Brand new airport, same old planes

With no access to dollars, Venezuelan air carriers can not buy new planes or find spare parts for their fleets. So, incidents like this one from September 2011 in Puerto Ordaz could happen more often.

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.

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  1. “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” Well, there they go, a few million $ down the drain for a piece of junk even French Guiana could take down with their eyes closed, we could have used that money to buy something more important, like toilet paper.

  2. The imperio which can’t take these babies out is the imperio without a navy. That means Venezuela could fend offnaval conquest from Bolivia or Paraguay. However given the eternal friendship among the Bolivaran peoples, I’m guessing the real imperio targetted is Paraguay. Any Paraguayan ship that enters Venezuelan waters is toast!

  3. I didn´t understand the “brand new airport” bit in the title. Which airport would that be? The yet-to-be-constructed Hugo Chávez International Airport Terminal?

    Needless to say, building an airport there is a boondoggle. According to Google Maps, Valencia’s International Airport is 60 kms away from Palo Negro, why not build better connectivity for that airport instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new terminal?

    • 1. Yes. Technically, it wouldn’t be quite new because they’re simply reforming the Palo Negro airbase and making it a civilian airport. The title was the best I come up with.

      2. Agreed. But after the recent accident of a small aircraft which fell in a residential area, there are discussions about shutting down the Arturo Michelena Airport.

      However, Valencia isn’t the only airport with people leaving next door. Maiquetia and Barquisimeto have the same problem. Merida’s airport is right in the middle of the city, like La Carlota.

        • Small private planes can still land. Commercial flights are not allowed and arrive in El Vigia instead.

        • Mérida’s Alberto Carnevalli Airport was closed right after the Santa Bárbara Airlines Flight 518 crash for the reason you’ve stated. Guess what: the investigation concluded the airport’s location had absolutely no relation to the accident. The actual cause was human negligence. So the airport has been closed for all this time because of an unfounded suspicion and the government doesn’t give a damn for the ill effects of that measure. It can’t get more idiotic than this.

          • Easy explanation , if the airport location was the culprit then the authorities would have been guilty of the accident by maintaining it in operation , if the poor dead pilot was guilty of negligence then they are off the hook. The regime is always blameless whatever happens !!

      • This is a common problem, people allowed to move too near/ in the path of airports and other infrastructure and then wanting to do something about it by shuttering the infrastructure instead of moving the people.

        Maiquetia and Valencia, for example, were built long before any residential home were built next to them, and these homes should never have been allowed in the first place.

        Merida, aside from it being in the middle of the city is definitely a throat tightening airport to take off or land in. Many pilots I have spoke to, from little Piper Cubs to 737’s say that it is one of the most challenging to operate from given the weather, the approaches and the city.

        Palo Negro is also smack dab in the middle of Maracay, so it would make no sense to expand it while shuttering Valencia. Same problems, IMHO.

        • I remember when I was a kid I went several times to Merida by plane. It wasn’t exactly a smooth ride.

          • The last time I flew out of there, in 2007, it was via Aserca I think, one of those Brazilian Embraer dual prop planes.

            The stewardess crossed herself before AND after we took off. LOL!!

        • The phenomenon you describe is actually fairly universal I believe. Most early airports were on the “outskirts” of town until the cities grew around them. New airports were built farther out and land carved around them to prevent future encroaching.

          • Agreed, it is not solely a Venezuelan phenomenon, but in places where laws and zoning is enforced this problem is not so common.

            Take La Carlota. When it was built, Los Ruices was a farm and going to Petare meant travelling to a different city.

            As Caracas grew, mainly eastwards, the airport was surrounded.

            At some point, someone should have either shut down La Carlota and moved it, but that didn’t happen because too many influential people had their planes parked there and Charallave and El Tuy airports weren’t even on the drawing boards. Or, Los Ruices and California Norte and Sur should not have been built, but as many of us know, party affiliation and money trumped common sense time and again.

            Since La Carlota turned into (theoretically) strictly military airfiled and base, chances are far less that it will ever be converted into a park, a zoo or whatever else has been proposed down through the years.

  4. Considering the small national civilian airport next to Base Libertador is named after Juan Vicente Gómez’s son, I find this oddly fitting.

  5. One of the flaws of the Grandiose mentality of Chavismo is that it privileges useless ‘show off’ projects (big new airport ) over smaller scale, less spectacualr but far more useful and practical investments (e.g. allowing import of parts for existing planes or the purchase of new planes. ) Doubt that there is enough air traffic going to Aragua to justify the kind of investment that a new or refurbished airport entails , maybe they should use the money to complete a railway line from Ccs to Maracay and Valencia or to repair or upgrade the much deteriorated autopista del centro .


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