Today, November 16th 2016, it is exactly 50 years since the first flight took place of Transavia Holland. Captain Pete Holmes and first officer Arne Zwaan flew DC-6B (c/n 43560, line number 269) PH-TRC from Amterdam Schiphol to Naples airport. The plane was chartered to transport the 87 members of the Dutch Dance Theatre and Dutch Ballet Orchestra.
From Euravia to Transavia Holland
The first flight could only take place after a lot of hurdles were taken. The original founder, businessman A.J.D. Steenstra Toussaint together with Universal Sky Tours owner Ted Langton first tried to get ‘Euravia Air Transport’ of the ground. It failed due to lack of financing. Because contracts were already signed and bookings sold, Langton took over the company on his own expense and renamed it ‘Euravia London Ltd.’.
4 years later the Canadian-owned International Thomson Organisation bought Euravia and changed the name in ‘Britannia Airways’ due to the introduction of Bristol Britannia aircraft. We know the company today as TUI subsidiary Thomson Airways.
A few years later Steenstra Toussaint tried it again, together with businessman George Richardson, former shareholder of Belgian International Air Services. Together they set up ‘Transavia Limburg’; a local company based in Maastricht (capital of the Dutch province of Limburg). DC-3 PH-RIC (c/n: 32872, crashed 2010 as museum aircraft D-CXXX ‘Rosinenbomber’) was acquired but never flew for Transavia because again Toussaint and Richardson failed again to arrange a proper financing for the enterprise. Florida based Boreas Corporation, a trader in second-hand aircraft, bought a controlling interest in shares. The owner of Boreas, the famous Bell X-1 2nd test pilot Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin wanted to profit from the fast expanding and lucrative European charter market. He had a more thorough approach; the DC-3 was cancelled and three former TSA Transair Sweden DC-6s aircraft were flown to Amterdam Schiphol Airport. The company name was changed to ‘Transavia Holland’ and plans were drawn to create the first Dutch air charter company. But market leaders KLM and Martinair were not so happy and objected to the Dutch government. Hearings were held and everything was thoroughly scrutinized. The DC-6s were waiting idly for months at Schiphol-Oost. At November 14th 1966 the Air Operators Certificate was finally provided and two days later the first flight took place.
Outstanding safety record
Last night this event was celebrated in Amsterdam with a large party at Transavia Airlines C.V. as the company is known today.
In 1972, the Boreas Corporation shares were transferred to the Royal Dutch Steamboat-Company (forerunner of Nedlloyd), which saw Transavia as an alternative to the discontinuation of scheduled passenger service by ship. Ten years after building up the airline from scratch, Transavia had a marketshare of 45% of the Dutch holiday market. In 1986, the Transavia Holland brand was changed into Transavia Airlines. It was the first airline to take advantage of the Open Skies agreement signed between the UK and Dutch governments. During 1991 Nedlloyd sold 40% of its shares to KLM. Until 2003, the Dutch National Investment Bank had still 20%, but since that year Transavia is a 100% subsidiary of Air France-KLM.
Today the company is flying leisure and low-cost flights within the AF/KLM/Delta network from its bases at Amsterdam Schiphol, Rotterdam-The Hague Airport, Eindhoven AFB, Paris Orly, and Munich Airport and is equipped with 8 B737-700 and 63 B737-800 aircraft. In 50 years of service Transavia has established an excellent safety record; not a single aircraft was lost in an accident.
In 1959 The first owner of the PH-TRC was ARAMCO, the Arabian American Oil Company. They used three brand new DC-6B's for the transport of staff between Saudi Arabia and the United States. One of them was N709A 'The Flying Gazelle'.
In October 1961 the aircraft was handed over to TSA Transair Sweden as SE-BDZ “Norrkoping”. It flew European holidaymakers until the end of the leisure season in 1965, when the aircraft returned to the States as N948BC in ownership of Boreas Corp. It remained idle until the newly appointed director of Transavia Holland, John Block, required bigger aircraft than the proposed DC-3. From July 14th 1966 until June 8th 1969 the aircraft was trimmed in Transavia livery and flew a mixed operation of leisure flights to the Mediterranean, long haul flights to the Caribbean as well as relief flights in the Biafran Airlift.
10 different DC-6s have flown briefly with Transavia Holland. When Transavia switched to Caravelle and Boeing 707 jets at the end of the sixties, all remaining DC-6s were sold to Flughjalp. This was an organization “Aid-by-Air” that participates in the Biafran Airlift, what is known today as the largest civilian airlift ever.
PH-TRC changed registration to TF-AAF. The aircraft got a dark roof, so it would be less noticeable during the dangerous night landings in the jungle, while under enemy fire. At the end of the Nigerian civil war the Flughjalp DC-6s, including TF-AAF, were stored at Prestwick Airport.
On May 31, 1970 an earthquake that killed 70,000 people struck Peru. As part of an emergency response program in July of that year four DC-6B's were donated to the Peruvian Air Force. At that time the Fuerza Aérea del Perú already had two standard DC-6s (including ex KLM 'Princess Beatrix'). Now former Transavia PH-TRC, TRE, TRL and TRZ joint the fleet. Three of the four additional aircraft received military registrations FAP 379 to FAP 381. Only former PH-TRC was never included in the Peruvian military register.
On this beautiful photo from April 1972 we can see the 'graveyard' of Lima Jorge Chavez Airport (if we there just could wander around for a bit .... ;-) we see former PH-TRC in the upper left corner. Still wearing her green Flughjalp jacket, but without any titles and her forward crew door open. Because she was never registered or painted in military uniform it is likely that she served as a parts supplier for the remaining five aircraft. The official records state from 1974 “Withdrawn From Use” and “Stored”. There are no parts left nowadays at Lima airport, so most likely she has been demolished sometime thereafter. The end of a nice piece of Dutch aviation history.