Lan's initial equipment was a selection of French and German types but the Second World War interrupted spares for these and the airline re-equipped with more standard Lockheed Electra 10s and Douglas DC-3s.
It wasn't until postwar that it joined IATA and started international operations and during the 1950s it really spread its wings, with the purchase of a trio of Douglas DC-6Bs in 1955 being a turning point. Five DC-6s eventually joined the fleet and were originally registered as CC-CLDB/D/E/F and G. One of the new DC-6Bs enabled Lan Chile to undertake a global first by flying over the icebound continent of Antarctica on December 22, 1956. Although this gained the airline much kudos it was longer haul flights to more populous places that were desired.
Finally in April 1958 Lan Chile gained permission to fly to the United States, although the DC-6 couldn't make it in one flight. The routing was an extension of the Santiago-Lima route to Guayaquil, Panama City and then Miami beyond. The service began in August and flight 151 operated twice weekly. The return leg left on Thursdays and Sundays arriving in Santiago the day afterwards and then continuing on to Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
Quite why Lan Chile chose the Caravelle is uncertain but perhaps the loads simply didn't justify the larger aircraft at the time. It is also likely Lan's decision was influenced by Aerolineas Argentinas' use of Caravelles on services to santiago from Buenos Aires.
The DC-6s would continue on domestic services, replacing Convair 340s, until the arrival of new HS.748s from 1967 and still operated the route to Easter Island until February 28, 1970 when a Boeing 707 replaced them there too. The Boeing product was certainly more suitable for long haul expansion and Lan acquired their first, second hand from Lufthansa, on April 5, 1967. This aircraft was a 144 passenger 707-330B that had only been delivered new to Lufthansa, as D-ABUC, in October 1965. It was apparently part of a deal that gave Lufthansa traffic rights on the Lima-Santiago route.
As CC-CEA the 707 was able to inaugurate a new twice weekly New York route (routing Buenos Aires-Santiago-Lima-JFK) on April 15, 1967. The paucity of 707s meant the Caravelles continued on the Miami service, which was in fact increased to 4 times weekly. Lan Chile upgraded its fleet substantially in February 1968 when the first of four new Boeing 727-116s entered service. The trijets complemented rather than replaced the Caravelles, which remained in service operating the domestic routes up and down the spine of Chile into the 1970s. They were finally withdrawn in August 1975 and all three moved to Aerotal Aerolineas Territoriales De Colombia.
Prior to that one of the Caravelles was hijacked on February 6, 1970 when two pistol armed men seized the plane en-route to Santiago from Puerto Montt. When the aircraft landed in Santiago the hijackers let 7 adults and 5 children off and ordered the aircraft to be refuelled. They were overpowered by police dressed as mechanics soon afterwards. This hijacking was symptomatic of stormclouds gathering above Chile's political landscape. The next decade would bring severe turbulence to Chile but its national airline would continue to grow and thrive.
Caravelle Operations in the 1960s in South America. Utopia blogspot
Hijacking February 6, 1970. Aviation Safety Network
Lan Chile. Company Histories.com
Lost Schemes: #222 LAN-Chile 757-2Q8 (1996-97). Airliner Cafe
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: