Ouagadougou to the Chadian capital. Domestic destinations include Abéché, Moundou and Sarh. No flagship route to Paris, but as of 2008, the airline had added Libreville, Lomé, Abidjan, Yaounde, and Dubaï. Currently, the status of the airline is difficult to verify, as it is without functioning website.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Air Burkina: Systemwide Network, c.2004

Further post-Air Afrique aviation: with special complements to the website Developpement Felix Mayer is this colorful Carte of Air Burkina's Reseau, which the fantastic site Timetable Images suggest was issued around mid-2004. The airline's pride of system was undoubtedly the Paris route; the Lomé to Cotonou flight must be a short hop. Note that not a single Anglophone destination is served.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Air France: The African Routes, 1977. Detail #1: East Africa & the Indian Ocean

Compared to the Western portion of the continent, where Air France was absent in 1977 and is quite present today, the Eastern half of Africa was much more thickly webbed by Hippodrome jets than it is today.

Air France does not even service Nairobi any more, but it was an important way-station between Europe and the former colonies of the Indian Ocean, with a stretching nonstop from CDG. Similarly, its amazing to see Djibouti as a massive hub, linked in a Cairo-Jeddah-Addis Ababa axis and also linked to the entire Francophone archipelago.

Other Anglophone cities that Air France has since abandoned include Dar Es Salaam and Entebbe (linked to Athens) as well as the Ethiopian capital. Links between Paris, Mauritius and Madagascar remain important today, but the native carriers of the region take a sizable share of the loads on their wide-body jets to Europe. Mahé is no longer an Air France destination, and Bujumbura and Kigali were also dropped, but still served from northwestern Europe by Brussels Airlines.

See previous post for other portion of this route map.

Air France: The African Routes, 1977.

In the wake of Air Afrique Week, it might be most fitting to spend the latter half of the month examining a bit more of those carriers who served West Africa during Air Afrique's existence and in the aftermath of its sad demise.

The first such example is one of the newest additions to the Timetablist collection, an Air France route map from 1977, when Air Afrique was in its prime, and Air France was just beginning to adopt its modern color scheme. Surprisingly, Air France completely defers to the West African carrier in the Gulf of Guinea region, only touching Dakar on the route to Rio de Janeiro. While the former dominions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa are thoroughly serviced, France's colonial heartland is left untouched.

The service table at the bottom details Air France's weekly frequencies to North and East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, and helpfully charts the use of particular aircraft, even if its not entirely clear which Paris airport hosts which flight. The footnotes confirm that Air France relies on Air Afrique, Cameroon Airlines, and UTA for services from Paris to West and Central Africa, and that these airlines, along with Air Djibouti, Air Comores, and Air Madagascar operate intra-African and domestic networks.

The next post details the Eastern portion of the map.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Air Afrique: Worldwide Network, 1999 Television Advert: Detail Still Showing Route Map.

The animated map sequence in this 1999 Air Afrique television commercial gives the viewer only moments to decipher Air Afrique's route network, and its European destinations are never in full view, with Rome discernible here (and is listed in the words moving across the screen) and Paris assumed, but the dot on the Cote D'Azur might be either Nice or Marseille.

Despite this lack of clarity, this still frame shows the classic structure of its home network, with a few qualifiers. It seems that at the turn of the millenium, Accra, Bobo Dioulasso, and Nouadhibou had been dropped, along with Monrovia and Freetown, both sadly embroiled in conflict at the time.

The city along the coast between Libreville and Kinshasa would correspond to the Brazzaville which pops up on screen despite being more the location of Pointe-Noire, which, along with Port-Gentil, is absent from the network.

The eastern extension from N'Djamena to Jeddah is clear, as is the transatlantic flagship from Dakar to JFK at left. Nairobi comes across the screen but there is no clear route to East Africa shown here.

Air Afrique: Worldwide Network, 1999 Television Advert.

