Round the world flights were a feature of several major airlines route networks (Pan Am for example) and at times some airlines had also operated round the world charters to more obscure destinations (TWA did at least one using a 707), however nobody can match the impressive series of Cruceros del Aire (“Air Cruises”) run by Lan Chile between 1985 and 1989.
Chile was at the time coming towards the end of the Pinochet dictatorship and in fact the national airline had only been rescued from oblivion in 1984 when it was effectively re-established following the accrual of hundreds of millions of dollars of debt during the turbulent 1970s and early 80s. With government ownership increased to 98.7% and recapitalisation Lan Chile was able to regain lost marketshare and undertake fleet renewal.
The Boeing 707 still played a role in the passenger fleet in the 1980s. Despite its financial troubles Lan had acquired a range of secondhand examples during the 1970s from Lufthansa, Northwest and Pan Am. One aircraft was written off in 1978 and a pair transferred to the Chilean Air Force in late 1982, but 5 others remained in service despite the introduction of DC-10s and then 767-200s.
Newly reinvigorated Lan was in the mood to celebrate 60 years of operations (29 as an international airline). It decided to do this by undertaking a series of 13 air cruise flights over a four year period using specially outfitted 707s. The cruises were designed to show off the Lan Chile brand globally in markets the airline had never served and act as ambassadors for Chile.
The second flight in September, commanded by Commander Leonardo Siña, flew the same routing but omitted the stops in Argentina and India. The omission of the Buenos Aires stop made the first leg to Capetown an 08:51 journey. Most of the passengers on these flights were not Chilean but the flights obviously achieved their aim as for 1986 another four were organised. The third 'Three Oceans' flight took off on May 10, 1986 commanded by the captain Sergio Camila in another B707, carrying 77 passengers. Again the routing was broadly similar but with minor changes. The Nairobi stop was omitted but replaced by a stop in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Left: Capt Velasco in front of the aircraft used for the 8th tour
"Good morning friends! And I'm not saying good morning gentlemen passengers, as would be usual in an itinerary flight, because this is a very special flight. We have traveled together in many countries. We have crossed many seas. We have lived 28 days of our lives in something different.
There have been very pleasant moments and we have also felt tired as normal. But I am particularly happy because the mission to get them out of the house and bring them back happy, is being fulfilled. We, the cockpit crew, have once again fulfilled a technical-professional function as on any Lan Chile flight.
But I would also like to point out the work of our good girls and beloved flight attendants who with their sympathy and affection, I believe have made them feel on board, not as guests, but as homeowners.
I also want to highlight the hard work and professional performance of our dear guides Lucía and Huberto. I ask for all of them an affectionate applause.
Well, I say with pity, we are reaching the end of the long day, which although sometimes hard, is sure to leave in a corner of the heart something of nostalgia.
I want to say goodbye with a sincere hug of each and every one of you and tell you not until forever, but until soon. Thank you "
2011, July. Air Cruises of Lan Chile 1985-89. Retired Pilots Association of Lan Chile
2014, April. Air Cruises. Flights around the world from Lan Chile in the 80s. Airplanes and Cities