Lan Chile was throughout the 1970s firmly supported by the new dictatorship of General Pinochet and grew with the acquisition of second-hand Boeing 707s and new 727s. The former opened up long haul flights to Europe (Madrid, Frankfurt and Paris Orly) in 1970 and across the Pacific extending from Tahiti to Fiji on September 5, 1974.
Despite the expansion the airline was not profitable and its debt load was increasing. The 727s were sold off in 1979 and short-haul additions were thin on the ground, with only a sole 737-200 being added in 1981. Ladeco, Lan Chile’s privately-owned competitor became the largest domestic airline in Chile. On international routes though Lan was still king but the 707s were becoming rather long in the tooth.
The solution was the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30. A pair of ex-Laker Airways series 30s were leased and repainted into full Lan colours. One served for nearly a year but the other survived for nearly four years. Additionally, a single ex-National Airlines example was leased from Pan Am in June 1, 1981 as CC-CJN. The aircraft seated 270 passengers and was used initially on the New York and Buenos Aires services before moving onto the European routes, with trips to the USA on weekends.
A further pair of second-hand DC-10s were acquired a year later with ZK-NZS and ZK-NZT joining the fleet as CC-CJS 'Santiago' and CJT 'Valparaiso' respectively. These aircraft were only built in 1976 and 1977 but had fallen foul of Air New Zealand’s decision to replace its DC-10s with 747s, in part probably due to the Erebus disaster. The arrival of Lan’s own DC-10s allowed the leased examples to be returned (aside from G-BGXI).
None of the DC-10s wore the unusual multi-ribbon scheme that seems to have been introduced on the 707s in 1978, but was replaced in 1981 by the more organised standard scheme that would serve the airline into the mid-90s. The pair of Laker DC-10s had a light grey belly and black nosecone, whilst the ex-NZ pair had natural metal bellies and no black nosecone.
Unfortunately, Lan’s financial situation continued to decline and on March 10, 1983 it was forced to withdraw from all European routes. From then on, the DC-10s were used exclusively on services to the USA becoming regular visitors to Los Angeles, Miami and New York. The European connection was maintained by operating from Santiago to Rio de Janeiro, where the passengers would transfer to a VARIG flight to Madrid.
On July 24, 1981 Patrico Sepulveda was installed as President and after a few years he ‘cleaned house’. On December 31, 1983 a new company Línea Aérea Nacional, Ltda. (renamed S.A on Feb 9, 1985) replaced the state controlled original Lan Chile. This new airline absorbed the assets of the old but not the debts and was to be run as a more cost focused airline.
The DC-10s didn’t appear to fit the new airline’s plans proving too large for the remaining routes and both were sold. CC-CJS joined SAS in August 1986 and CC-CJT joined American in June 1986. Their replacement in the Lan fleet was a pair of new Boeing 767-216ERs leased from ILFC and joining the fleet on May 29 and June 30. The 767s introduced a new route to Montreal Mirabel and would provide a firm foundation with which to grow the long-haul fleet and replace the remaining Boeing 707s.
Despite turmoil within its home country by the early 90s Lan-Chile was in a position to begin to grow to the dominant position it currently fulfils in the South American market. The DC-10s were Lan’s first widebody jets and came surprisingly late in the airline’s history, however they weren’t the only first generation widebody the airline would operate.
In December 1988 the airline also leased the Aer Lingus 747-130 EI-BED for 14 months providing a glimpse of a Jumbo in the Chilean scheme. Ultimately Lan’s success would be built on the Boeing 767-200/300 and it wouldn’t be until 2001 that another quad would join the fleet, in the form of the Airbus A340-300.
Davies. R.E.G. Airlines of the Jet Age: A History
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: