The 1934 flight of the Snip settled the record for the first mail flight across the Atlantic and delivered the first aircraft for their operations. A second one, Oehoe (renamed Oriol) arrived by ship, and was mainly used as a submarine fighter. Both aircraft were Fokker FXVIIIs, the last and most powerful from a line starting with the FVIIb-tm tri motor. KLM was ready to start their West-Indian operations. They had started investigating this market in 1920, when the only connection between the 6 islands of the Kolonie Curaçao consisted of a weekly trip of one government schooner. With the opening of the Panama Canal and Shell starting Isla oil refinery, several airlines had preceded them.
from KLM to DCA
Royal Dutch Airlines
West Indian DivisionAfter KLM Royal Dutch Airlines had opened the Oost-Indië Route to Indonesia, they naturally cast a beady eye on the Dutch colonies in the West, with their Fokker aircraft the best in the world. A strong impetus was the enormous hidden subsidy the Nederlandsche Posterijen paid in the form of premium freight rates for mail. This lucrative tradition was continued from the days of steam and amounted to a yearly contribution of 1.5M Dutch 1930 guilders on the East-India route.
P.A.A. Sikorsky S-42The 1919 SCADTA, later incorporated in Avianca of Colombia (which is, after that manner, the oldest still flying airline in the world) in 1926 unsuccessfully tried to open a route Barranquilla-Curaçao with flying boats.
In 1928 Pan American World Airways started mail flights from Miami to Paramaribo (capital of the Dutch colony Suriname) and, from 1930, on to Buenos Aires. They used seaplanes until 1941. The two routes in 1928 were Miami-Kingston/Jamaica-Barranquilla/Colombia, and Miami-Trinidad-Paramaribo. Barranquilla and Trinidad were connected via Maracaïbo/Venezuela-Curaçao-Puerto Cabello/Venezuela. P.A.A. used Sikorsky S-38 amphibians, one of which was flown in by Charles Lindberg as a goodwill ambassador. After a runway was completed these landed on Hato airport. When P.A.A. acquired more landing rights in Venezuela, they stopped flights on Curaçao.
An extinct French company opened a South-Atlantic crossing in 1928, to start Aeropostal in Venezuela. With the bankruptcy of the French mother company, the Venezuelan government took over and the company finally emerged as LAV Linea Aeropostal Venezolana.
What KLM really wanted with the flight of the Snip was to make Curaçao the hub of their American operations, and provide an American link between the Far East and Europe. Internationally, KLM was very aggressive. They also started Garuda Indonesian Airways, SLM Surinaamse Luchtvaart Maatschappij, and had a strong interest in PAL Philippine Airlines. Regular scheduled flights between Amsterdam and Curaçao did not begin until after W.W.II. KLM first started flights to Aruba island and Venezuela, in cooperation with KNSM Koninklijke Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij (Royal Dutch Steamship Company). Both became agents for Curaçao Trading Company in several Caribbean harbors; trading and banking house Maduro would take care of ticket sales and ground services. The inaugural flight to Aruba was on 19 January, 1935, and they put up a monument to prove it. It's still there.
Hato Airport Monument
Lines were opened to Maracaïbo, 1936 and Caracas/Venezuela, 1937, Bonaire island and Barranquilla, 1938; Paramaribo/Suriname, Port of Spain/Trinidad, and Barcelona/Venezuela in 1939. Apart from the FXVIII Snip and Oehoe (later renamed Oriol), the FVIII Duif was in service from 1937 to 1939, when it was sold to Venezuela. In 1939 Douglas delivered two DC5 aircraft, which in 1941 were sold to the East India Division Koninklijke Nederlandsch-Indische Luchtvaart Maatschappij. Curaçao-Aruba-Kingston/Jamaica followed in 1941. Curaçao-Havana/Cuba-Miami, 1942 (later Curaçao-Camaguey-Miami).The first Lockheed L-18s Super Electra joined the fleet with the L-18 Lodestar.
1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 Total routes (km) 4181 4147 4355 5004 7265 9510 Flight hours 3398 4058 4179 5996 7474 8026 Passengers 14578 17593 20513 25817 33152 33741 Passenger kms. 3,692,460 4,249,357 5,631,824 11,314,293 17,211,051 17,366,063 Freight & excess luggage, kgs. 117,356 158,554 198,101 247,335 329,392 352,245 Kgs. of mail 10,632 11,980 13,854 25,591 55,210 34,184
compare with ALM route map
kms. flight routes 1946 from/to Curaçao 117 Aruba 1739 Port of Spain Paramaribo 79 Bonaire 907 Aruba St. Maarten 784 Ciudad Trujillo Aruba 282 La Guaira 2093 Aruba Port au Prince Camaguey Miami 2024 Aruba Kingston Miami 663 Aruba Barranquilla 388 Aruba Maracaïbo 408 La Guaira
Snip, Troepiaal and Parkiet
In 1947 KLM's West-Indisch Bedrijf offered these services from Curaçao:
1/day Aruba Kingston Miami 2/week Ciudad Trujillo Port au Prince Kingston Havanna 2/day Caracas 3/week Port of Spain Paramaribo 2/week Port of Spain 2/week Aruba Barranquilla San José work days Bonaire Port au Prince weekly St. Maarten St. Kitts 1/day Aruba Maracaïbo 3/day Aruba
This phenomenal growth had much to do with Venzuelan oil, refined in Curaçao and Aruba. The WWII Allies were totally dependent on Curaçao's Isla for all aircraft fuel used in the United Kingdom. With the Esso Lago refinery in Aruba, business boomed and kept KLM alive and well. Company headquarters were transferred to Curaçao, with as only other operation the DC3 flights London-Lisboa.
Electra over Willemstad harbor
The US government was giving away Lockheed L14 Electras all over the place, mainly to combat German influence in South America. Ernest K. Gann has some rattling good stories to tell about delivery of these. The L14 was much less old-fashioned to our eyes than the Fokkers were. Comparing them, the Fokker is like an old-fashioned automobile, while the car industry only adapted the techniques used in the L14 after W.W.II. KLM used several L14s and L18s.
Fokker, Lockheed and crews
Aircraft end 1946 Lockheed L14 Super Electra PJ-AIK Kolibri PJ-AIM Meeuw PJ-AIT Troepiaal Lockheed L18 Lodestar PJ-AKA PJ-AKB Douglas DC3 PJ-ALA Ala Blanca PJ-ALB Blauwduif PJ-ALC Chuchubi PJ-ALD Dekla Douglas C47E military DC3 PJ-ALE PJ-ALG (photography) PJ-ALH (in conversion) Douglas C54A military DC4 PJ-ALK Kralendijk PJ-ALO Oranjestad PJ-ALW Willemstad Fokker FXVIII PJ-AIS Snip
After the war Pan American flew to Curaçao with Boeing Stratocruisers.
The KLM-WIB fleet consisted of Douglas DC4s, used between the Antilles and Caracas/Miami; other routes were flown by DC3s.
DC3 and DC4 by Ernest K. Gann; Convair 340 Metropolitan
In 1954 four Convair 340s were added, joined in 1957 by DC6s.
The Convairs then moved on to the shorter routes and the DC3s were phased out.
Chuchubi in Nepal?
The last one, Chuchubi, was sold to Royal Nepal Airlines in 1961.
The Snip was junked in the mondi (bush) by Hato Airport.
(But where's the bridge?)
KLM West-Indisch Bedrijf was taken over in 1964
by ALM Antilliaanse Luchtvaart Maatschappij (Antillean Airlines)
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