Wings of Desire: the History of Aeromexico's Fleet
By Domingo Álvarez, Aire magazine no. 15
Will and technology come together to achieve the dream of flying even higher, faster, and guaranteeing passengers’ safety. Driven mainly by the illusion of sharing it with travelers, so we can discover the world together. This is the story of how the fleet to make it happen was consolidated.
Our first flight was with a Stinson SR in 1934
Nearly 80 Aeromexico’s airplanes cross the sky, while I write these lines. They are part of the 124-aircraft fleet which, in a logistical deployment involving crew, airports, maintenance, air traffic, and passengers, manages to make 620 flights per day. I look at the sky and—now that watching airplanes fly above the city reminds us that no continent is so far away anymore—I am surprised by thinking that just 80 years ago, a small Stinson with the XB-AJI plate and a Lyncoming engine with a 215 horsepower was leaving Mexico City, on September 14, 1934, to land in Playa de Hornos, carrying five passengers who paid 30 pesos each for the experience. Acapulco was two hours away from the capital, by plane.
The birth of Aeronaves de México could have passed for humble if it had not been full of hope. Just looking at the sky is fascinating: as if it were a magic sphere, we turn to it in search of answers, always suspecting that the future is kept there. However, few take flight and try to touch it.
Aeronautics is funny: while its body is scientific, it feeds on optimism. The rule is to simultaneously discover the limits and the will to break them. An airplane is full of promises; it will always be a vehicle of the future.
Since its early years, Aeronaves de México focused on increasing its fleet. Just 10 years after reaching Acapulco, during the mid 40’s, a squadron comprised by a Beechcraft 17, four Bellanca Pacemaker CH-300s, three Boeing B-247s, and five Avron Ansons, among others, were already traveling the western part of the country. All of them were small planes that ventured to discover the routes connecting Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Baja California peninsula.
The Convair 340 was our was our first airplane with a pressurized cabin
Once the air space was tamed, and taking advantage of the progress brought by the Second World War, models which later conquered new territories throughout Mexico, joined the fleet. Aircraft like DC-3, DC-4—which flew with up to 54 passengers!—and the Convair 340, consolidated the strength of the fleet. The time of overcoming another boundary had come.
1. The Britannia flew at 23,000 feet high. 2. Our first jet, the DC-8, flew at a speed of over 800 km/h.
Flight attendants in front a DC-8 in 1968. Interior of a DC-8 in 1975.
The Bristol Britannia 302 —“The Whispering Giant”, brochures bragged—was the pioneer responsible for taking Aeronaves de México to New York on December 8, 1957. With four Bristol Proteus turbines, it reached a cruising speed of 615 km/h. But beyond all technical gestures, the legend of the Britannia talks about the luxury of traveling: arriving to New York was a triumph and each flight became a par to celebrate it.
Theatrically, flight attendants wore four different uniforms during the trip, in order to wait on the 92 passengers that were traveling both in Premier Class (smokers’ room included), and in Coach. Food was cooked on the plane and served, literally, on a silver tray. On November 29, another aircraft of the same model inaugurated the route connecting Acapulco with Los Angeles, and in 1960, the Douglas DC-8 took over the Mexico City-New York route, becoming our first jet. Four years later, that same plane reached Toronto and Montreal.
Our small DC-9 used the technology of high-capacity airplanes.
The new decade was welcomed with 22 airplanes traveling to 23 cities. Up to that moment, 416,419 passengers had flown with us. With the innocence and outburst of a young man who has just discovered the true dimensions of the world, the airline bought the small Guest Aerovías de México company and in 1962 started operating its international routes: each country sparkled on the horizon like a treasure to be reached.
Panama, Caracas, and Bogotá were added to the destinations portfolio and, on the following year, the DC-8 completed the Mexico City-Miami-Madrid itinerary. While celebrating 30 years in operation, Aeronaves de México traveled 45,000 kilometers to reach 40 cities. 673,329 travelers were part of the experience.
On March 4, 1968, the DC-6 flew for the last time, turning us into the first Latin American airline in presenting a fully jet-integrated fleet. The face of the future changed.
1. DC-10, the first one with a wide cabin (two aisles inside). 2. With its two turboprops, the Fairchild carried up to 19 passengers.
Everything is connected
Navigating the sky was already a dream come true. The childlike fantasy of moving through the air turned, the following years, into the responsibility of doing it in a more efficient way. Two aircraft were responsible for Aeromexico’s—our new commercial name adopted in 1971—maturity : the DC-9 ideal for operating routes with little demand and airports that were not suitable for modern jets, at the same time it saved time and fuel – and the CD-10, a jumbo jet, able to make transoceanic flights. The result was overwhelming: in 1974, Aeromexico traveled with 2 million 654 thousand passengers.
Under the same spirit that sought to increase frequencies and design useful itineraries for business travel, eyes were set on regional routes. In 1990, our airline bought Aerolitoral (which later became Aeromexico Connect) and designated six Fairchild Metro III models for it, which soon became 27. Another six Saab 340s joined them, from the Swedish assembly plant, famous for its automobiles.
1. Two engines under its wings allowed the B-757 to fly to the United States, South America and Europe. 2. 38 Embraer RJ-145s fly with Aeroméxico Connect.
The following year, the successful relationship between Aeromexico and Boeing would begin. On May 29, the Boeing 767 made the first nonstop flight to Europe. Two weekly frequencies were established: one to Madrid and one to Paris. On April 13, 1999, with the arrival of the AM006 flight, from Paris to Mexico City, Aeromexico completed one million operations.
Boeing-777, the first aircraft fully designed by computer
With a capacity for 277 passengers, the Boeing 777, the biggest commercial airplane at the moment completed, on November 16, 2006, the first Mexico Ci -Tijuana-Tokyo flight. Its dimensions, technological innovations—like the fly-by-wire system (digitally operated)—and scope, turned it into the insignia with which Aeromexico chose to reach Asia. One and a half year later, that same aircraft inaugurated the Mexico City-Tijuana-Shanghai route.
The Boeing 777 legacy is one of responsibility and compromise: being the most modern airline in the country is a challenge that requires constant renovation and keeping eyes on the horizon. It is an endless road. The plane, which now takes the lead, is the 787 Dreamliner. Built with 50% carbon fiber and two GEnxTM turbines—the quietest of the world—the airplane consumes 20% less fuel and it is the fastest in its category (flying at over 910 km/h). A humidity system and illumination patterns which, narratively, outline flight hours as if a day was passing, contribute to jet lag reduction. As its name states, it is the plane for traveling through the path of dreams. Aviation is again a fantasy topic, part of the tradition of thinking about the future as an alternative to the present. Just now I turn to the sky and become enchanted again...
An airplane flies by.
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Interior of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
In 2012 Aeromexico signed contracts with Boeing to acquire up to 100 aircraft with a value of 11 billion dollars, which represented the largest investment in the history of Mexican aviation.
Grupo Aeromexico is the first Latin American airline to operate these aircarft. They form part of the continuous upgrade of our fleet, the objective of which is to have one of the newest fleets of airlines worldwide.