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On 22 June, 1960 landed in Galeão airport VARIG’s first flight from New York with Boeing 707-441, equiped with four Rolls-Royce engines, which guaranteed fuel economy and more range over other versions. With B707, VARIG was the first airline to offer nonstop flights between Rio de Janeiro and New York.

In August, 1961 VARIG purchased Real-Aerovias-Nacional airlines, which was in financial difficulties. Thus VARIG become
Brazil’s domestic market leader and expanded its international network to Lima, Bogota, Caracas, Mexico, Miami and Los Angeles. After purchase Real-Aerovias-Nacional, VARIG's domestic network grown to more than 90 cities in Brazil and the fleet reached almost 100 aircraft.

Shortly later, VARIG became also the leader in international market, when has inherited Panair do Brasil’s routes to Europe. To assume such new routes, VARIG acquired Boeing 707-300 and Douglas DC-8-33. In very little time VARIG started flights to Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt, London and Beirut, consolidating itself as the largest airline in Latin America. VARIG was the only airline in the world to operate the three first-generation American jets: Boeing 707, Convair 990 and Douglas DC-8 simultaneously.

However, in December 1966, Ruben Berta dies at his office desk. In his place assumed Erik Kastrup de Carvalho, who previously worked at Panair. Erik continued VARIG's international expansion, that arrived on the other side of the world, in 1968, when launched flights to Tokyo. For domestic market, VARIG brought the fast and silent Lockheed Electra II. They replaced Convair 240 and Caravelle on main domestic routes, including Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo "Ponte Aérea" (Air Bridge). Another measure was the fleet standardization, which won several aircraft models after the acquisition of Real-Aerovias-Nacional consortium. By the end of the decade, Douglas DC-6, Convair 240/340/440 and Lockheed Super H Constellation were withdrawn, as well as about half of Douglas DC-3 fleet. In the meantime, VARIG was obliged to receive aircraft it did not want, but were previously ordered by Real, such as Convair 990 and Lockheed Electra II.

At the end of the decade, VARIG also selected the DC-3 successor, the HS-748, also known as "Avro". A unit was operated experimentally between 1965 and 1966. VARIG also analyzed other options such as Beechcraft 99, FH-227 and Fokker 27. The first HS-748 entered into commercial operation in 1968, replacing DC-3 in regional routes, mainly in Rio Grande do Sul state.

 


Arrival of the first Boeing 707 (PP-VJA) and on-board service in B707's 1st Class (Museu VARIG)

 

 


VARIG's crew - 60s / Lockheed Electra II


VARIG's boarding in Galeão International Airport, Rio de Janeiro - 60s (Museu VARIG)

 

                              HOW WAS FLYING IN THE 1960s?

Were aviation's "golden age", flying was very chic and very expensive. The slogan: “VARIG, a forma elegante de voar” (VARIG, the stylish way of fly).
Even though it was summer, passengers were wearing their best suits and dresses, including gloves and hat. On board reception was served French champagne or scotch for all passengers, including those in economy class. Smiling and elegant cabin crew with uniforms designed by famous designer, light cigarette for passengers. Wide seats and located at least one meter from the other in front. The big attraction was the meal: in First Class: caviar and shrimp cascades. In Economy Class two choice of hot food, entrance, cheese, dessert and drinks. In First Class, passenger enjoyed a true five star restaurant, with hot towels for hygiene, table towel, linen napkins, silverware and crystal glasses.

If the glamor continued as ever, travel time changed a lot in the 1960s. With the introduction of jets, travel time was reduced to less than half. The most glamorous line of VARIG, Rio de Janeiro - New York, formerly made with Super G Constellation and lasted about 25 hours, was reduced to only 9 hours with Boeing 707. And the best, the flight was non-stop. This gave VARIG a big advantage over its rival Pan Am. VARIG's Boeing 707-440 were equipped with more powerful engines, capable of making the route non-stop. While Pan Am's Boeing 707-320 were equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines and needed to make a stopover, making the flight take longer. In addition to time advantage, VARIG offered unrivaled on-board service and an extremely comfortable internal configuration, with 48 First Class seats, 60 Economy Class seats, a sitting room, six bathrooms and a wash room.

