Updated: Aug 14
In 1972 Viasa became the first Latin American airline to operate the 747-200, then the largest passenger airplane in the world.
In July 2019, against all odds, Venezuela also hosted the first Latin American airline that, offered service in the (new) largest passenger airplane in the world. I am talking about the time when HiFly's A380 9H-MIP for a short period flew for Estelar Latinoamerica. I say against all odds because the financial situation of Venezuela in 2019 was a stark contrast with the oil bonanza of the seventies that justified the presence of the 747 in the country then. The presence of an A380 in Venezuela in 2019 was just the result of an unlikely combination of factors.
Estelar Latinoamerica is a small Venezuelan airline that happened to find itself in the right place at the right time to fulfill the unserved niche market of long haul, high demand routes out of Venezuela: Madrid and Buenos Aires. To exploit these routes Estellar wet-leased an A340 from HiFly Malta, 9H-JAI.
It just so happens that at the time HiFly was also the operator of the first second-hand A380 in the world, 9H-MIP, former 9V-SKC with Singapore Airlines. So, when 9H-JAI went in for some maintenance, 9H-MIP was sent to replace it. So that’s how a Venezuelan airline became the first in Latin America to welcome its passengers onboard an A380 Super Jumbo. Granted, the upper deck was blocked out and passengers didn’t have the choice to select an A380 as the aircraft for their trip when they booked their tickets, but it still counts, right?
9H-MIP arrival in Maiquetía was also the first time an A380 landed in Venezuelan soil. During its tour in the country shuttling passengers between Maiquetía, Barajas and Ezeiza, 9H-MIP was handled at a remote stand in CCS, since jet bridge equipped positions had not been surveyed for the dimensions of the A380.
This is fairly old news, with a pandemic and all in between, but it is relevant to me because I recently opened my 1:400 replica of 9H-MIP by Phoenix Models, which I got precisely because of the connection of the aircraft with Venezuela that I tell here.
It is worth noting that in today’s stagnant Venezuela the Airbus A340, A380s younger brother, is rather popular, as the 4-engine aircraft are cheap compared to the highly efficient long-haul twins that rule the skies today (and don’t need to comply with ETOPs, which is a foreign concept in the country). In fact, as I write this Conviasa is making a few headlines as they are in the process of adding more A340s to their fleet. The latest, an ex-Mahan Air -600 received its Venezuelan registration (YV3533) less than a week ago.
I leave you with a collection of photos of my 1:400 9H-MIP (forgive the chipped winglet on the left wing), and other Venezuelan A340s. 9H-MIP wore a beautiful livery during its time with HiFly Malta raising awareness of the destruction of coral reefs. The aircraft was stored in December 2020 in the middle of the Covid pandemic.
Jorge A. Zajia