Bagging a flight in an Aerovias Herald
by Phil Brooks
TG-AZE at Miami in May 1989. (Photo © Martin Fenner Collection)
In early January 1989, my Indianapolis aviation and railroad enthusiast friend, Dave Powell, a Costa Rica aficionado, asked whether I would join him on a visit there later that month. Clearly we were unable to fly direct to Costa Rica so a route was devised which saw us going via Houston, Tegucigalpa, Belize City, San Salvador and Guatemala City. Besides turning into a bit of an adventure taking this route allowed us to visit some countries we'd not been to before whilst hopefully sampling some interesting types to fly on.
We arrived at Guatemala City late in the evening, on a two leg TACA Boeing 767 flight from Belize and El Salvador. Luckily David has some great Spanish language skills which enabled him to find us a very basic motel not very far from short finals at the airport. In the middle of the night, I swear we heard the Aviateca Guatemala Boeing 720 scream overhead!
Upon arrival at the airport next morning, our expectations were fulfilled as the Boeing 720 was parked at a gate. I still regret not buying a ticket to Mexico City, or wherever it was going, as I never got another chance to ride a Boeing 720. Still, we were at the airport bright and early with a plan to fly on Aeroquetzal's Convair 580 on a round trip to somewhere, and then travel on to San Jose, Costa Rica later that day... but, fate had other plans!
The Convair flight ended up being cancelled (Dave recalls due to a problem with the nose gear), so wondering what to do, we looked out across the airport ramp and I spotted a high-winged twin turboprop of Aerovias. “I can’t place what that aircraft type is”, I told Dave, “but whatever it is, it looks interesting, so we need to ride on it, wherever it’s going, whatever it costs!” Somehow he went along with my plan.
It was only later that I eventually remembered it was a Dart Herald! The flight cost was 244.8 Quetzals, the equivalent of USD $98 for a round trip, so tickets were bought.
The destination was Flores (FRS) in the North of Guatemala. At the time we didn’t know where Flores was, nor did we determine when we were returning, but we probably didn't care!
The cabin interior of TG-AZE. (Photo © Phil Brooks)
So, we were all set, to take flight XU800 from Guatemala to Flores aboard Handley Page Herald 214, TG-AZE. Upon boarding at Guatemala we were amused to find a plaque at the front of the cabin, commemorating the aircraft's refurbishment by British Air Ferries at Southend and in particular the interior and exterior designs - the work of a 'Diane Goodson'. I hope she’s still around, and finds out that plaque survived to at least 1989!
The plaque inside TG-AZE dedicated to Diane Goodson. (Photo © Phil Brooks)
We arrived at Flores after a flight time of 1:01 and then discovered that the aircraft wasn’t going back to Guatemala City for another 8 hours! Clearly we weren’t going to make it to Costa Rica on that day but we weren't too bothered as we now had a flight in a Handley Page Herald to add to the list of types flown! However, the question was asked... so what do we do for the next 8 hours? A chap called Hector suggested that we hire a car and take a trip to the nearby Mayan ruins at Tikal, the reason most people take the hour flight to Flores from Guatemala City. This cost us USD $35. Perfecto! Hector was a great tour guide, and we bought him lunch as part of the deal.
Boarding TG-AZE at Flores for the flight back to Guatemala City. (Photo © Phil Brooks)
On the flight back to Guatemala City, I asked for and received permission to ride in the cockpit jump seat for approach and landing. It was a beautiful sunset flight, especially on the approach into Guatemala City. We landed on runway 01 with flight time again being record as 1:01.
At 5,500 feet and 160 knots, TG-AZE makes steady progress back to Guatemala City. (Photo © Phil Brooks)
TG-AZE on finals to runway 01 at Guatemala City. If you look closely, Aerovias Herald TG-ASA can just be made out on the right hand side of the runway parked outside the Aerovias hangar. (Photo © Phil Brooks)
Looking back our trip to Costa Rica was disrupted by this last minute opportunity, but it was worth it. Great to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal but really to sample and enjoy a couple of flights in a Handley Page Dart Herald. Following arrival back at Guatemala City we decided it was perhaps time to go a little 'up market' and we spent the night at the Sheraton Hotel - understandably offering (besides a lack of aircraft noise) far better rooms and facilities than where we had stayed the night before although the staff gave us the ominous warning not to leave the hotel at night!
The next morning it was back to our itinerary, flying to San Jose via San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on a LACSA Boeing 727. Later we would enjoy riding a SANSA DC-3 and Casa 212 around the country together with two long days on the narrow gauge railway from coast to coast. Perhaps however, none of that was as cool as bagging a flight in the last passenger carrying Herald!