Friday, February 28, 2014

FLEET UPDATE: Seven ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's to be Sold outside Uruguay

Former PLUNA CRJ-900, CX-CRG (c/n 15209) also flew with AeroVip and is one of the ex-PLUNA aircraft to be sold.  (Phil Perry Photo)

The seven ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's that have been out of service in Montevideo (MVD) since PLUNA's shutdown in July 2012 (the carrier had thirteen CRJ-900's in all but the other six aircraft were leased and returned) will be put up for sale soon because the airline being formed to replace PLUNA, Alas Uruguayas, is no longer interested in the aircraft and is now seeking to lease 737-300's.   

Between 30 and 40 technicians and maintenance staff have kept the CRJ-900's airworthy for the last 20 months, doing routine maintenance with the aircraft being flown occasionally to test all systems.  Keeping the planes in fly-away condition has cost US$ 420,000 per month which has been paid by the trust set up to hold and oversee the former airline's assets. 

There have been at least three parties interested in purchasing or brokering the CRJ-900's in the last year, including one that offered US$ 48 million for four of the aircraft, but the trust was different from ordinary trusts in that it was set up by a special law passed by the Uruguayan congress that separated the CRJ-900's from the assets accessible to creditors under the airline's bankruptcy proceedings. 

However, that law was declared unconstitutional by the Uruguayan supreme court in November 2013 as the court considered it to violate creditors' rights.
On 09Jan14, the bankruptcy court placed the aircraft back in the group of assets to be used to settle creditor claims.  Creditors to the former PLUNA include ANCAP, Uruguay's national oil company, for unpaid fuel bills and the hundreds, if not thousands of passengers that were left holding worthless tickets when the carrier shut down on July 6, 2012.   

The loan to purchase the CRJ-900's has not been paid off, which would in most bankruptcy cases probably mean that proceeds from the sale of the aircraft would go to pay the outstanding debt, but the debt on the aircraft was guaranteed by the Uruguayan government which has been making US$ 8.8 million installment payments every six months to ScotiaBank of Canada and apparently will continue to be responsible for the overall US$ 203 million cost of the seven aircraft.     

The CRJ-900's are expected to sell for between US$ 12 million and US$ 16 million each.

The seven aircraft are:

CX-CRA (c/n 15165)
CX-CRB (c/n 15169)
CX-CRC (c/n 15175)
CX-CRD (c/n 15180)
CX-CRE (c/n 15185)
CX-CRF (c/n 15204)
CX-CRG (c/n 15209)


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ROUTE UPDATES: Argentina & Uruguay Airline Route Additions & Changes

Sol Lineas Aereas - Effective 23Dec13

Increased service from Rosario (ROS) - Punta del Este (PDP) to 6x/weekly for the summer season with their Saab 340's.    

Sol Lineas Aereas - Effective 01Jan14

Started 6x/weekly summer service from both Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) and Rosario (ROS) to Villa Gesell (VLG).

Conviasa - Effective First Quarter 2014 (unconfirmed)

Luis Graterol, president of the Venezuelan state airline that replaced the defunct VIASA, announced in a television interview that the carrier would start 2x/weekly service from Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to Porlamar (PMV) on the Venezuelan resort island of Isla Margarita sometime during the first quarter of 2014. 

Conviasa already flies from EZE to Caracas (CCS) 3x/weekly using 767's, possibly leased from Vision Air as the Venezuelan airline does not have long-range aircraft of its own.  Presumably the same type will be used to Porlamar (PVM).      

Air Europa - Effective March 2014

The Spanish low-cost carrier announced that it will increase its Montevideo (MVD) - Madrid (MAD) flights from the current 3x/weekly to 4x/weekly in March with plans to add a fifth flight on the route in 2015.  These flights are operated with A330-200's.  

The addition of more flights would seem to signal that this is a profitable route for Air Europa meaning that they are more likely to stay for the long run. This is good news for Uruguay as Air Europa flies the only non-stop service to Europe from the South American country.    

