Historia y Arqueología Marítima

 

HOME

Indice  Aviacion

LADIES OF THE RIVER PLATE

Short Sandringham LV-AAO sporting the Aerolíneas Argentinas livery of the fifties. (Aerolíneas Argentinas)

El siguiente articulo nos fué enviado por el Air Museom de Southampton, UK, en el cual MICHAEL MAGNUSSON describe las operaciones de una flota de Short Sandringhams originalmente entregados a Dodero luego del fin de la segunda guerra mundial. Esos aviones continuaron en servicio por casi dos décadas sirviendo las necesidades de comunidades remotas.


After the end of the Second World War, Argentina was flush with money and in consequence launched a lavish spending spree on new aircraft. As the United Kingdom owed substantial sums of money to Argentina for supplies received during the war, the UK became a beneficiary of this investment campaign. Between 1945 and 1950 large numbers of aircraft were delivered to Argentina by enthusiastic British manufacturers. Amongst the aircraft bought were Gloster Meteors, Percival Prentices, Vickers Vikings, Bristol Freighters, Avro Lancasters and Lincolns, and Avro Yorks. Even the Avro Tudor was given serious consideration, with six Avro 689 Tudor 6 aircraft being ordered by FAMA.

 However, this order was cancelled and the aircraft were never built. Some of the first airliners to complete the long journey to South America were a fleet of new Short Sandringham flying boats, with the first aircraft arriving at Buenos Aires late in 1945. These grand ladies would enjoy many years of reliable service in Argentina, and would outlive virtually all the other British aircraft delivered to the country.

DODERO’S AMBITIONS

The Argentine airline system was in a state of turmoil after the war. Many enterprising individuals had attempted to launch new companies, but the newly installed government of President Juan Peron did not support such initiatives. Peron was a big believer in the ‘state*. For example, he nationalised the British managed railway system. Few dared to oppose him! He would remain as president until 1955 when a coup d’état ousted him from power and he fled to Paraguay in a Catalina.

Jose Dodero was one Argentine prepared to take on the Peron Government and to launch private airline operations. He owned shipping interests in Argentina and neighbouring Paraguay, and he began buying aircraft without having first secured all the necessary traffic rights. He personally ordered four Short Sandringhams for operation by Compania Argentina de Navegación Dodero SA to open new passenger routes across the River Plate. He selected a version powered by Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830 radial engines.

Two aircraft were designated Sandringham Mk.2 accommodating 28 passengers on the lower deck, and a further 17 passengers and a cocktail bar on the upper deck. These aircraft were intended to operate the shorter routes, while two Sandringham Mk.3 aircraft were earmarked for the longer routes and featured seating for only 21 passengers on the lower deck together with a dining room and cocktail bar on the upper deck.

The latter aircraft were intended to open an international route to Natal and Bathurst. Dodero had also ordered nine Douglas Skymasters for proposed international services and six Norseman utility aircraft (LV-AAT - Y) for local feeder operations. He would never operate the DC-4s as the government refused to give him any international route rights.

Short Sandringham Aik.3 G-AGPY on a snow-covered Belfast apron in January 1946 shortly before departing to Argentina.

The four Sandringhams cost $1,250,000 each, and comprised two Mk.2 variants G-AGPZ “Argentina” and G-AGPT “Uruguay", and two Mk.3 variants G-AGTZ “Inglaterra” and G-AGPY "Brazil”. Señora de Dodero, the wife of the Chairman of the shipping line, launched the first aircraft in a naming ceremony at Belfast on Thursday November 1 1945. Commanded by BOAC skipper Captain Dudley Travers, DFC, G-AGPZ departed on November 19, and having staged via Lisbon, Bathurst, Natal and Rio, alighted at Buenos Aires two days later after making the 7,330 mile long journey in a flying time of 45 hours 57 minutes. On this ferry flight the aircraft carried a crew of seven, twelve passengers and a supernumerary crew of three. This latter crew included Short’s Chief Test Pilot of Rochester, Geoffrey Tyson, who was later to become famous as the commander of the Saro Princess on her maiden flight. The second Sandringham was launched on December 5 and named “Uruguay” by Señora Dulcia Pereira Cortinas de MacEachan, the wife of the Uruguayan ambassador to London. This aircraft departed from Poole on delivery to Buenos Aires on the morning of December 21 1945 piloted by Captain E H J F Moreton, and arrived in Buenos Aires on December 26.