This wonderful Air Afrique television advert from 1999 finishes Air Afrique Week on Timetablist. In the sequence, the palm of the boy's hand becomes the African continent, with the entire route network shown as the image zooms out across the globe.

While the cities are not labeled and the map is too cartoonish to accurately determine what city corresponds to each node, the names of major destinations soar across the screen. The route from Dakar to New York can be clearly seen, as well as the incredibly dense network into Metropolitan France, but as with Thursday's post, specific routes and cities are very difficult to conclusively ascertain. Some secondary cities, such as Nouadhibou and Bobo Dioulasso, are not evident.

The next post will cover this route map animation in a bit more detail.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Air Afrique: Route Map Poster c.1962

The penultimate post for Air Afrique Week brings this polychrome poster showing the home ports of the consortium. Little information is available for this print, which was a lot in a New York vintage poster auction in February 2010. While the usual suspects of Air Afrique's destinations from Brazzaville to Bamako, Douala to Dakar, Freetown to Fort-Lamy are evident, this low-resolution preview doesn't reveal many of the details.

It seems that, near the crane-like yellow and blue bird straddling the Nigeria-Cameroon border are some mysterious destinations, and the oval inset map shows a zebra-stripe of trans-Saharan routes by the dozen, including what looks to be some very easterly swings, suggesting something like a Bangui-to-Budapest or Malabo-to-Moscow, which is fantasy.

The auction catalogue gives a date of 1950, but this is more than a decade before Air Afrique was incorporated. Perhaps, given the vintage, this was willful rather than a matter of record.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Air Afrique: Systemwide Timetable, July 1975. Detail # 1: Trans-Saharan Routes

A detail from the previous post, showing the trans-Saharan routes of Air Afrique in summer 1975. Its a bit difficult to determine just which cities are served--does the line from Abidjan to Rome hit Tunis? Is the service from Nouadhibou to Paris via Bordeaux? Which routes stop at Marseille or Nice? Its confusing that cities such as Tripoli, Agades, Lisbon and Algiers are included unnecessarily, making the connections more difficult to ascertain. However, it can be appreciated that the great North Chadian crossroads of Faya-Largeau is also helpfully included for viewers to establish proper orientation. The trans-Atlantic service to New York from Dakar is shown as an arrow at bottom right.

Air Afrique: Systemwide Timetable, July 1975

Timetablist's Air Afrique Week continues: this copiously-detailed but rather low-tech brochure was published in July 1975, showing the entire Air Afrique network at the time, along with lots of other statistics not normally provided to the passenger, such as Finances, Traffic Results, and IATA certification details--perhaps this was for corporate purposes.

Dakar and Abidjan are clearly the main stations, but N'djamena, Cotonou, Lomé, Douala, and Niamey all have direct service across the Sahara to Europe. Possibly Bobo Dioulasso and Ouagadougou have non-stops to the Metropole as well--if the map has a major drawback, it is difficult to judge which routes connect where in many cases, and a great number of cities are included for reference but are not part of the network. The next post details these destinations and the northern portion of the map.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Air Afrique: Honorary Flight Covers, 1962 and 1966

Two tremendous first day covers from La Republique de Cote D'Ivoire for Timetablist's Air Afrique Week Wednesday post. The first is a terrific 1962 envelope, celebrating the launch of the new carrier, with a brief-case bearing Ivoirian businessman, his back to the rising skyline of booming Abidjan, faces a herder at right, a lamb nestled in his hand. Between them is the African continent, zooming with 707-like jets of the era. The stamp is a duplicate image.
The second example from four years hence mimics the first. Celebrating the first flight of the sleek DC-8, which soars across the envelop from the left, towards the double cancellation marks, finished with a stylish deep-green stamp honoring the same event, with silver-grey jets streaming in front of the silver grey skyscrapers of Abidjan's modern skyline.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Air Afrique: Douala-Geneva, November 1969

Tuesday of Timetablist's Air Afrique week: An attractive first flight cover of Air Afrique from Douala to Geneva on 6 November 1969. The sharp but simple graphics of the envelope, with its clever textual boundary dividing the surface in two, is enhanced by the carefully placed special-cancellation mark, and the colorful stamps at right.