Aerolineas Argentinas - Effective 01Jun14

Starting Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Porto Alegre (POA) daily service with 737-700's.   

Sources: via Eric Trum

Monday, February 24, 2014

Approx. 90 "Blueberry" Cargo Flights including 747's and MD-11's flew from Tucuman (TUC) in late 2013

The northwestern Argentine province of Tucuman has some 1200 hectares (about 3000 acres) dedicated to the cultivation of blueberries which are harvested in the southern hemisphere springtime months of October and November.   

The blueberry producers started to export their harvest in 2007 by air freight with only three flights carrying 120 tons operating from Tucuman (TUC) that year, mostly to the U.S.  Every year since then has seen exports and cargo flights grow:

2008  15 flights    600 tons
2009  22 flights    773 tons
2010  31 flights  1478 tons
2011  59 flights  2705 tons
2012  71 flights  3021 tons

A record 90 flights were expected for the 2013 season.

Last year, a special refrigerated warehouse measuring some 1640 sq. meters (approx. 17,650 sq. ft.) capable of storing 150 tons of blueberries was constructed at Tucuman (TUC) to make the temporary storage of large shipments of the fruit easier with less of a concern of spoilage.

The first freight flight of the season was operated by TAM Cargo 767-300F, PR-ADY, on 11Oct13 followed by LAN Cargo 777-200F, N778LA, that departed Tucuman (TUC) for Miami (MIA) on 13Oct13.  

Atlas Air 747-400F, N477MC, arrived in Tucuman (TUC) on 18Oct13, marking the first-ever visit by a 747 to the airport, departing later to Miami (MIA) with 100 tons of blueberries.  Two Lufthansa MD-11F's followed on 21Oct13 and 28Oct13 and a Centurion MD-11F was also expected to operate out of the airport.   


Saturday, February 22, 2014

FLEET UPDATE: Leal Lineas Aereas returns two of its "Flying Duck" MD-80's

Two MD-80 series aircraft that flew for Leal Lineas Aereas, a small now-defunct Argentine charter airline that operated in the late 2000's, recently flew back to the USA on return to their American lessor, Sky Holding:  

MD-83, LV-CIT (c/n 49568/1380), now re-registered N598SH, and MD-87, LV-BSC (c/n 49727/1621), now re-registered N599SH, both departed Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) to the US via Lima (LIM) on 22Jan14.

Leal's aircraft were well-known for their cartoon-character ducks on different colored tails.  

LV-CIT had a dark blue tail as seen in this photo: 

And LV-BSC had a green tail:

A third aircraft, MD-83 LV-CSW (c/n 49845/1573) had a light purple tail:


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Austral Embraer 190, LV-CIE, returned to Service after Repair to Damaged Left Horizontal Stabilizer

Austral Embraer 190 LV-CIE (c/n 414) at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 11Feb12.  (Phil Perry Photo)

The above aircraft collided with Aerolineas Argentinas 737-7Q8, LV-CYO, at Aeroparque on 07Nov13 with the point of impact being the 190's left horizontal stabilizer with one of the 737's winglets.  The 190 was repaired by company technical staff in collaboration with representatives from Embraer and returned to service on 17Jan14.

Here is a photo of the damage:


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

FLEET UPDATE: Andes Lineas Aereas takes delivery of ex-Austral MD-83 LV-WGM

Austral MD-83, LV-WGM (c/n 49784) approaching to land at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) runway 31 on 11Feb12.  (Phil Perry Photo)

Andes Lineas Aereas of Salta, Argentina recently took delivery of former Austral MD-83 LV-WGM (c/n 49784), illustrated above.  

It joins three other Andes MD-83's, LV-CCJ (c/n 49621) formerly of Spanair, LV-AYD (c/n 53015), originally delivered to Aero Lloyd of Germany but which also saw service with Spirit Airlines and Austral and LV-BGV (c/n 49904) which was originally delivered to Finnair in 1990 and flew for several other airlines before joining Austral and then Andes in 2012.  

