Saturday, December 19, 2020

Sabena: New York to Brussels to Paris via Hélicoptère, c.1957


A lesser-remembered chapter of the old Belgian flag-carrier Sabena is the airline's experiment with helicopter services. The handsome poster above is surely from the late 1950s, showing the DC-7 which arrived in 1957 to serve the airline's long-haul routes but was supplanted only three years later in 1960 by the Boeing B707. 

Details of Sabena's unique rotor-craft network is reprinted from the Sabena website


SABENA operated helicopter services from 21 August 1950 when it used Bell 47D aircraft on an experimental postal service between Brussels and extending domestically to cities like Antwerp, Liege and Turnhout. It was begun in co-operation with the Belgian Post Office.

The Bell 47s were replaced with the larger Sikorsky S.55 allowing the service to extend to internationally to Maastricht. This was the world's first international helicopter service.

SABENA intended using helicopters on an international rotary-wing passenger service as a feeder service for it's fixed-wing international/European services. This was started on 1 September 1953 using the Sikorsky S.55 aircraft, which could carry eight passengers.

SABENA flew international services with Sikorsky S.55 SABENA began international passenger services with the Sikorsky S.55

By October 1956 the service had new helicopters, the twelve-seat Sikorsky S.58 and SABENA's fleet of eight S.58 helicopters inauguated the service to Paris in 1957!

Sikorsky S.58 SABENA improved the helicopter services with eight Sikorsky S.58s

By 1960 this international passenger helicopter service from Brussels flew to Rotterdam, Antwerp, Lille, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Liege, Paris, Dortmund, Duisburg, Cologne and Bonn. It served Holland, France, Germany and Luxembourg internationally.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sabena: Mexico City, Montreal, and New York aboard Caravelle Jets, c.1960s

 Flying to Mexico City in another era: here's an old Newspaper advertisement in a shipping circular, in which the Belgian airline Sabena boasts of "the best trips with the Latest Jets, Excellent Service, Luxury & Comfort To Europe" on board both Caravelle Jets and Boeing Jets, with the porpoise-nosed Caravelle shown. The three North American destinations shown: Montreal, New York, and Mexico City, correspond to this artifact posted several years ago, showing the airline's route system from Europe to Africa, the Near East in North America. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Aeromexico: The Monterrey Hub, December 2015

A third map from Aeromexico's inflight magazine, focusing on the airline's secondary hub at the northern economic powerhouse of Monterrey, just south of the Texas border. Long a manufacturing hub, Monterrey has boomed in the NAFTA era with its convenient position to the United States. Aeromexico's operations reflect that, with two routes over the Rio Grande to San Antonio and Houston, and longer connections to Atlanta, Miami, and New York, as well as Detroit—an automaker's route. Las Vegas and Los Angeles are the only other transborder flights, other than the long route to Tokyo, which as discussed in the previous post was discontinued. 

The internal flights are clustered together on this cartographic projection, with Chihuahua almost as far away as Atlanta and Tijuana just in front of "Tokio." A number of other Mexican cities make their Timetablist debut with this post, including Tampico, Culiac, Puerto Vallarta, and Aguascalientes. Many of these services have been cut back as Mexico's many low-cost carriers, particularly Ryanair's Mexican venture VivaAerobus and Volaris have come to dominate the domestic airspace. Volaris now carries the largest share of domestic passengers in the country. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Aeromexico: The North American Routes, December 2015

 Continuing from the previous post, a second map from Aeromexico's in-flight magazine at the end of 2015, showing the airline's array of flights from seven cities to its NAFTA partners

Although Aeromexico serves 18 cities in los Estados Unidos, this is perhaps fewer than might be guessed; it is fewer U.S. airports than British Airways to London, for instance. Most flights originate in Mexico City, with a handful fanning out from the northern economic powerhouse of Monterrey—which will be the subject of the subsequent post. There are a few flights out of the country's second largest city: Guadalajara, but surprising only one flight from Cancún, Mexico's second busiest airport, to New York; today the route is flown only by Delta and American Airlines. While Avianca and COPA fly to several Florida cities such as Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa, Aeromexico only served Orlando and Miami, and the Merida flight has been discontinued. The flight to Denver is now year-round. The flight from Morelia, in Michoacán, to Chicago-O'Hare is still flying seasonally. The Boston flight, which commenced in June of that year, has sadly since been discontinued.

There is a more significant cluster of flights up to (Alto) California, including to less commonly-served airports such as Sacramento, Ontario, and Fresno—which are all premiering on The Timetablist with this post. The Guadalajara—Fresno link is especially notable as the San Joaquin Valley metro has no direct flights to domestic cities such as New York, Washington, or Houston.  Los Angeles has links to four cities. 

The three largest airports of Canada are connected to Benito Juarez; the flight to Vancouver has been an apparent success. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Aeromexico: The Intercontinental Routes, December 2015

 Somehow in the storied history of The Timetableist, now approaching its 11th anniversary, the great air carrier of the Federal Republic of Mexico has never been previously featured. Continuing from the previous post, it's opportune to take the fiesta stop-over in México D.F. and look at the country's remaining flag carrier as it looked in its expansionist phase of half a decade ago.

Aeromexico runs a three-continent strategy, covering the main gateways of the Americas, switching through its central Benito Juarez hub, while stretching its reach across the oceans with what is now an all-Dreamliner fleet. Of particular interest is the triplet of Trans-Pacific efforts: Mexico CityTokyo (Narita), Monterrey—Narita, and Mexico City—TijuanaShanghai—Mexico City, which neatly landed Benito Juarez at exactly the same time as it took off from Pudong International. 

According to the always reliable Wikipedia, the Monterrey—Japan service was a temporary technical stop on the way from Mexico City in lieu of Tijuana. Service today is non-stop from Mexico City only. 

In early 2017, the carrier announced a second attempt to link the northern economic powerhouse of Nuevo León with Asia: a four times weekly Mexico City—Monterrey—Incheon schedule which, like the Tokyo service, would return eastbound non-stop. Apparently this proved unnecessary, as Aeromexico still served ICN as of early 2020 but only non-stop from Mexico City. 

While this peninsular service seems to have met with success—presumably due to links with SkyTeam megacarrier Korean Air—the non-stop to Shanghai and SkyTeam partner China Eastern proved less durable, as the thrice-weekly long haul was cut in mid-2019.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Qantas: FFC Sydney to London via Mexico, 28 November 1964

 Having concluded November with an Olympic Kangaroo Stretch from Athens to Australia, we continue in December to span the globe with an Antipodean effort: the incredibly unique Qantas round-the-world Sydney to London service via Mexico Citycommonly called the"Fiesta Route."

The Timetablist has actually featured a  March 1973 version of this highly unusual routing before, with its stops in "Fiji" and "Tahiti" (which we here track as Nadi and Papeete, respectively), then S-curving through Mesoamerica (the 1970s version first landed on the black sand beaches of Acapulco) before two Anglo-Caribbean hops at Nassau and then Bermuda. At the time, B707s plied the cross-Ocean service; the route was apparently a victim of the 1970s oil crisis, and the arrival of the B747 made the traditional Trans-Asian spine more logical.