The rather spartan cockpit of a Short Sandringham. (Shorts)

Sandringham 3 G-AGPY began her delivery flight to Buenos Aires at the beginning of February 1946, with G-AGTZ completing the quartet early in March. This latter aircraft was flown to South America by Air Commodore G J “Taffy” Powell, Managing Director of British Aviation Services, and later to achieve fame through Silver City Airways.

Following delivery to Buenos Aires all four aircraft adopted Argentine registrations, with G-AGPT becoming LV-AAP, while G-AGPY became LV-AAR, G-AGPZ LV-AAO and G-AGTZ LV-AAQ. In addition, a Sunderland 3 was ordered by Dodero from Short Brothers with a 45-seat passenger layout. Registered G-AGWX, this aircraft was earmarked to become LV-AAS, but was sold before delivery to Causa in Uruguay as CX-AKF.

With all four Sandringhams safely moored in Buenos Aires, Dodero now battled with the authorities for permission to launch his air services. In an effort to gain traffic rights he took control of Corporacion Sudamericana de Servicios Aereos, which had permission to fly to Montevideo in Uruguay and Asunción in Paraguay. However, the Peron Government had introduced a new regulation which provided for the creation of ‘mixed economy companies* through both private and government ownership.

Meanwhile, Dodero became one of the founders of a new airline named ALFA in May 1946. The four Sandringhams were transferred to Aviación Litoral Fluvial Argentino (ALFA), while through his take-over of Corporacion Sudamericana de Servicios Aereos, Dodero had also inherited two Macchi C-94 seaplanes (LV-AAD and LV-AAF) and a Consolidated Commodore (LV-AAL). However, these aircraft were not flown by ALFA. While the ALFA operation became established, the Government issued a temporary permit for the “Corporacion” to continue operating its services with the Sandringhams.

Early picture of Sandringham LV-AAO displaying ALFA titling at Buenos Aires in the late forties. The livery appears to be overall metallic with blue and white markings on the tail. (via D. Veres)

Eventually, ALFA launched services on January 8 1947. Flights departed from Buenos Aires following the course of the Parana river north to Parana, Corrientes, Formosa, and terminating in the capital of Paraguay, Asunción. This service had earlier been pioneered by Corporacion Sudamericana with its Macchi seaplanes, and the Sandringhams offered a far superior standard of service flying from the “Puerto Nuevo” in Buenos Aires harbour. Other services were flown to Montevideo and Punta del Este in Uruguay. The latter destination is a very fashionable summer resort much favoured by rich Argentines and Uruguayans, and this route was consequently only maintained during the summer months. The final route plied by the Sandringhams linked Buenos Aires with Concordia and Posadas, with the flying boats following the Uruguay river to Concordia, and then overland to Posadas. Dodero later acquired five DC-3s and two Beech 18s (LV-AAZ and LV-ABD) to supplement the Norsemen, and these aircraft served other destinations in the northern part of Argentina.

Dodero Sandringham G-AGPZ undergoing trials before delivery.(Real Photographs)

Dodero had planned to serve Europe, but these aspirations were dashed when the Peron Government instead chose the state-owned FAMA as the nation’s ‘flag carrier’. However, in an ironic twist of fate, FAMA chartered ALFA Sandringhams to operate international flights between June and September 1946. Sandringham “Brazil” became the first Argentine commercial aircraft to cross the Atlantic on July 4 1946 when it flew from Buenos Aires to Biscarosse in France via Rio de Janeiro, Natal and Bathurst. Eventually, several of the Dodero DC-4s were transferred to FAMA to operate these international routes. One further Sandringham Mk.2 was acquired in November 1946 when G-AHRE “Paraguay” was delivered to ALFA, becoming LV-ACT in service.

During 1947 ALFA flew more passengers than any other existing Argentine carrier (FAMA, Aeroposta and Zonda), carrying 39,109 passengers. This figure rose to 65,900 in the following year. ALFA lost money in both 1948 and 1949, but the number of employees rose from 644 to 978 during these years. However, these initial operations were marred by the tragic accident to LV-AAP which was lost on July 29 1948 with sixteen lives. Under the command of Captain V A Bello, the aircraft had been attempting to land at Buenos Aires in fog inbound from Rosario. Unfortunately the aircraft crashed, and although the remains were initially salvaged, these were destroyed by fire in a hangar at the Buenos Aires flying boat base on December 24 1948.

Two civilianised Short Sunderland V aircraft were also ordered in 1948 for delivery in a 51-seat configuration. Delivery of these aircraft, registered LV-AHG “Uruguay " and LV-AHH “Rio de la Plata ”, was apparently delayed until 1951 following a reorganisation of Argentina’s airlines.

Early fifties view of Sandringham LV-AAO taking off.

AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS TAKES OVER

In May 1949 all the mixed economy airline companies were nationalised, and their services brought under Ministry of Transportation supervision until the formal establishment of Aerolíneas Argentinas on December 7 1950. The new airline inherited a large and extremely varied fleet of airliners including DC-3s, DC-4s, DC-6s, Ju-52s, Avro Yorks, and the Sandringhams. While the Yorks were sold off in the UK and the Ju-52s were sold to the Ministry of Agriculture for use as 'crop dusters*, the now well established Sandringhams were retained for the River Plate network. They soon sported new Aerolíneas livery, but their names remained unchanged.

With the new national airline keen to modernise its fleet, Aerolíneas had planned to withdraw the Sandringhams as soon as a replacement could be found. But they worked well in the Plate and Parana river areas, and instead they became an important element of the airline's fleet. Indeed, so successful were these aircraft that when SAS ceased flying boat operations in Norway in 1955, Aerolíneas purchased their last Sandringham. This aircraft had been the last Sunderland converted to civil configuration in June 1949 as a Sandringham 6, and she joined Aerolíneas Argentinas as LV-AHM “Almirante Zar” in June 1955. At this stage, apart from LV-AAP, all other Argentine Sandringhams remained operational. It is also interesting to note that the airline was not alone as a Sandringham operator in the region, with two former BOAC aircraft being bought by Causa in Uruguay in December 1950.

Aerolíneas Argentinas flew the Buenos Aires to Montevideo route alongside the Causa Sandringhams, with four flights weekly scheduled in each direction during 1954. A three times weekly direct service was flown between Buenos Aires and Concordia, while the Sandringhams also flew thrice weekly from Buenos Aires to Posadas. One service weekly continued beyond Posadas to Corrientes and Asunción. Seasonal services were also flown to Punta del Este in Uruguay. Five services weekly linked Buenos Aires direct with Corrientes, with two of these flights continuing on to Asunción and Concepcion in Paraguay, while the remaining three services terminated at Asunción. A lack of suitable airports meant that the Sandringhams became a lifeline for many of the communites along the rivers, and to give this operation an idea of scale the flight from Buenos Aires to Posadas covered almost 500 statute miles in a flight time of three hours twenty minutes.

Over the years these Sandringhams gave very good service taking into account the demanding nature of these operations. There were occasional mishaps, with LV-AHH running aground and suffering superficial damage whilst taxying on the River Uruguay at Concordia on March 21 1952. LV-ACT struck submerged stones at Villa de Concepcion on February 19 1954 and was damaged.