The MD-80's will be busy during the southern hemisphere summer flying charters from Argentina to Brazil and the Dominican Republic plus the carrier's regularly scheduled flights within Argentina linking Salta (SLA) with Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) and Puerto Madryn (PMY) on the Atlantic shore of Patagonia and famous for its whale-watching.   


Sunday, February 16, 2014

FLEET UPDATE: Former Lineas Aereas del Sur 737-236, LV-ZXC, returned to lessor in USA

Lineas Aereas del Sur, 737-200, LV-ZXC (msn 23160/1053) rests at Cordoba (COR) on 18Mar12.  (Phil Perry Photo)

Former Lineas Aereas del Sur 737-236, LV-ZXC (c/n 23160/1053), was re-registered as N631SH and flown from Mendoza (MDZ) to Opa-Locka, Florida (OPF) via Lima (LIM), Panama City (PTY) and Miami (MIA) on 06Jan14 on return to its lessor, Sky Holding.

The aircraft was originally delivered to British Airways on 27Sep84 and went on to fly for Aerolineas Argentinas starting on 06Dec00 before Lineas Aereas del Sur finally acquired it in more recent years.  

Unfortunately, the aircraft barely flew for the carrier, operating only a handful of charters and no regularly-scheduled service during its time with the airline. LV-ZXC was finally parked in Cordoba (COR) in early 2012 before being moved to Mendoza (MDZ) more recently.  


Friday, February 14, 2014

ROUTE UPDATES: Argentina Airline Route Additions & Changes

Several route additions and changes to Argentina have been announced by airlines in recent months.  Those pertaining to Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral have been covered in a recent posting to this blog.  Details regarding service by other carriers are below:

AeroMexico - Effective 02Nov13:  

Increasing Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Mexico City (MEX) service from 7x/weekly to 9x/weekly for the southern hemisphere summer.  The additional flights are morning departures on Saturdays and Sundays operated with 767-200's as are the evening flights.

Sol Lineas Aereas - Effective 13Dec13

Operating Rosario (ROS) - Punta del Este (PDP) (Uruguay) summer seasonal service 6x/weekly (every day except Saturdays) with Saab 340's.

TAM Brazilian Airlines - Effective 01Jan14:

Starting Rosario (ROS) - Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) daily service using A320's. 

South African Airways - Effective 30Mar14

Cancelling Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Johannesburg (JNB) service.  Flights have been operated 3x/weekly with A340-300's.      

 via Eric Trum via Eric Trum

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PLUNA Replacement Airline "Alas Uruguay" Looking More Doubtful

ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's unlikely to fly in Alas Uruguay colors (Phil Perry Photo)

It is looking increasingly doubtful that the proposed PLUNA replacement airline, Alas Uruguay, will be a viable proposition.  


The trust that was created by a law passed by the Uruguayan congress in the months following PLUNA's July 2012 shutdown was declared unconstitutional by Uruguay's Supreme Judicial Court in November 2013.  One of the problems with the law cited by the court is that it removed the seven company-owned PLUNA CRJ-900's from the pool of assets that creditors could access through the airline's bankruptcy liquidation proceedings.  This violated creditors' property rights under Uruguayan law.


The implications of the trust being declared void is that the Uruguayan government's offer of the aircraft to the former PLUNA employees who were forming Alas Uruguay under favorable terms will no longer be valid.  These terms included a three-year grace period before Alas Uruguay would have to make any payments on the aircraft.  It is doubtful that the creditors would extend such generous terms on the aircraft.


There are also significant financial implications for the Uruguayan government in that it is responsible to ScotiaBank for the debt on the aircraft and was counting on payments from Alas Uruguay to cover some of the costs of the loan payments.  But with the CRJ-900's to be included in the pool of assets that will be used to pay off creditors, this money will be lost.  The government has already paid US$ 26 million in three installment payments but it is liable for another US$ 100 million in guarantees for the aircraft.  

