Curaçao Island

from KLM to DCA

Royal Dutch Airlines

West Indian Division
After 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.

De Snip

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.

Sikorsky S-42
P.A.A. Sikorsky S-42
The 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.
Garuda Convair Liner

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.

KLM Monument Hato
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.

DC5 Wakago

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

Routes WIB 1947
compare with ALM route map

kms.      flight routes 1946      from/to Curaçao      
117      Aruba
1739      Port of SpainParamaribo
79      Bonaire
907      ArubaSt. Maarten
784      Ciudad Trujillo      Aruba
282      La Guaira
2093      ArubaPort au PrinceCamaguey      Miami
2024      ArubaKingston      Miami
663      ArubaBarranquilla
388      ArubaMaracaïbo
408      La Guaira

2 breeds on Hato
Snip, Troepiaal and Parkiet

In 1947 KLM's West-Indisch Bedrijf offered these services from Curaçao:
2/weekCiudad Trujillo      Port au PrinceKingston      Havanna
3/weekPort of SpainParamaribo
2/weekPort of Spain
2/weekArubaBarranquillaSan José
work days      BonairePort au Prince      
weeklySt. MaartenSt. Kitts

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
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.

2 breeds on Hato
Fokker, Lockheed and crews

Aircraftend 1946
LockheedL14Super Electra      PJ-AIKKolibri
Lockheed      L18LodestarPJ-AKA
DouglasDC3PJ-ALAAla Blanca
DouglasC47E      military DC3PJ-ALE
PJ-ALH(in conversion)
DouglasC54Amilitary DC4PJ-ALKKralendijk
PJ-ALW      Willemstad

Pan American Boeing Stratocruiser

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.

Convair 340 Metropolitan
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.

Douglas DC6
Douglas DC6
(But where's the bridge?)

KLM West-Indisch Bedrijf was taken over in 1964
by ALM Antilliaanse Luchtvaart Maatschappij (Antillean Airlines)


Curaçao Island


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