However operate the longest route in commercial aviation so far was not easy. VARIG's Boeing 707s operated at full capacity, with full fuel tanks (sacrificing load capacity) and needed to use full length of Galeão's runway, the longest runway in Brazil. Even so, Boeing 707 still could not gain enough altitude to stay above Santos Dummont airport traffic and the traffic of this airport was interrupted during departures of VARIG's flight to New York.

 

 


Economy Class meal / Boeing 707 / Onboard service - Boeing 707

 

60s

Fleet:
03xBoeing 707-300
02xBoeing 707-400
02xCaravelle I
12xConvair 240/340/440
02xConvair 990A

21xCurtiss C-46
38xDouglas DC-3
03xDouglas DC-6
01xDouglas DC-8-33
02xHS-748 "Avro"
04xLockheed L1049G Constellation
05xLockheed L188 Electra II
TOTAL: 95

President:
Erik Kastrup de Carvalho

 

Domestic Destinations:
94 cities

 

International Destinations:
Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Asuncion, Lima, Bogota, Caracas, Panamá, Mexico City, Santo Domingo, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Sal Island, Monrovia, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Roma, Milan, Zurich, Frankfurt, London, Beirut, Copenhagen, Tokyo

Passengers Transported: 1,34 million in 1969


 


VARIG's international route map in 1968

 

 

 

                              FOCUS: Varig and the route to New York

VARIG's first international long-haul route was to New York, in July 1955. Ever since this was VARIG's most important route until the end of the flights in 2006. The first aircraft used on the route was Super G Constellation, which along with Douglas DC-7 was the most advanced four-engine at that time. But unlike DC-7, Super Constellation was also famous for its beauty and became the biggest icon of aviation's glamor in the 50s. Build to carry over one hundred passengers, VARIG had an ultra comfortable setting with just about 60 seats. The flight time was 25 hours and with ​​stops in Belém and Trujillo. Initially the flight was twice a week and by the end of 50s VARIG  doubled the frequencies.
Also in 50s VARIG received more Super G Constellation, but this time equipped with "wing tip tank", so now it could fly from Rio de Janeiro to New York with only one stop. Thereafter VARIG offered flights between Rio and New York with two stops (in Bethlehem and Truijillo) and one stop (in Port of Spain).
Despite the improvement achieved with the wing tip tank, VARIG knew that it needed to do more. After all VARIG was competing with nothing less than Pan Am. So VARIG ordered the modern Boeing 707 and Caravelle jets in 1957. But Caravelle arrived before. Caravelle was a jet designed to operate only on short routes, anyway VARIG immediately used Caravelle in its route to New York, becoming the first airline in the world to operate a jet at JFK in 1959. As Caravelle had no autonomy to make nonstop flight to New York, it made stops in Belém, Port of Spain and Nassau. Nevertheless Caravelle reduced flight time from 25 to 14 hours. After that VARIG operated Rio - New York route twice a week with Caravelle and twice a week with Super G Constellation.
In 1960 the Boeing 707-441 finally arrived, the main weapon against the powerful Pan Am. VARIG had chose and waited for the 400 version just because it was the only one capable to fly nonstop between Rio de Janeiro and New York, thanks to the new Rolls Royce engines. Pan Am operated the Boeing 707-320 with Pratt & Witney, who had not sufficient autonomy and needed to make a stop. It gave a great advantage to VARIG, since it was the only one to offer nonstop flights between Rio and New York. However to achieve that VARIG operated at maximum limits, requiring full power of the engines and almost all the runway length. With the introduction of Boeing 707-441, the flight time was reduced to just nine hours. The Boeing 707-441 could carry about 150 passengers, but VARIG's used a more comfortable setting with fewer seats, six bathrooms and a washstand.
In 1960 VARIG offered three flights per week nonstop with Boeing 707-441, two flights per week with Caravelle with stops in Belém, Port of Spain and Nassau and two flights per week with Super G Constellation with stops in Port of Spain or in Belém and Trujillo.
In 1961 Caravelle stopped operating on the route to New York and VARIG's frequencies were: two weekly nonstop with Boeing 707-441, one with stops in Brasilia and Port of Spain with Boeing 707-441 and two weekly with Super G Constellation.
In 1966 arrived the first Boeing 707-341C with new Pratt & Witney JT3D engines able to fly farther than Boeing 707-441. Therefore Boeing 707-320C replaced both Super G Constellation and Boeng 707-441 on Rio de Janeiro - New York route, now only nonstop.
Everything was going well when, in 1970, Boeing and Pan Am introduce the new Boeing 747-100 wide-body. From that moment DC-8 and Boeing 707 outdated. With two aisles and much more capacity of previous jets, the new generation intercontinental jets changed forever the commercial aviation. VARIG knew it was a matter of time for Pan Am bring a wide-body to Brazil's route. So VARIG ordered the new Douglas DC-10-30 wide-body. On July 1, 1974 VARIG operated the first flight to New York with a wide-body aircraft. Initially VARIG's DC-10 were configured with 30 seats in first class and 211 in economy class, a total of 241 seats. Years later VARIG introduced the business class.
Although DC-10 was a wide-body, it wasn't as successful as the Boeing 747 and it was not too hard to figure out why. The fact was that Boeing 747 was the largest commercial aircraft in history, but Brazilian demand was not large enough for an aircraft with than 300 seats.
Only in February 1981 VARIG acquired its first Boeing 747. The advantage was that the Boeing 747 was a Combi verion, ie half passenger half cargo and instead of more than 300 seats, only about 250. On February 12, 1981 VARIG's Boeing 747-200B made ​​the first flight on Rio de Janeiro - New York route. Now, besides have the same aircraft of Pan Am, VARIG had a more modern version (Boeing 747-200 against Boeing 747-100 used by Pan Am).
At the end of the 80s VARIG introduced an even larger and modern aircraft, the Boeing 747-300. Initially in Combi version, but in 1988 VARIG received the first Boeing 747-300 "full passenger", able to carry about 400 passengers.
In 1987 VARIG received it first new generation jet, the Boeing 767-200ER, that began to share with Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10 the route to New York.
Another important milestone in Brazilian aviation was in 1989, when VARIG inaugurated Guarulhos International Airport. Guess what was the route? New York - São Paulo with B747. After that the main VARIG's flight to New York was from São Paulo instead of Rio de Janeiro.
In early 90s Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10 were replaced by the new MD-11, the most advanced aircraft in 1990 with full computerized cockpit and digital systems. However USA - Brazil market changed radically in the 90s, divided only by VARIG and Pan Am. In 1992 Pan Am went bankrupt and was replaced by American Airlines and and join the market also Transbrasil, Vasp, United, Continental and Delta. As a result the tickets prices and load factor slumped.
In 1998 Tam started flying to Miami with its ultra-modern Airbus A330 equipped with individual entertainment in all classes and armchairs that recline 180 degrees in business class. The old VARIG's MD-11 was not able to compete.
In November 2001 VARIG received it first Boeing 777-200, the most modern aircraft of that time. Finally the airline had an aircraft able to compete with the other airlines. However the first Boeing 777 began operate flights to Europe, only later replaced the MD-11 on São Paulo - New York route.
In November 2005 Tam made ​​its first flight to New York with the A330. In June 2006 VARIG indefinitely canceled its flights to New York, but the company never returned flights to its first intercontinental destination.

 

 

 

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