The government is an unsecured creditor behind other creditors, such as suppliers, which have absorbed costs maintaining the aircraft flight-ready and the crews current, the ANCAP national fuel company which PLUNA owed a lot of money to, and PLUNA passengers who hold tickets that they were not able to use due to the carrier's shutdown.     


With the Supreme Judicial Court ruling being imminent the Uruguayan government held up the handover of US$ 15 million "FONDES" (business development fund) funds that were slated for Alas Uruguay.  The government wanted to see the SJC ruling and its implications before granting the money.

The funds will reportedly be given to Alas Uruguay and the latest news is that the carrier might use them to lease three 737-300's in order to start service soon rather than absorb more delays while the situation with the CRJ-900's is sorted out. 




Monday, February 10, 2014

Austral Embraer 190 LV-CKZ damaged in Landing at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) Returned to Service on 19Dec13

Austral Embraer 190 LV-CKZ at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 11Feb12. (Phil Perry Photo)  

Austral Embraer 190AR LV-CKZ, c/n 439, which was damaged upon landing at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) on 15Nov13 returned to service on 19Dec13. 

LV-CKZ was completing flight AU2255 from Rio de Janeiro Galeao (GIG) on the morning of 15Nov13 when it landed on EZE's runway 11 in rainy and windy conditions at 0545 hours, overrunning the runway by some 220 meters (730 feet) and impacting the localizer antenna with its nose.  The antenna was substantially damaged but the aircraft only sustained minor damage.

The 96 passengers and 5 crew were evacuated using emergency slides and bused to the terminal. There were no injuries.

Austral claimed that the aircraft went off the runway "due to a sudden change in wind direction and speed".

The aircraft underwent extensive tests at the hangars of Austral's sister company Aerolineas Argentinas at EZE, including baroscopic inspection of the engines, changing of the tires and pitot tubes, cleaning of the fuselage, extension and retraction of the landing gears plus examination of the areas that impacted the localizer antenna.  With the results being satisfactory, LV-CKZ made a ferry flight to Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 28Nov13.

After some repair work at AEP, the Embraer was test flown on 18Dec13 and it re-entered service the following day, 19Dec13, with a flight to Mar del Plata. 

Editor's Comments:  

One anonymous comment made by a reader of the Linea ALA blog claimed that regarding the aircraft's test flight in mid-December "there were many faults during the flight, the situation with the plane is serious; many sensors and other components were affected, they are going to have to do a lot of work on the poor Embraer".   

If true, this would be alarming, but the anonymous nature of the comment plus the highly-political situation with the management of state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas/Austral would lead one to question whether this comment was politically motivated.

Another reader of Linea ALA noted that Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) runway 11 is 10,828 ft. long, plenty of room for an Embraer 190 to stop, probably even in adverse weather conditions, leading one to question if there was some sort of pilot error such as "landing long" (significantly further down the runway than normal).                 



Saturday, February 8, 2014

PHOTO GALLERY: Argentine Fairchild Metros - #5 of 20+ - LV-MDD (c/n TC-238-169)

LAPA - Lineas Aereas Privadas Argentinas Fairchild Swearingen SA226-TC Metro II, LV-MDD (c/n TC-238-169) in August 1979 apparently at Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) prior to delivery to Inland Empire Airlines.  (Phil Perry Collection)

This Metro first flew in August 1977 and was apparently destined to Inland Empire Airlines of California but it was instead delivered to LAPA on 26Nov77 as LV-MDD.  It flew for the Argentine commuter airline until July 1979 when it was finally transferred to Inland Empire as N5436M as photographed below at Los Angeles (LAX) in April 1981:

TC-238-169 flew for Inland Empire until July 1984 when it joined Britt Airways of Indiana as N329BA for a five-year stint until August 1989 after which it flew for Air Vantage, a commuter out of Minneapolis (MSP) and a couple of other operators for a short time before being stored in Iron Mountain, Michigan.  The aircraft was finally scrapped in March 2005. 

