The collapse of APSA in 1971 was rather humiliating for the Peruvian military government and left the country without a national carrier. This led to the creation of AeroPerú, which built a bright 1970s image and valiantly attempted to compete against the big US airlines for traffic to and from Lima. The airline built up its network and intoduced widebodies reaching its peak as the 1970s closed. In part 1 of this series we look at AeroPerú in its formative years.
For 14 years, from 1957, Peru was represented on the international airline stage by APSA (Aerolíneas Peruanas Sociedad Anónima), a privately owned airline that had managed to build up an impressive route network stretching throughout South America and as far afield as London, Madrid and Paris.
Unfortunately APSA got into serious financial difficulties and collapsed acrominiously in 1971 when the Peruvian government refused to support it following reports of fraud and the size of its debts. The 1970s were a period when no country could do without a national airline and the Peruvian government decided to take matters into its own hands by converting the Peruvian Army airline, SATCO, into AeroPerú (Empresa de Transporte Aereo del Peru) on May 22, 1973.
Initial equipment was a trio of Fokker F28-1000s, which began domestic Lima-Cuzco services in October. These were joined in May 1974 by a single ex-Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727-25 and a pair of F27-600s were ordered for delivery in 1975. The real prize however was clearly to begin to recreate APSA's long haul network and to that end a pair of ex-VIASA DC-8-54s were acquired in July 1974. They enabled the start of services to Buenos Aires via Santiago at the end of the month, with the all important Miami route starting soon after. In 1975 AeroPerú was advertising it's capability to transport passengers to Machu Picchu as 'The world's newest...and perhaps oldest airline'.
“We will not permit ourselves to be submitted to this type of colonialist pressure,”
“We are in the middle. We don't like the cutbacks here, but we can live with them, Actually, we don't care how many routes or frequencies the Peruvians get to the United States because we are confident of our ability to get the traffic.”
It would be a problem that would continue to dog AeroPerú after Braniff was gone as Eastern and then American Airlines took their place.
Lockheed was at the time struggling with the Tristar programme and had the two Tristar 1s delivered to PSA, with the lower cargo hold entry and cocktail lounge configuration, stored. Note the belly bulge in the photo above indicating the lounge position. They had been in fact parked for a couple of years and Lockheed sold AeroPerú on leasing these two unusual trijets until their own Tristars were ready. Accordingly the two US registered Tristars (N10112 and N10114 'Ciudad de Cuzco') arrived and replaced two of the three Air Jamaica leased DC-8s.
The Tristars signalled the arrival of a new more sombre, albeit still colourful livery. Gone was the red top and hot pink replaced by a simpler more sedate white base with red and pink window stripes.
AeroPerú put the L-1011s into service on December 14, 1978 on the New York route and was advertising an addon package to US customers whereby they could fly anywhere on the domestic Peruvian network as many times as they liked within 15 days for only an extra $99.
This was the zenith of AeroPerú's operations but unfortunately the arrival of the Tristars coincided with the 1979 OPEC Oil Crisis. AeroPerú found itself unable to afford the Trijets, which were probably too large for its routes at the best of times, and with their non-standard additions not the cheapest L-1011s to operate either. Forced to live within its means AeroPerú cancelled its Tristar 500s, returned the Tristar 1s by the end of 1981 and turned back to the trusty DC-8. In part 2 we'll look at AeroPerú as it tried to weather the turbulent 1980s.
Davies. R.E.G. Airlines of the Jet Age: A History
Evanich III, John. Lost Schemes: #202 AeroPeru Lockheed L-1011 (1979-81). AirlinerCafe
Braniff Is Ordered By Peru to Reduce Flights From Lima. New York Times. 1975
Maidenberg, H.J. Air War Over Latin America. New York Times. 1976