Another Sandringham, LV-AAO, made a forced landing 45 miles south east of Posadas on October 16 1954. On all these occasions, the aircraft were salvaged and placed back into service. However, the airline lost Sandringham LV-AAR on December 31 1957 when the aircraft force landed shortly after taking off from Buenos Aires with the loss of nine lives. The aircraft had suffered engine problems shortly after departure, and the captain elected to turn back. On landing in rough water, the aircraft bounced and then sank. Captain Miguel Albero, five crew and 36 passengers were rescued, but a steward and a further eight passengers died in the tragedy. Sandringham 1 LV-AHG was also written off, without fatalities, after sinking whilst alighting at Montevideo on February 11 1959. Although the latter  aircraft was salvaged, she did not re-enter service with the airline.

Former SAS Sandringham newly arrived at Buenos Aires in 1955 as LV-PAE. This aircraft began her delivery flight from Norway on April 28 1955, passing through Southampton en-route, and was still present there on May 26. (via Flap Archives

By the end of the decade, Aerolíneas Argentinas was making major changes to its network, with the de Havilland Comet now taking pride of place in the airline’s fleet. Although the Sandringhams were now veterans of a bygone era, they continued to remain the backbone of the airline’s local river routes. However, with new airports being built and more advanced local airliners available, the reign of the Sandringham was drawing to a close.

In November 1959 Aerolineas announced its intention to cease flying the Sandringhams in April 1960. This statement generated protests at most of the destinations served by these reliable airliners, with these remote communities fearing that they would lose their air services altogether. Thus, Aerolineas found that it was only able to withdraw the flying boats on the route to Montevideo, whilst continuing to maintain services to all the other destinations.

 In October 1961, the new airport at Corrientes was inaugurated with the arrival of a Comet, but unruffled by the sleek new jet airliner, the Sandringhams continued to serve this destination for some time afterwards.

1962 was a year of great fleet transition for Aerolineas Argentinas. It saw the phasing out of the Convair 240 fleet, which was sold to Paraguay, and the arrival of new Caravelles and Avro 748s. This was also the year when the patience of the management in relation to the old flying boats finally ran out. On May 1 1962 Aerolineas closed down its flying boat operation, and stored the five surviving aircraft at Puerto Nuevo in Buenos Aires.

This was some two years after the original intended withdrawal of the type, and coincided with the introduction of the first Avro 748s onto the local services network. Although the DC-3s and 748s were capable of now operating to most airports, Concordia was briefly stripped of its air service as the small airfield was even unsuitable for DC-3s. But under the real threat of becoming isolated, local efforts soon upgraded the airfield to allow 748 services to begin in September 1962. The new Avros also began flights to Montevideo and the seasonal service to Punta del Este in Uruguay.

The Uruguayan carrier Causa also suspended Sandringham operations in 1962, having served the Montevideo to Buenos Aires route since 1938 with seaplanes - firstly with float-equipped Junkers Ju-52s, and later with the Sandringhams.

Causa acquired two second-hand Constellations from KLM as replacements. With the Sandringhams, the airline had flown on weekdays only between Colonia and Buenos Aires, and twice daily each weekday between Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Once the flying boats had been retired, Causa suspended the Colonia schedule, thereby allowing a new regional airline named ARCO (see “Propliner” issue 91) to be formed to fly the route. Causa’s Sandringhams would languish in the harbour at Montevideo for some time to come.

It is interesting to note that elsewhere in the world other parallel Sandringham and Solent operations ceased in the same timeframe. TEAL shut down its famous “Coral Route” with Solents in 1960 following completion of the new airport at Tahiti in 1959. Aquila ceased its unique Sandringham and Solent flights to Madeira, Capri and other idyllic holiday locations in September 1958. RAI in French Polynesia likewise closed down its Sandringham services in Tahiti in 1963, with their aircraft being saved by the Musee de L'Air in Paris. Following the closure of the Aerolineas operation, only the RAI Sandringham and the aircraft flown by Ansett Flying Boat Services in Australia from Rose Bay continued in commercial service anywhere in the world.