Cameroon would be setting up its own flag-carrier, Cameroon Airlines, and therefore withdrawing from the Air Afrique group, barely a year after the issuance of this envelope and the launch of this service. Cameroon's inaugural flights, on 1 November 1971, were almost two years to the day from this celebratory issue (although Cameroon's B747 service to Europe only came later in the 1970s).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Air Afrique: B707 Stamp of the Republic of Benin, c.1975

For Monday of Air Afrique week, here is a classically exotic image from both the golden age of jet travel and Africa's independence era: A broad-winged B707 in on a palm-fringed airfield, as the ground crew awaits deplaning passengers from Marseille, Paris or Geneva.
The pride of the young Benin, which was originally colonial Dahomey. The blacked out labelling on the stamp from Republique du Dahomey to Benin suggests the vintage of this issue to be 1975 or just thereafter.
Also, other than the occasional freighter version, Air Afrique did not employ the B707, utilizing instead the DC-8. Given that this is a non-Afrique aircraft which is not painted in Afrique colors, perhaps this drawing was originally an Air France B707. It can only be guessed that this is a gateway Benin airfield of Cotonou or Porto-Novo.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Air Afrique: West and Central Africa Timetable, mid-1973

After last week's posts on the post-independence carriers of the Republic of Gabon, Timetablist stays in the Gulf of Guinea region, clearing out the back catalogue with a week dedicated to Air Afrique.

The first item is a French language timetable from the early prime of the regional consortium, effective from March to October 1973, showing its weekly intra-African flights (translated into English, rather interestingly, as 'domestic' services). Air Afrique's renown gazelle & globe emblem is shown at top.

Services include certain routes of Royal Air Maroc (code AT) and Air Mauritanie (code MR), although it is noted at the bottom of the table that there is "no traffic rights" --perhaps, Air Afrique is unable to sell seats on the other carrier's routes included, but its not clear why these routes are then offered in the matrix. There are lots of cities excluded as well, key Air Afrique hubs, not least Abidjan but also Cotonou and Lomé.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gabon Airlines: Worldwide Network*, c.2010

After the previous post's historic example from the glory days of Air Gabon, in which that country's current flag carrier was briefly mentioned, it'd be appropriate to provide some more detail on that rather less celebratory successor, Gabon Airlines.

The erstwhile Air Gabon's angular, sharp-eyed, forest-green character has been replaced with a banal abstract assemblage, which is difficult to discern on the tiny B767 above, which spurts a toxic green contrail across the center of the continent as it roars off toward East Asia, away from any of the carrier's true destinations (which are equally difficult to discern, as discussed below). Gabon Airlines' flagship A340 sports no scheme whatsoever.

In comparison to the last post's Air Gabon network from three decades previous, its interesting to note that Metropolitan destinations (Nice, Marseille) and Rome are not shown above, with the most notable additions being Beirut and Dubai. In its home region, a thick array of Gulf of Guinea destinations lacks only Yaoundé and Kinshasa. Most curiously absent from the map is Gabon's second city, Port Gentil.

But this does not mean the airline does not serve it: Wikipedia's article on Gabon Airlines refers back to the carrier's website, which shows a recent schedule listing only Paris CDG, Marseille, Pointe-Noire, Libreville, and Port-Gentil. Its not clear whether these are recent adjustments to a larger systemwide network, or represent the entire extent of the carrier's services. Another section of the website theoretically allows for online purchases of tickets to destinations including Douala, Malabo, and São Tomé, as well as domestics services to Franceville and Moanda. But then this has only a scant relationship to the route map above, with its dozen other cities.

The unpainted A340 occasionally appearing at CDG Aerogare-1 truly represents Gabon Airlines: something of a mystery.