Líneas Aéreas de Nicaragua, operating as LANICA, was the national airline of Nicaragua from 1945 until 31 August 1981. Its history is indelibly caught up with that of the Somoza family's dictatorship, which ruled the country from 1936-1974.
Despite Somoza Garcia's thoroughly undemocratic actions after winning the 1936 Presidential elections his opportunistic support of the Allied war effort during WW2 not only enabled him to build up an enormous fortune but also to gain the interest of Pan Am which setup LANICA as a subsidiary with PA holding a 40% share. Initially the Somoza's obvious corruption and suppression of freedoms earned the ire of the US but the country's anti-communist stance and some deft politiking enabled Somoza to keep the US on side and LANICA to grow.
By mid 1965 the fleet was a mix of Douglas piston-liners and C-46s with a single DC-6 flying the prestige Miami and San Salvador routes.
The airline's first jet was a BAC One-Eleven leased from Aer Lingus in late 1966 whilst the airline awaited its own One-Eleven 400, which arrived in October 1967. This plane was jointly operated with TAN and served for 5 years.
From May 1972 several CV-880s joined the fleet. The CV880s were an obvious sign of Howard Hughes involvement when in 1972 he took a 25% shareholding in return for the lease of a pair of them. Pan Am's holding had decreased to 10% by 1975 and the rest was owned by the Somozas. By mid 1975 the pair of CV-880s operated most international routes and the rest of the fleet comprised C-46s and DC-6s.
In the early 1970s the beginnings of the Sandinista revolution began to take form and the increase in power of this grouping corresponded with an increase in repression by the regime. This had the opposite effect of increasing support for the rebels and bringing on further international condemnation. The election of Carter in 1977 saw US support wane when military assistance was made conditional on human rights. By 1978 civil strife was resulting in assassinations and strikes and the opposition gained strength at the expense of the regime. The unification of the previously fragmented Sandinista groups spelled the end for President Somoza and he fled to Miami in July 1979. The insurrection left approximately 50,000 dead and 150,000 Nicaraguans in exile. Obviously the effects of the 1970s on the Nicaraguan economy were disastrous. Despite all this however LANICA had acquired a further pair of CV-880s in 1975 to replace the first pair. These operated until 1977 when a single 727 arrived.
AN-BLX (above) was originally N8808E delivered to Delta in October 1960 and sold to Boeing in 1973. After the 727 replaced it BLX became N90450 and then N819AJ. She was purchased by Torco Oil Co in late 1993 and broken up at Mojave in December 1999.
AN-BSQ was originally delivered to TAA in August 1965 as VH-TJC ‘Arthur Phillips’. In mid 1977 she joined Lanica and remaine with them until their closure wearing several different liveries. In 1983 she was converted to a freighter and became N4602D with Jet East Intnl. By 1985 she was N721JE with Purolater Courier and later Emery. Operating in USPS colours she was retired in 2004 and broken up.
LANICA's ownership passed to the Junta of National Reconstruction but its debts were not accepted. Operations continued but bankruptcy was declared in March 1981 and the company folded to be replaced by a new flag carrier - Aeronica, whose history was short and turbulent itself. At the time of LANICA's demise its fleet consisted of 2 727-100s, 3 C-46s and a DC-6. Nicaragua would continue to suffer through the 1980s - a victim of the Reagan Administration's meddling, the Cold-War in general, the Catholic Church and internal strife between the Sandinista movement and other domestic groupings.
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: