The Boeing 727 with the
Colombian Air Force
By: Javier Franco TOPPER
The history of the Boeing 727 with the Colombian Air Force FAC can be traced to the nineties, when the Colombian state airline Satena begun to operate a few units on its fleet. From then, the operation was not as big as you might think, but in recent years, and after a lot of time with no 727 on the military panorama in Colombia, the FAC is again making use of this marvelous bird.
The “Servicio Aéreo a los Territorios Nacionales” (Air Service to National Territories) Satena is a state airline founded in 1962, aiming to offer an aerial connection to cities and towns in Colombia with little or no service by commercial airlines, with special emphasis on areas where there is a complete lack of air business. Therefore, and since then, the airline has operated a variety of aircrafts on different years, ranging from small single engine aircraft, such as the Pilatus PC-6B Turbo Porter or DeHavilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver, to modern airliners, such as Embraer E-jet family and Dornier 328 german built regional turboprop. The Colombian Government owns more than 90% of the airline, and its operation is strongly connected with the FAC.
Its pilots are a mix of military and civilian ones, and the aircrafts are double registered with civilian and FAC registrations, but its operations are entirely civil. Among the big variety of aircrafts during its history –that includes more than 15 different types-, the 727 was not widely used, and its operation on the airline became a short lived one. Although it was mainly a civil operation, as the aircrafts were owned and registered on the military fleet of FAC, this is sort of the beginning of 727 with the Air Force. 1995 was the year.
As usual with many aircrafts used by the Colombian military, the 727s arrived to FAC as a result of drug war operations. The first one, registered as FAC1145, was seized on December, 1994 at Cali, Colombia, while on a drug smuggling flight. This aircraft was a Boeing 727-059 with serial number 19303/357 built in 1966 and that lived all its operational time in Colombia, first with Avianca as HK-1337 and then maintaining the same registration with other operators: SAM Colombia (1985 – 1987) and Americana Colombia. This final operator was in charge of the aircraft when seized by the authorities. HK-1337 had four basic color schemes with Avianca: white with a blue stripe on the 60s, top red on the 70s, red curved line with white on the 80s and, during its final time with Avianca, full white with grey on the belly. These basic same colors were still present on 2004 before being scrapped.
(Photo No. 1 remark) HK-1337 photographed at José María Córdova International Airport (MDE/SKRG), close to Medellín, Colombia, in 1991, wearing its last scheme with Avianca, before being operated by Americana Colombia and later seized. Photo: Reinhard Zinabold
The aircraft was also hijacked on May 10th, 1974. The hijackers were overpowered and one of them was killed by police officers dress as mechanics during a stopover in Bogotá. This first 727 never saw action with FAC, nor with Satena, and was permanently stored at “Comando Aéreo de Transporte Militar” (Military Air Transport Command) CATAM, the FAC air base stationed at El Dorado International Airport, in Bogotá. Up until 2004 this aircraft was still at the ramp, before being scrapped.
(Photo No. 2 remark) FAC1145 stored at CATAM AFB and photographed on May 21st, 2004. Photo: Sunil Gupta/LockonAviation.net.
The second unit arrived on the same year and was registered as FAC1146, being later reregistered as FAC1246. This was a Boeing 727-95F with serial number 19595/467 and built in 1967. It was originally delivered on September 27, 1967 to Northeast Airlines as N1637 and other operators included Delta Air Lines, Varig (PP-VLQ), Cruzeiro, Avesca Colombia and Aerocar Colombia (HK- 3771). Avesca, which later become Aerocar, was involved on illegal activities on the nineties, therefore all its aircraft were seized by the Government, including HK-3771. The other 727 operated by the company, HK-3770, ended its life as a restaurant inside an Army Aviation base. HK-3771 was the first aircraft actually flying with Satena, operating as a combi aircraft for cargo and passengers. The aircraft was then reregistered as FAC1246 when transferred from Satena to Colombian Air Force, and was scrapped after its service.
(Photo No. 3 remark) HK-3771-X with Avesca titles photographed by Christian Volpati at Gustavo
Rojas Pinilla International airport (ADZ/SKSP), San Andrés Island, Colombia.
(Photo No. 4 remark) HK-3771-X now with Aerocar titles, photographed by Christian Volpati at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO), Bogotá, Colombia, on January, 1995.
(Photo No. 5 remark) FAC1146 with its new operator, Satena, being towed at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO), Bogotá, Colombia, on December, 1996. Photo: Christian Volpati.
(Photo No. 6 remark) FAC1246 stored at CATAM AFB, seeing wearing basic Colombian Air Force’s scheme on May 21st, 2004. Photo: Sunil Gupta/LockonAviation.net.
FAC1147, later reregistered as FAC1247 and named “El Playista” (The Beach Man) and “Luna Verde” (Green Moon), was the third and final 727 for Satena. It is a Boeing 727-2B7 with serial number 20303/793 and built in 1970. First delivered as N751VJ to Allegheny Airlines, also flew for Braniff Airlines (N405BN), Northwest Airlines (N208US), Pan American World Airways (N384PA) and Zuliana de Aviación (YV-462C); before landing in Colombia as HK-3872-X with Isleña de Aviación. This short lived airline was established in 1993 to connect the Caribbean island of San Andrés with cities inside continental Colombia. In July 8th, 1994, less than a year of the beginning of its operations, the airline was grounded due to many investigations regarding illegal flights and drug smuggling. Although the airline’s lawyers fought for the company, it ended its life and one of its aircrafts, HK-3872, became FAC1147 and then FAC1247.
(Photo No. 7 remark) HK-3872-X operating for Isleña de Aviación on January 17th, 1994 at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO), Bogotá, Colombia. Photo: Robin A Walker.
(Photo No. 8 remark) FAC1147 at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO), Bogotá, Colombia, December, 1996. Photo: Christian Volpati.
Together with FAC1146, this aircraft served to Satena, this time in full passenger services. With the withdrawn of the type at the beginning of 21st century, FAC1147 was transferred to Colombian Air Force and reregistered as FAC1247, being permanently stored at CATAM AFB together with its brothers. But, unlike FAC1145 and FAC1246, FAC1247 survived the deathly ax and is still stored on the ramp. Sometimes the aircraft has been moved from its position, the longest being on October 9th, 2009, when it was towed nearly 3 kilometers to the, then in construction, new international cargo ramp. It was used as dummy aircraft for an earthquake simulation exercise. It is used also by Colombian Air Force’s Special Forces to train aircraft kidnapping scenarios.
(Photo No. 9 remark) FAC1247 stored permanently at CATAM AFB. Registration is visible on this picture of April 2nd, 2009. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
(Photos No. 10 and 11 remark) FAC1247 moved from its store position on October 9th, 2009 to serve as dummy aircraft for earthquake simulation exercise. Photos: Javier Franco “TOPPER”. The change of registration from FAC11XX to FAC12XX is due to the fact that Colombian Air Force registration system uses the prefix 11 for all Satena’s aircraft and prefix 12 for all transport aircrafts. This means that FAC1145 was never transferred from Satena to FAC, but FAC1146/1246 and FAC1147/1247 were indeed transferred. FAC1246 had Colombian Air Force´s titles and roundel at the end of its life, while FAC1247 never had this characteristics and remained more as an instructional airframe.
The new age
The need for more strategic support for the Government, and the new vision of FAC as an international air force with extended range, demanded the acquisition of new transport aircrafts to increase its long range fleet. The lonely Boeing KC-137, no longer in service, was the biggest aircraft on FAC’s inventory at the beginning of the new century, but more aircrafts had arrived, completing a still growing fleet of Boeing 737 (x2), Boeing 727 (x2) and Boeing KC-767 (x1).
The first 727 was prepared in 2009 in order to enter in service with FAC. It is a Boeing 727-151C built in 1968 with serial number 19868/529, and with a long history: Northwest Airlines (N498US), Union of Burma Airways, IASCO (N433EX), Orion Ai and Ryan International Airlines. In 2003 the aircraft was leased to Transportes Aéreos del Pacífico TAP, an airline that grounded its operations after legal problems. The aircraft was returned to Flightstar Group, but was never moved from El Dorado International.
(Photo No. 12 remark) N433EX still with TAP livery at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO), Bogotá, Colombia, on May 26th, 2004. Photo: Sunil Gupta/LockonAviation.net.
At the end of 2008 it was finally acquired by FAC and registered as FAC1203. The crew training begun while the aircraft was prepared for service, which finally begun at the end of 2009 and still wearing the basic TAP livery. In 2011 the aircraft went on to a change of colors, receiving a tactical grey scheme and its new name: “Apolo”.
(Photo No. 13 remark) N433ex stored at CATAM AFB on April 2nd, 2009, now wearing Colombian Air Force’s roundel, and before entering in operation. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
(Photo No. 14 remark) FAC1203 with TAP scheme, now operating for FAC, photographed at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO) on February 7th, 2010. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
(Photo No. 15 remark) FAC1203 on November 8th, 2013, sitting on the ramp of CATAM AFB and wearing grey tactical scheme. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
FAC then needed more aircrafts, and a second 727 was acquired at the end of 2011. The “new one” is a Boeing 727-2X3F built in 1981 with serial number 22608/1727. It was first delivered to ACI Air Charter International as F-GCMV, then to Constellation International Airlines as F-WQCK and OO-LLS, then reregistered as ZS-ALX and later operated by Amerijet International as N397AJ. The Colombian cargo airline Líneas Aéreas Suramericanas LAS received the aircraft on September, 2004, registering it as HK-4354.
(Photo No. 16 remark) HK-4354 at El Dorado International (BOG/SKBO), Bogotá, Colombia, on January 16th, 2007, operating for LAS. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
At the end of 2011 FAC received the aircraft and reregistered as FAC1204, receiving the same tactical scheme as its brother FAC1203 “Apolo” and with an appropriate name to match: “Vulcano”.
(Photo No. 17 remark) FAC1204 at CATAM AFB on April 9th, 2013, and wearing FAC’s grey tactical scheme. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”. Since then, both aircrafts had performed a vast number of missions, carrying cargo, troops and passengers. FAC1203 “Apolo” and FAC1204 “Vulcano” can be operated in full cargo configuration, cargo and passenger configuration, and full passenger configuration.
The main base of operations for 727 is CATAM AFB at El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, inside Transport Squadron 811th of Air Transport Group 81st. The 727s are mainly designated to operate on airstrips not completely adequate to receive the Boeing 737, and when the need of a bigger aircraft than the Lockheed C-130 and CASA CN235/C295 is present.
(Photo No. 18 remark) 81st Transport Group badge The big maintenance services are provided by LAS on its facilities at El Dorado International Airport.
(Photo No. 19 remark) FAC1203 undergoing maintenance on June 4th, 20013, at Líneas Aéreas Suramericanas facilities. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
“Apolo” and “Vulcano” join both Boeing 737: FAC1208 “Atlas” and FAC1209 “Cronos”; Boeing KC- 767 “Jupiter” and Boeing KC-137 “Zeus” (no longer in service), completing the strategic fleet of Colombian Air Force.
(Photo No. 20 remark) FAC1204 “Vulcano” and FAC1203 “Apolo” flying in formation over Bogotá during Colombia’s independence day military parade on July 20th, 2014. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.
(Photo No. 21 remark) FAC1204 and FAC1203. Photo: Javier Franco “TOPPER”.