Short Sandringham LV-AAO displaying Cooperativa Aeronavegantes titling during the brief revival ofArgentina s flying-boat operations in 1963. (MAP)

But the days of the Argentine Sandringham fleet were not entirely at an end. In August 1963 a new co-operative airline named Cooperativa Argentina de Aeronavegantes took over the stored fleet and painted their titles on three of the five aircraft, LV-AAO, LV-AAQ and LV-AHH. Founded by Dardo Gonzalez the company also took over the Buenos Aires repair shops, hydroport installations and three launches in order to support the revived operation. Some services were launched in December 1963, but the venture was not a success and all flying had ceased by the middle of 1964 due to economic reasons. The Sandringhams became a familiar sight at Puerto Nuevo for a number of years afterwards as one drove by on the "Costanera” road alongside the river. Gradually their state of repair deteriorated, and they were eventually scrapped in 1967. No longer would these magnificent flying boats operate from the murky brown waters of the River Plate, and today their place has been taken by high-speed hydrofoils shooting their courses across the waters of the river. Efficient perhaps, but nothing like as romantic!

ARGENTINE SHORT SANDRINGHAMS

LV-AAO c/n SH.1C Mk.2 delivered to Dodero as G-AGPZ following C of A issue 17.11.45. Named “Argentina”. Transferred to ALFA .01.47. Float and starboard wing damaged whilst taxying on River Plate 08.01.47. Transferred to Aerolineas Argentinas .12.50. Damaged in forced landing 75 kilometres south east of Posadas 16.10.54. Sold to Cooperativa Argentina de Aeronavegantes (CAA) .08.63. Scrapped 1967.

LV-AAP c/n SH.2C Mk.2 delivered to Dodero as G-AGPT following C of A issue 05.12.45. Named “Uruguay". Transferred to ALFA .02.47. Written off landing at Buenos Aires 29.07.48. 16 killed.

LV-AAQ c/n SH.4C Mk.3 delivered to Dodero as G-AGTZ following C of A issue 26.02.46. Named “Inglaterra ”. Transferred to ALFA .01.48, and to Aerolineas .12.50. Damaged at Buenos Aires 31.07.58. Sold to CAA .11.63. Scrapped 1967.

LV-AAR c/n SH.3C Mk.3 delivered to Dodero as G-AGPY following C of A issue 21.01.46. Named “Brazil”. Transferred to ALFA .12.47, and to Aerolineas .12.50. Written off after making emergency landing at Buenos Aires 31.12.57. Nine killed.

LV-AAS c/n SH.6C Sunderland Mk.3 formerly ML876 delivered to Dodero as G-AGWX following C of A issue 29.03.46. Sold to CAUSA as CX-AKF in 1948.

LV-ACT c/n c/n SH.43C Mk.2 delivered to Dodero as G-AHRE following C of A issue 12.11.46. .Named "Paraguay”. Transferred to ALFA .12.47, and to Aerolineas .12.50. Damaged after striking stones while alighting at Villa de Concepcion, Paraguay, 19.02.54. Damaged near Buenos Aires 18.06.59. Sold to CAA .08.63. Scrapped 1967.

LV-AHG c/n SH.70C Sunderland Mk.5 delivered to Aerolineas Argentinas .10.51. Named "Uruguay". Seriously damaged after striking buoy at Montevideo 11.02.59. No casualties. Aircraft salvaged and damaged again at Buenos Aires 09.08.59 without returning to service. LV-AHH c/n SH.69C Sunderland Mk.5 delivered to Aerolineas Argentinas .09.51. Named “Rio de la Plata”. Damaged after running aground while preparing to take off at Concordia 21.03.52. Repaired. Damaged near Buenos Aires 18.06.59. Scrapped January 1967.

LV-AHM c/n SH.71C Mk.6 purchased from SAS as LN-LMK and delivered to Aerolineas Argentinas as LV-PAE .05.55. Named "Almirante Zar”. Damaged near Buenos Aires 19.06.59. Sold to CAA 16.04.63 and scrapped.
 

 

Este sitio es publicado por la Fundacion Histarmar - Argentina

Direccion de e-mail: info@histarmar.com.ar