Venezolana Internacional de Aviación Sociedad Anónima (VIASA) was for many years one of the most well known and well run airlines in South America. It had a close working relationship with KLM, which enabled it to grow sustainably and leverage the Dutch flag carrier's know how and equipment. The airline grew strong during the 1960s blessed with the democratic stability brought about following the collapse of the military dictatorship of Perez Jimenez in 1958.
This crash was particularly devastating. The DC-9-32 YV-C-AVD was operating the service from Caracas to Miami via Maracaibo but due to faulty runway temperature sensors entered the wrong performance data. The aircraft barely made it off the runway, struck power lines and plunged into the city killing all 84 aboard plus another 71 on the ground.
The Convair 880 fleet was reduced back to two in 1965 when YV-C-VIC became VR-HFX with Cathay Pacific, after the KLM lease agreement ended in November 1965. She was written off in November 1967 when she overran the runway at Hong Kong and her nosegear collapsed.
VIASA looked towards the DC-9 to replace the CV-880s on medium haul routes and borrowed DC-9-14s from AVENSA in May 1967. An AVENSA Caravelle was also leased for some time during the late 60s. When VIASA traded in its last Convair 880-22M in November 1968 (all went to Cathay Pacific) both New Orleans and Montego were dropped. A DC-9-32 was also leased from AVENSA in February 1969 but was destroyed after less than a month in service with them when it crashed on take-off from Maracaibo.
In happier news two years earlier VIASA had expanded its long-haul fleet with orders for a pair of DC-8-63s, at the time the largest airliner in the world. The aircraft accommodated 160 seats. The route network expanded to include Barbados, Port of Spain, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Heathrow and Beirut.
As VIASA entered into the 1970s it had a fleet of 2 DC-8-63s, 2 DC-8-54s, 1 DC-8-55F plus two DC-9s leased from AVENSA. Its relationship with KLM was as strong as ever and this would help it enter the widebody era as early as 1971. In part 2 we'll take a look at VIASA in the 1970s as Venezuela's oil boom took hold.
For part 2 see: El Grandioso: VIASA 1970-1986