West Caribbean Airways
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|Hubs||José María Córdova Int'l Airport
El Dorado Int'l Airport
|Headquarters||Olaya Herrera Airport
The company was founded in 1998 by Colombian businessman Hassan Tannir and began operations in December 1999. Originally based in San Andres, it began operations with four Let L-410 that served San Andres and Providencia Island as the first destinations.
In 2000, West Caribbean Airways added flights to Cartagena, Monteria, and Barranquilla with ATR 42 aircraft leased and also expanded to international routes to Varadero, Cuba, Panama City, Panama, and San Jose, Costa Rica. The next year, a group of investors acquired the airline and relocated its headquarters to Medellin. This put it in competition with ACES Colombia, and national airline Avianca. It had routes to the El Bagre, Monteria, Caucasia, Tolu, Chigorodo, Otu, Puerto Berrio, among others.
The airline expanded very rapidly, and acquired two McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft which operated various international and regional routes.
By 2005, serious financial and procedural problems were evident at West Caribbean Airways. It posted $6 million in losses in 2004. In January, the airline was fined $45,000 by Columbia's civil aeronautics government agency, UAEAC, for 14 safety violations, including lack of training for pilots, pilots flying too many flight hours, and flight data not being properly logged.
A few months later, in March 2005, an accident involving one of the airline's turboprop planes brought further scrutiny by UAEAC. Due to its 2004 losses, the civil aviation authority began close monitoring of West Caribbean Airways's finances in May, though it was stated that the airline was fulfilling its commitments.
On August 16, 2005, West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 crashed in Venezuela. By the time of this accident, WCA had only four aircraft left in its fleet: an Let L-410 Turbolet, two undergoing maintenance, and the aircraft destroyed in flight 708. West Caribbean Airways was grounded by UAEAC late in the day on August 17.
Incidents and accidents
- 26 March 2005. A West Caribbean Airways Let L-410 Turbolet aircraft registration HK-4146, on departure from El Embrujo, Isla de Providencia failed to climb and hit hills close to the runway, killing the two crew and six of the twelve passengers. Initial reports suggested a technical fault.
- 16 August 2005. West Caribbean Airways Flight 708, a chartered West Caribbean Airways McDonnell Douglas MD-82 aircraft heading from Panama to Martinique in the Caribbean, crashed in remote western Venezuela due to human errors, killing all 160 aboard, mostly French nationals.
West Caribbean Airways operated the following services (at January 2005):
- Domestic scheduled destinations: Armenia, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Caucasia, Chigorodó, Cúcuta, El Bagre, Medellín, Montería, Otú, Providencia, Puerto Berrío, Quibdó, San Andrés, Tolú and Turbo.
- International scheduled destinations: Oranjestad, Panama City, San José and Porlamar.
The West Caribbean Airways fleet consisted of the following aircraft (at January 2005):
- 1 ATR 42-300
- 3 ATR 42-320
- 1 McDonnell Douglas MD-81 scrapped
- 3 McDonnell Douglas MD-82 (one crashed in Venezuela and 1 sold to Aeromexico and 1 more to Avianca)
- 8 Let L-410 UVP-E (one crashed in Colombia)
- "PREGUNTAS FRECUENTES WEST CARIBBEAN AIRWAYS." West Caribbean Airways. 11 August 2003. Retrieved on 26 January 2011. "6. ¿Dónde quedan ubicadas las oficinas de West Caribbean Airways? Las oficinas principales, es decir, la sede administrativa, operaciones, el área comercial y el call center están ubicados en el hangar 73 del aeroparque Olaya Herrera."
- "Acerca de WCA." West Caribbean Airways. 11 August 2003. Retrieved on 26 January 2011. "WEST CARIBBEAN AIRWAYS S.A. es una sociedad anónima, constituida legalmente el 29 de diciembre de 1998."
- Ellsworth, Brian; Forero, Juan (2005-08-17). "160 Die in Crash of Airliner in Venezuela". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- Staff; agencies (2005-08-18). "Airline's flights suspended after Venezuela crash". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- "Venezuela Accident Probe Adds French Experts". The Daily Journal, at Newspapers.com. 2005-08-19. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
- Flight International, July 2005