|This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2014)|
|Ceased operations||February 29, 2012|
|Hubs||Marcos A. Gelabert Regional Airport
Enrique Malek Int'l Airport
|Company slogan||You are in good hands.|
|Parent company||APAIR (80%) AMR Corporation (20%)|
|Headquarters||Panama City, Panama|
Aeroperlas (Aerolíneas Islas de Las Perlas) was an airline based in Panama City, Panama. It was the third largest airline of the country, only surpassed by Air Panama and Copa Airlines. It was a regional airline operating over 50 daily flights to 15 domestic destinations, as well as charter and courier flights.
It operated services as part of the Grupo TACA Regional Airlines system. Its main base was Marcos A. Gelabert Regional Airport, Panama City, with a hub at Enrique Malek International Airport, David.
It was the first Panamanian airline to neutralize their CO
2 emissions by an agreement with nature conservation organization ANCON and conserve trees at a private reserve in Darien.
On February 29, 2012, Aeroperlas ceased operations indefinitely due to particular market conditions and the business model of the airline. The shutdown became effective on March 6.
The airline was established and started operations in June 1970 as Aerolíneas Islas de las Perlas. It was government run from 1976 until 1987 when it was sold to private owners.
In 1996 it begun international operations, launching services to Costa Rica. It was owned by Apair (80%) and AMR American Eagle. According to Dan Garton in the late 1990s, AMR took a stake in Aeroperlas to find a way of streamlining American Eagle's fleet and placing Shorts 360 aircraft with another airline. It was unclear if AMR remains a shareholder in Aeroperlas in 2009. (20%). In that year, Aeroperlas begun international flights with Costa Rica as its first destination.
In 2004, the airline become an affiliate of Grupo TACA and made a big jump of progress by improving the security of their aircraft and passengers.
On October 2007, Aeroperlas become the first domestic airline in Panama to be certified into the strict regulations of the Panama's Civil Aeronautic Authority (AAC).
The beginning of the end for Aeroperlas came after 2010, when the AAC raised several safety and maintenance issues about the company, after 2 well-publicized incidents that happened in that year with two ATR-42. As a consequence, the passenger volume declined by a one-third percent and all the aging DHC-6 Twin Otters of the company were phased-out and retired from service and sold to other companies, leaving the fleet size in 4 aircraft. Also, their rival airline, Air Panama, bought two jet-powered Fokker 70 that reduced the time of each trip from 50 to 35 minutes.
The financial situation of the airline was worsened in February 2012, after the Ngobe-Bugle tribe closed the Panamericana road for almost a week with the purpose of protesting against the minery project in Cerro Coloardo and the decision of the Tourism Authority minister, Salomoh Shamah, of creating an national air-bridge, with the objective of picking-up the stranded tourists/passengers from the blocked roads and airports, and sending critical needed supplies without any cost.
As a consequence, the selling of airlines tickets in the country were suspended and Aeroperlas was forced to enter in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
On February 29, 2012, Aeroperlas ceased operations and left without work a total of 150 employees, that were transferred to Air Panama, along with the routes left by the airline, and Copa Airlines. It was not until March 6, 2012, that the airline was officially shut down after the takeoff of their last flight from Tocumen to Bocas del Toro.
Aeroperlas operated services to the following scheduled regional destinations:
- Achutupo (ACU)
- Bahia Piña (BFQ) – Piña "Bahía Piña - Darién" Airport
- Bocas del Toro (BOC) – Bocas del Toro "Isla Colón" International Airport
- Changuinola (CHX) – Changuinola "Capitan Manuel Niño" International Airport
- David (DAV) – David "Enrique Malek" International Airport
- Isla Contadora (OTD) – Contadora Airport
- Jaqué (JQE) – Jaqué Airport
- Mamitupu (MPI)
- Panama City (PTY) – Tocumen International Airport
- Playón Chico (PYC) – Playón Chico Airport
- Puerto Obaldia (PUE) – Puerto Obaldia Airport
- Tubualá (TUW)
Incidents and accidents
During its early years of operation, Aeroperlas had a less than admirable safety record (as detailed below). However, since its commercial affiliation with TACA International Airlines (El Salvador)in 2004, great strides have been made to improve operational procedures and upgrade safety technology on aircraft. The installation of a new, safety-focused management team in late 2005 improved Aeroperlas' safety record. In 2006, according to official numbers published by the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority, Aeroperlas suffered just one minor incident - the same safety record as Panama's COPA airlines achieved in the same period. To date (May 15) in 2007, Aeroperlas had a clean safety record and begun pointing to its safety strength in commercial activities (e.g.; its "Fly Safely, Fly Aeroperlas" campaign).
- On 18 April 1990 a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, Registration N187SA had the no. 2 engine fail and the aircraft entered a descending turn which continued until impact with the sea. On board were 22 occupants (3 crew and 19 passengers). There were 20 fatalities, including the crew members.
- On 5 July 1990, De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter was hijacked. The hijacker(s) demanded to be taken to Colombia. Duration of the hijacking: less than 1 day. The Twin Otter was stolen by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia on July 5, 1990 on a flight from Colón. The aircraft was destroyed in August 1990.
- On 17 March 2000 a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, registration HP-1267APP with 2 crew and 8 passengers on board crashed. The AeroPerlas Twin Otter departed Aeropuerto Marcos A. Gelabert at 08:46 for a flight of about 55 minutes to Puerto Obaldia. The aircraft disappeared some 20 minutes prior to the ETA. En route altitude was 7,500 feet (2,300 m) and weather conditions allowed VFR. At first the aircraft was thought to have been hijacked to Colombia. On March 22 however a search party aboard HP-1355 found the wreckage on a mountainside 12.5 nm from Puerto Obaldia at 11:35. The wreckage was found at the 2,500 feet (760 m) level of a 2,790 feet (850 m) high mountain. All onboard were killed.
- On 9 September 2000 a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, registration HP-1276APP with 2 crew and 19 passengers on board, was damaged when it overran the runway on landing and collided with a tree. The same aircraft, flown by the same pilot, had to make a precautionary landing at Enrique Jiménez airport because of engine problems on June 12, 2000. There were no fatalities.
- On 16 August 2004 a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, registration HP-1397APP with 2 crew and 5 passengers on board suffered substantial damage when An emergency landing was carried out on a small active road in the Arrajian district after an apparent engine failure. The airplane struck a tree. All on board survived.
- On 16 May 2009 a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, with 2 crew and approximately 15 passengers on board suffered damage shortly after landing at Carti airport in Kuna Yala when the airplane veered off the runway. The right main landing wheel stuck into the grass/mud and the plane turned 90 degrees to the runway before nosediving into the grass. The nose cone flew off on impact with visible damage to the fuselage and both wingtips. All on board survived.
||Operated as TACA regional|
|Cessna 208 Caravan||2||-||