Its Dutch colonial history has made Suriname a diverse nation but following independence in 1975, as with many ex-colonies, its history hasn't been particularly peaceful, with several coups. Even so compared to many it has suffered less and its close relationship with the Netherlands has remained a lynchpin of its post colonial history. This has been complicated somewhat by the ex-dictator Dési Bouterse being re-elected as President in 2010, but nonetheless the connection to its former colonial master remains strong.
Long-haul flights continued until July 1992 when the last DC-8, the series 63 N4935C, was repossessed by International Air Leases. Operations continued through the 1990s with only a DHC-8 and later a leased MD-87. The Amsterdam route was flown only as a codeshare with KLM, but in late 2003 it was announced that Surinam Airways would purchase a KLM 747-300 for around USD $5-10 million to restart its own long-haul operations. KLM had been operating a 5 times a week service with its own 747-300s and the agreement between the two airlines would see that cutback to twice weekly with Surinam making up the other three flights itself. In fact Surinam was operating the 747 four times weekly with KLM operating the other three days after a few years.
The aircraft chosen for Surinam was PH-BUW a 747-300 Combi that had been delivered to KLM on October 3, 1986 and named 'Leonardo Da Vinci'. She had served a 6 month lease to Martinair in 2000 but had otherwise been with KLM her whole career until storage at Mojave in April 2003. Surinam Airways painted her in more sedate, mainly white fuselaged, colours rather than the original orange topped scheme the DC-8s wore and registered her as PZ-TCM. She was named 'Ronald Elwin Kappel' after the Surinam pilot who was killed at age 32 in 1959 and had been one of the two founders of the original Surinam Airways in 1953.
Operations were scheduled to begin on May 29, 2004 however administrative problems with the Surinamese authorities held up the first service until August 9, with the aircraft still registered as PH-BUW at the time until the certification issues could be worked through. One of the major issues Surinam Airways has regularly had is that it has only had a small fleet. The MD-87 had been replaced by a DC-9-51 and then that was replaced in turn in 2003 by an MD-80, but at times when that aircraft went tech Surinam would be forced to use the 747 on such routes as Paramaribo to Port au Spain and Curacoa. Unfortunately obviously when the 747 went tech the MD-80 could hardly take its place!
By 2006 there was already discussion about replacing the 747-300 and the airline had looked around for a Boeing 777-300ER. Unsurprisingly cost and lack of availability scuppered those plans. Following several years of losses in 2009 the airline made bold fleet changes. It acquired a pair of 737-300s to replace the MD-80 and retired the 747 on November 25 - Independence day. Instead of a 777 however it settled for an ex-Air France A340-300 leased from ILFC. This aircraft became PZ-TCP and the 747-300 was sent unceremoniously to the desert, being stored at Marana. This would become a controversial decision in the eyes of many, not least the President himself.
The airline was accused of corruption, nepotism and mismanagement, partly as the 747 could have been kept as a backup aircraft for when the A340 was out of service. European legislation that forced SLM to pay compensation to passengers for cancellations and delays was a major headache for an airline with only a single long haul aircraft. Things came to a head in 2015 when the airline's CEO, Ewald Henshijs, and the board of directors were sacked by President Bouterse for "major blunders". Nevertheless this didn't stop the airline acquiring another A340 to replace the first one rather than a pair of twin engined aircraft like A330s. This decision was partly forced upon it by the airline's inability to get ETOPs certification. At present the long haul fleet still consists of a single aircraft - PZ-TCR: a 1998 build A340-313X formerly with China Southwest and Air China.
Even though the 747-300 only served for a relatively short period she did pave the way for Suriname to regain its own independent link to Europe. It's just a shame that she was paid off so quickly and as of 2015 she still sat forelornly awaiting the scrapman in the desert.
Chickrie, R. More trouble at Surinam Airways. Caribbean News Now. Jan 2016.
Pilling, M. Surinam Airways replaces 747 with A340-300. Flight International, Dec 2009.
Aviation Safety Network - N1809E Crash
2003. SLM To Add A 747-300 (from KLM). Airliners.net
2004. Surinam Airways Problems?. Airliners.net
2006. Surinam Airways 743 Flew PBM-POS? Airliners.net
2015. Suriname Airways Gets Replacement A343. Airliners.net
Wikipedia. Surinam Airways
RZJets.net - Surinam Airways
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: