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The 1970s became known as VARIG golden age, marked by jets greater presence in domestic routes and the arrival of the first wide-body aircraft. VARIG made major investments in its main base, Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, which was then inaugurated its new passenger terminal. VARIG created a training and maintenance center and began the construction of the largest hangar in Latin America.

In the domestic market VARIG brought Boeing 727 and Boeing 737, which replaced turbo-propellers on domestic routes. For the regional routes, VARIG brought the "Avros". The Electra II began to operate only in Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo route, known as “Ponte Aérea” (Air Bridge). From 1975 to 1987, Electra II was the only aircraft to operate this route.

The introduction of jets on domestic routes made travel much faster, reducing the average time by half. However, many regional cities were no longer served by scheduled flights, since it not support jets aircraft. Seeing this situation, the Brazilian government created SITAR (Regional Air Transport System) in 1976. Brazil was divided into five regions and new regional companies were created to operate in each region. VARIG and Top Táxi Aéreo joined forces to create Rio Sul on August 24, 1976. Rio Sul was responsible for serving the entire south region, as well as Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Espírito Santo states. Rio Sul was officially created on August 24, 1976 and began flights with two Embraer EMB-110s, in September of the same year, on Porto Alegre - Rio Grande - Pelotas and Rio de Janeiro - São José dos Campos routes.

In July, 1974 VARIG inaugurated the first wide-body flight with Douglas DC-10-30, the most modern and advanced jet of that time, on Rio de Janeiro - New York route. The DC-10-30 inaugurated a new era in international flights. The internal decoration followed the fashion of the time with shades of orange and yellow, the same colour of the new flight attendants uniform.

The 1970s were also marked by the expansion of flights to South America, after the purchase of Cruzeiro do Sul airline in 1975. Continuing its international expansion, VARIG launched flights to Africa in 1970, on Rio de Janeiro - Luanda - Johannesburg route. After purchase Cruzeiro, VARIG became the only Brazilian airline with international flights and reached more than 40% of domestic market share. Although it was full incorporated, Cruzeiro brand continued to exist until the 90s, and VARIG advertisements also started to feature Cruzeiro logo between the second half of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s.

With the introduction of jets in the domestic market and the introduction of wide-body in the international market, the seats offer per aircraft has increased considerably. Allied to this, the aviation sector suffered the consequences of the "oil shock", which reduced passenger demand and increased costs. Thus, VARIG fleet was adjusted to this new reality, going from almost 100 aircraft to just over 60. The old turbo-propellers were replaced by jets, just as older jets were replaced by wide-bodies.

Also under Erik Caravalho’s command, VARIG created the largest aeronautical maintenance park in South America. However he had to leave the company in 1979, due health problems. Harry Schuetz, one of the oldest employees, continued Ruben Berta and Erik de Carvalho legacy. However, just as his predecessor, Harry Schuetz was forced to be away from office early next year.

In late 70s VARIG was already the largest private company in the world outside the USA, the eighth largest of the world in air cargo, the fourteenth largest in lines length and twenty-second in passenger/kilometers.


 


Ceremony to receive the first two Douglas DC-10-30


Crew Uniform - 70s / VARIG’s DC-10-30 First Class


Advertisements in the 70's

 

                              HOW WAS FLYING IN THE 1970s?

In First Class, glamor was more present than ever with new large wide-body jets. With more space in the cabin, passengers could enjoy bars, rest rooms and meeting inside the plane. The main attraction still the meal, which was served on Japanese porcelain, crystal glass and silverware. The caviar was the great attraction on board VARIG’s First Class. Travel was an event and passengers were wearing their best suits and dresses. In economy class, meal ware served in porcelain, metal flatware and glass cup. And don’t forget the coffee and Swiss chocolate. In 1979 VARIG won the award for best in-flight service in the world by the prestigious American magazine Air Transport World.

The 1970s marked the transition from turbo-prop to jet on domestic flights. DC-3, Curtiss C-46, Convair and Constellation were replaced by Boeing 727-100 on main national routes. Only regional flights, served by "Avro", and RJ-SP "Air Bridge", served by Electra II, continued to be operated by turboprop aircraft. Flight time was reduced by half and this affected the on-board service. At that time, the on-board service was time-consuming, the meals were served in several stages. With the introduction of jets, there was not enough time and the whole process had to be remodeled to be faster.

On short flights, for example from Recife to Natal, only drinks were served. But on longer flights, such as those connecting the northeast capitals to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, had full board service. The service began with the distribution of moistened wipes, soon after drinks and then two rounds of cold canapés. The next step were the hot canapés and mini barbecue and shrimp. Then the cold entrances, followed by the wine cart. Finally the main course, where one of the most famous was lobster medallion. Later it was dessert time, with candies, cakes, pies, ice cream and fruit. Soon afterwards came coffee, tea and digestives.

 

 

70s

VARIG Fleet:
09xBoeing 707-300
04xBoeing 707-300F
02xBoeing 707-400
06xBoeing 727-100
01xBoeing 727-100F
06xBoeing 737-200
01xDouglas DC-8-33
04xDouglas DC-10-30
06xHS748 "Avro"

11xLockheed L188 Electra II
TOTAL: 50

Cruzeiro Fleet:
08xBoeing 727-100

06
xBoeing 737-200

TOTAL: 14

Rio Sul Fleet:
07xEmbraer EMB-110

President:
Erik Kastrup de Carvalho

 

Domestic Destinations:
35 cities

 

International Destinations
Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Asuncion, Lima, Bogotá, Caracas, México, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Lisbon, Oporto, Madrid, Paris, Roma, Milan, Geneva, Zurich, Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Luanda, Tokyo

 

Passengers Transported: 68 millions (average 6.81 millions per year)
 

 

  
VARIG's international route map - 1971 / Passengers boarding on Electra II

 


Boeing 727-100 / Boeing 737-200 and EMB-110 (Museu VARIG)

 

 

                            FOCUS: On Electra II's Wings

  

Electra II was one of the most famous aircraft models in Brazil and operated for 30 years without any accident. But many Brazilians don't know that this same aircraft had tremendous bad reputation in the United States, after several fatal accidents. The Electra II was a flop worldwide, except in Brazil.
The history begins when American Airlines requested Lockheed to create a fast turboprop, with capacity for more than 50 passengers and for short/medium routes.  The first orders came from American Airlines and Eastern Airlines, in 1957 and the first flight was on December 6, 1957 The Lockheed L188 Electra II entered in service by Eastern on January 12, 1959, on New York - Miami route and by American Airlines on January 23, 1959. But on February 3, 1959 an American Airline's Electra II crashed into East River, when it was preparing to land at La Guardia Airport, in New York. However the investigation blamed the crew and not aircraft by accident. According to the report, the crew did not have enough experience with a new type of altimeter.
On September 29, 1959 an Braniff's Electra II disintegrated in cruising flight. Electra II entire fleet was prohibited flying until find the  accident causes. After months of investigation, it was discovered that the left wing gives off the plane. Electra II was allowed to fly again, but limited cruising speed to 418 km/h. It was a hard blow to Electra II, which was the fastest turboprop aircraft ever. With speed restriction, it became as slow as any other piston aircraft which it replaced.
On March 17, 1960 a Northwest's Electra II  crashed, opening a crater in the ground. After that, all airlines canceled their orders and the passengers refused to fly if the aircraft were Electra II. American Airlines, which had ordered 30 units, began to withdraw them in 1959, with less than one year of use. After months of investigation, the problem was finally found: the phenomenon called "whirl mode". The engines vibration propagated the vibration to the wings, and the violent up and down oscillation increased until the wings would tear themselves off. After the discovery, Lochkeed presented a solution to the problem, reinforcing the fuselage and and the wings. The manufacturer modified all Electra II and all restrictions imposed were withdrawn. But it was too late, nobody trusted Electra II. Lockheed received no orders and production ended in 1961 with only 170 units sold. Just like American Airlines, other USA companies began to sell its Electra II, even with less than three years of use. The only option now was send Electra II to "underdeveloped countries".
The first Brazilian airline to be interested in Electra II was Lóide Aéreo, who requested permission to buy some Electra II on January 28, 1959, but the Civil Aviation Department denied. The second was Real-Aerovias, who became interested in some Electra II offered by American Airlines. Real-Aerovias made an agreement to buy five Electra II. But the airline was bought by VARIG in 1961, before receive its Electra II. VARIG know Electra II's bad reputation and not wanted to receive them. Thus, it sent a representative to the USA, in September 1961, to cancel the purchase. But there was no agreement and VARIG was obliged to receive the aircraft.
On September 9, 1962 arrived in Brazil the first Electa II, PP-VJM. A curiosity was that this aircraft suffered a failure when it was coming to Brazil, which forced the crew to return to Miami to solve the problem.
The inaugural flight of Electra II in Brazil was on September 25, 1962 on VARIG's main route: Rio de Janeiro - New York. It also started flying Sao Paulo - Rio de Janeiro - Recife - Fortaleza route three times a week and on Sao Paulo - Rio de Janeiro - Manaus route twice a week. And for VARIG happiness, Electra II became quite popular among passengers and proved to be a very versatile aircraft, able to operate at Congonhas Airport (São Paulo) and  domestic, to South America and long routes. The Electra II became VARIG's main airplane for major domestic flights and flights to South America until Boeing 727-100.
Starting on November 22, 1965 Electra II also covered the "Friendship Flight", linking São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Sal and Lisbon. Between 1968 and 1970 VARIG bought more six Electra II, including two (PP-VLA and PP-VLB) convertible freighter. But they flew briefly as freighters, mostly to Manaus, and soon converted to passenger.
In 1975 VARIG had several new modern aircraft as Boeing 727, Boeing 737 and Avro 748. This could be the end of Electra II, but not, that's when the Electra II entered its glory years. Also in 1975, the Civil Aviation Department has determined that only four-engine aircraft could operate in Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo route. The fact was that only VASP's Vickers Viscount and VARIG's Electra II could operate the route. But VASP soon withdrawn all its Vickers Viscount and Electra II became the only aircraft operating the Brazil's busiest route and the second busiest in the world. Since 1975 VARIG allocated all its eleven Electra II on this route. In 1978 VARIG received more two units (PP-VLX and PP-VLY) and more two in 1986 (PP-VNJ and PP-VNK), totaling 15 Electra II operating exclusively on Rio de Janeiro - São Paulo route. The route was called "air bridge" and was a POOL formed by VARIG, VASP, Cruzeiro and Transbrasil. The seats was proportionally divided between each company. But, since 1975, VARIG was the only one who operated on the route with its Electra II and other airlines began to complain. VARIG painted four of its Electra II (PP-VJN, PP-VJU, PP-VJE, PP-VLC) without name and logo, as Electra II were serving all companies and not only VARIG. But in 1979 the aircraft received full VARIG's livery, due to logistical problems. The Electra II flew average 66 times per day, each 15 minute on weekdays and each hour on weekends and holidays. The record was 88 daily flights.
In 80s, with the arrival of Boeing 737-300, VASP and Transbrasil returned to protest saying that the Electra II should be replaced by modern Boeing 737. VARIG know that was a matter of time for jets replace the Electra II, with already over twenty years old. But VARIG's president, Hélio Smidt, was against it.
It was only in 1991 that Boeing 737-300 was authorized to operate at Santos Dumont airport (Rio de Janeiro) and the end of Electra II was decreed. On November 11, 1991 Boeing 737-300 PP-SOL (VASP), PP-VOS and PP-VOT (VARIG) started to operate "air bridge", replacing Electra II PP-VJO. On November 26, 1991 Transbrasil operate for the first time with its Boeing 737-300 PT-TEH. On January 5, 1992, Electa II (PP-VJN) made the last paying passengers flight. On the next day  VARIG made a special flight with frequent passengers, politicians, journalists and personalities. On January 6, all VARIG's Electra II were offered for sale. The PP-VJM was donated to Campo dos Afonsos museum, in Rio de Janeiro and the other were sold to airlines as Blue Airlines, New ACS, FILAIR, Lanseria, Airlink and Air Spray Congo.
The Electra II, that in the United States was responsible for several accidents and deaths, in Brazil flew for 30 years, with 777,140 hours of flight, carried 33.6 million passengers and made more than 736,806 landings, without an accident.
 

 

 

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