Last week, Aragua State Governor Tareck El Aissami said that the El Libertador Air Force Base (near Maracay) would become a civilian airport for domestic and international flights. You can guess how it will be called… that’s right: the Hugo Chávez International Airport. (Will it have duty free shops? Will it be painted red? Will it have socialist areperas? The jury’s still out on that one…)
It won’t be the first. Haiti has already named an airport after the comandante supremo.
But the number of domestic flights could be quite limited, as the current fleet of aircraft used by our commercial airlines has dropped by more than half, from 130 to 68 in the last four years.
Many of the planes are currently grounded because they lack maintenance, and/or there’s no access to the required spare parts. This happens because airlines don’t have enough access to preferential dollars. Meanwhile, the oldest aircrafts can’t fly as they don’t have their airworthiness certificates. The government has set up a series of meetings with the airlines, as the debt with them has reached a big milestone.
Meanwhile, State flag carrier Conviasa has problems too: it has only received three or four of the twenty new E-190 planes they recently bought from Brazil and was forced earlier this year to lease other aircrafts, so they can continue flying to Madrid. Their own planes can’t fly there as a result of an European Union ban.
At least one aging equipment was recently refurbished (thanks for that Cuba!) and able to fly once again: an Otomat missile system straight up from the 70’s. Sadly, it will probably be used just for show.