Photo of Britt Airways N329BA at Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) in December 1988:

Interestingly, this photo of the remains of N329BA in Vernon (YVE) British Columbia, Canada on 19Aug09 appears on the Internet:


Thursday, February 6, 2014

ROUTE UPDATES: Andes Lineas Aereas Summer 2014 Charter Schedule

Andes Lineas Aereas - Effective January & February 2014:   

Summer charter schedule operated with MD-80's:

Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Salvador, Brazil (SSA), 1x/weekly
Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Florianopolis, Brazil (FLN), 2x/weekly
Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Porto Seguro, Brazil (BPS), 2x/weekly
Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ), 1x/weekly
Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE) - Samana, Dominican Republic (AZS), 1x/weekly

Cordoba (COR) - Salvador, Brazil (SSA), 1x/weekly
Cordoba (COR) - Florianopolis, Brazil (FLN), 2x/weekly
Cordoba (COR) - Porto Seguro, Brazil (BPS), 3x/weekly
Cordoba (COR) - Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ), 1x/weekly

Salta (SLA) - Florianopolis, Brazil (FLN), 1x/weekly
Salta (SLA) - Porto Seguro, Brazil (BPS), 1x/weekly


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BQB Lineas Aereas Planning to Add New Routes & Aircraft in 2014

Building on its growth in 2013 that saw the airline add more aircraft to its fleet for a total of four ATR-72-500's & one A320, plus new routes to several cities, mostly in Brazil, BQB Lineas Aereas' CEO Juan Patricio Lopez has indicated that the carrier plans to add two more ATR-72's and three A319's to its fleet in 2014 (the A320 is due to be returned to Vueling at the end of March). 

To service the expansion, the carrier wants to hire approx. 80 Uruguayan staff including pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and other operations personnel, aiming to lure back Uruguayan nationals that have gone abroad in pursuit of employment opportunities at foreign airlines.

New routes that the airline aspires to add next year include Santa Cruz, Bolivia (VVI) plus Cordoba (COR) and Mendoza (MDZ), both in Argentina.  BQB might have difficulty getting authorization from the Argentine authorities to operate these last two routes, which PLUNA also wanted to add to their route network but were never approved for.  However, BQB is part of the larger Buquebus ferry line and tourism group that is very active in Argentina which might give them more influence and bargaining power in the country.    

Editor's Note:  BQB seems to be replacing PLUNA step-by-step on the routes that the former Uruguayan national carrier operated on, leaving perhaps little need or opportunity for Alas Uruguay, the airline proposed to replace PLUNA with much of its former staff. 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

PHOTO GALLERY: Argentine Fairchild Metros - #4 of 20+ - LV-BGH (c/n AC-467)

Flying America Fairchild Swearingen SA-227AC Metro III, LV-BGH, (c/n AC-467) being towed at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 24Sep10.  (Phil Perry Photo)     

Metro AC-467 first entered service with Inland Empire Airlines of central California in June 1982 registered as N3046L.  See photo link:

After only a few months flying commuter routes in the "Golden State" it joined Cascade Airways of Spokane in the northwestern American state of Washington in March 1983.  Photo:

In May 1986, Resort Air leased AC-467 operating it in the midwestern American states of Illinois and Missouri for Trans World Airlines using the brand name Trans World Express, especially out of TWA's St. Louis (STL) hub. The carrier changed its name to Trans States Airlines in 1989 (which it still flies as today) continuing to operate AC-467 until April 1990.  Photo:

Later in 1990, AC-467 crossed the Atlantic to fly for Flugfelag Islands of Iceland on December 1 as TF-JMK where it flew in two different schemes until 2006.  Photos:

AC-467 was finally acquired by Flying America of San Fernando Airport (FDO), Province of Buenos Aires, on 02Nov06 and reregistered as LV-BGH which it was still operating as at least until 2011 and possibly to this day.  The charter company flew AC-467 and at least one other Metro for Linea Aerea Entre Rios from Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to the cities of Corrientes (COC) and Parana (PRA), both in Entre Rios province.  

The aircraft has also been used for the transport of medical patients as seen in this photo: