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|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 (acronym for Aerolíneas Islas de Las Perlas) was a regional airline based in Panama City, Panama. It was the third largest airline of the country, only surpassed by Air Panama and Copa Airlines. From its hub at Marcos A. Gelabert and Enrique Malek International airports, Aeroperlas operated over 50 daily scheduled flights to 15 domestic destinations, as well as charter and courier flights. It operated services as part of the Grupo TACA Regional Airlines system.
On February 29, 2012, Aeroperlas ceased operations due to financial problems. The shutdown became effective on March 6.
Inauguration and expansion years
The airline was founded in June 1970 as Aerolíneas Islas de las Perlas and started operations shortly after. It was a state-owned company from 1976 until 1987, when it was sold to private owners.
During the late 1990s, Aeroperlas was owned by Apair (80%) and the parent company of American Eagle, AMR Corporation (20%). According to Dan Garton, AMR took a stake in Aeroperlas to find a way of streamlining American Eagle's fleet and placing their Shorts 360 fleet with another airline. It was unclear if AMR remained as a shareholder in the airline in 2009. In 1996, Aeroperlas begun international operations, launching services to Costa Rica.
In 2004, Aeroperlas became an affiliate member of Grupo TACA and made a big improvements in terms of security.
On October 2007, the airline became the first Panamanian regional airline to be certified under the strict regulations of Panama's Civil Aeronautic Authority (ACC) agency. It was also the first airline in Panama to neutralize CO
2 emissions from the air, because of a partnership with nature conservation group ANCON, which included the promotion of trees conservation at a private reserve in Darién Province.
In July 2011, Aeroperlas started scheduled flights from the Domestic Terminal of Tocumen International Airport to Chirquí and Bocas del Toro provinces, with a stopover at Albrook "Marcos A. Gelabert" International Airport.
Demise and closure
The beginning of the end for Aeroperlas came in 2010, when two well-publicized incidents involving two ATR-42 aircraft caused Panama's Civil Aeronautic Authority to raise several safety and maintenance issues. The public's confidence in Aeroperlas took a downturn as a consequence, with passenger numbers dropping by one-third. This caused Aeroperlas to suffer serious financial problems and the withdraw of all the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters from the fleet, which were sold to other airlines or scrapped.
Another contributing factor that caused the airline's demise was the decision of rival Air Panama to deploy the jet-powered Fokker 70, which reduced the time of each trip from 1 hour to 35 minutes.
In February 2012, hundreds of people from the Ngobe-Bugle tribe blocked several points of the Pan-American Highway in Panama for almost a week, protesting against a mining project in Cerro Colorado. This caused major disruptions in traffic to the extent that the Minister of Tourism at that time, Salomoh Shamah, decided to create a nationwide airlift to move people and tourists who were stranded on the highway, bus terminals and airports, and critical supplies without any cost. This situation aggravated Aeroperlas' financial problems until the point of entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
On February 29, 2012, Aeroperlas ceased operations, citing particular market conditions and an obsolete business model. Around 150 employees were left without work, and were transferred to Air Panama, along with the routes left by the airline, and Copa Airlines. On March 6, 2012, however, Aeroperlas made its last official scheduled flight from Tocumen Airport to Bocas del Toro, thus ending 41 years of operation.
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 Airlines in 2004, operational procedures were improved and safety technology on aircraft were upgraded. 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.
As of May 15, 2007, Aeroperlas had a clean safety record and started pointing to its safety strength in commercial activities (e.g.; its "Fly Safely, Fly Aeroperlas" campaign).
|N/A||April 18, 1990||De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter||near Contadora Island, Panama||On 18 April 1990, the No. 2 engine of a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter (registered N187SA) failed shortly after taking off from Contadora Airport. The airplane entered into a descending turn which continued until impact with the sea. Of the 19 passengers and 3 crew that were on board, only 2 survived.||20||2||0||0||0|
|N/A||March 17, 2000||De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter||Near Puerto Obaldía, Guna Yala||On 17 March 2000, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter (registered HP-1267APP) departed Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport at 08:46 AM for a scheduled passenger flight to Puerto Obaldía, Guna Yala. The plane went missing some 20 minutes prior to the ETA. En route altitude was 7,500 feet (2,300 m) and weather conditions allowed VFR. Initially, the aircraft was thought to have been hijacked to Colombia. However, on March 22, a search party aboard a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (registered HP-1355APP) located the wreckage 12.5 NM from Puerto Obaldía at 11:35 AM. The wreckage was found at the 2,500 feet (760 m) level of a 2,790 feet (850 m) high mountain. None of the 8 passengers and 2 crew survived.||10||0||0||0||0|
|N/A||September 9, 2000||De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter||Rio Sidra Airport, Darien||On 9 September 2000, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter (registered HP-1276APP) was damaged when it overran the runway of Rio Sidra Airport on landing and collided with a tree. The 19 passengers and 2 crew aboard the aircraft were uninjured, and the aircraft was repaired. The same aircraft, flown by the same pilot, had to make a precautionary landing at Enrique Jiménez Airport due to engine problems on June 12, 2000.||0||0||0||22||0|
|N/A||August 16, 2004||Cessna 208B Grand Caravan||Arraiján District, Panama||On 16 August 2004, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan (registered HP-1397APP) bound to Chitré, Herrera Province, suffered an engine failure and had to carry an emergency landing on a small active road in the Arraiján district. The airplane suffered substantial damage when it struck a tree, but all 5 passengers and 2 crew were uninjured. The aircraft was written-off.||0||0||0||7||0|
|N/A||May 16, 2009||De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter||Cartí Airport, Guna Yala||On 16 May 2009, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter suffered damage shortly after landing at Cartí Airport when it 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 15 passengers and 2 crew survived.||0||0||0||17||0|
- On 5 July 1990, De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter was hijacked. The hijacker(s) demanded to be taken to Colombia. The hijacking lasted less than one day. The Twin Otter was stolen by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia on the same day on a flight from Colón and was destroyed in August 1990.
||Operated as TACA regional|
|Cessna 208 Caravan||2||-||
Aircraft types previously operated: Shorts 360, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.
- "Directory: World Airlines". Flight International. 2007-03-27. p. 49.
- "1990 Aeroperlas crash at the Aviation Safety Network". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "2000 Aeroperlas crash at the Aviation Safety Network". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "Aeroperlas 2000 incident at the Aviation Safety Network". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "Aeroperlas 2004 accident at the Aviation Safety Network". Retrieved July 4, 2012.