Air Gabon was the national, state-ownedairline of Gabon, operating out of Libreville International Airport to a variety of destinations across Western and Southern Africa, as well as to Europe, South America and the Middle East. Founded in 1951, the airline went bankrupt in 2006.
Air Gabon was founded in 1951 as Compagnie Aerienne Gabonaise operating regional flights out of Libreville using Beechcraft and DeHavilland aircraft. It became the national flag carrier in 1968, then renamed Societé Nationale Air Gabon.
The DC-6s and DC-4 were replaced in 1979 by two Vickers Vanguard turboprops, and the airline's international route network was expanded to Marseille, Nice, Paris and Rome. Regionally, Air Gabon operated to ten African countries, and served 26 destinations on its domestic network. The airline leased and chartered various single engine aircraft in the early 1980s to operate services to domestic destinations which saw sporadic service, and in 1982 a CASA C-212 Aviocar operated with the airline for a short time. The airline ordered a Lockheed L-100-30 Hercules in 1984 after it was given a loan by the Export-Import Bank, which when delivered in late 1985 replaced the Vickers Vanguards.
The first flight for the reshaped airline went from Libreville to Lomé and Abidjan. The launch of European services from Libreville followed suit, with the inauguration of a regular flight to Paris (which was later[when?] dropped again). By then, the fleet consisted of two Fokker F28s, a Boeing 737-200 and a Boeing 747-200. Air Gabon restored Paris to Libreville flights in December 2004 with its Boeing 767-200, an aircraft type which had been introduced in 2006. In March 2006, Air Gabon was shut down due to bankruptcy. Initially, the launch of a new Gabonese national carrier as a joint-venture with Royal Air Maroc under the name Air Gabon International was planned, but has never materialized.
On 8 December 1994, at 10:40 local time, an Air Gabon ATR 72 (registered F-OHOC) veered off the runway at Oyem Airport upon landing after a flight from Bitam Airport. Even though the plane hit some trees, there were no fatalities among the 17 passengers and 4 crew members on board.
On 9 August 1997, an Air Gabon Boeing 727 en route from Franceville to Kigali, Rwanda with more than 100 Rwandan refugees on board who were to be deported, was hijacked by two of the passengers who attacked the pilot twenty minutes after take-off and demanded the plane be diverted to South Africa. Instead, the pilot returned to Franceville, where the perpetrators surrendered to police forces.
On 19 December 2003, Air Gabon Flight 471, a Boeing 737-300 (registered TR-LFZ) en route from Franceville to Libreville overran the runway upon landing at Libreville International Airport at 18:44 local time, after having circled the airport for 30 minutes due to bad weather. The aircraft crashed through a boundary fence and came to rest a few hundred metres behind the runway threshold. There were no fatalities among the 125 passengers and 6 crew members on board, but the plane was damaged beyond repair.