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From Paris to Corvo Island (#2)

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

02.08.1990

The saga of airplanes


O AVRO da SATA
Aeroporto da Horta - Azores

A rare circumstance at Horta airport: three planes in motion. An Avro already parked on the sign, and just arrived, an ATP was able to head to the track, just waiting for TAP's Boing 737 to finish landing. As the Boing headed for the eastern part of the track, the ATP entered it in the opposite direction and prepared to lift towards the Terceira Island.


SATA, the airline of the Azores archipelago, was founded in 1941. Their planes entered the imagination of many Azoreans.


In the 60’s, of the century. XX, we traveled from Ponta Delgada to Santana airport, where the mythical DC-3 called Dakotas, planes that served in World War 2, acquired in 1963, landed.

Then, in 1967, came the AVRO, a turboprop plane with a completely different engine sound. From the backyard of my house, the wind brought along more than 5 km away the sound, sometimes of the Dakotas or the AVROS, when they moved from the airport of Ponta Delgada, there to the sides of Relva.


Finally, in 1989 the ATP arrived. Little did we know that it would be on December 21, 1990 that the last commercial flight of the AVRO would take place and that it would depart exactly from this Horta Airport to Ponta Delgada.


TAP's Boing, meanwhile, entered the South parking sign. Despite this unusual movement, all the necessary operations were processed with enormous efficiency. It seemed that the sense of order always evident in the tiniest behaviors of the inhabitants of the island of Faial was also evident here.


From the small plane of red and green stripes, people come out in airy air. After crossing a third of the Atlantic Ocean, they brought a breath of civility, of references, of good news. It was through these planes that almost daily oxygen arrived for every inhalation of this island, of intense breathing. A bridge that connects this island to the other bank, to the Iberian rectangle.


Finally, it was our turn to get on board. Avro was waiting for us to take us to the Flowers. It blew fresh wind from the south. I knew somewhere there was a depression. However, it would not be serious enough to prevent us from reaching the Flowers. Here the weather has very great importance. As if we were fishermen and depended on the weather conditions for our tranquillity and sustenance.


On the terrace of the airport, just now, the topic of conversation was airplanes. A couple of emigrants listened intently to the explanations:


-Yesterday the TAP plane only landed on the third attempt," they said.


- These TAP commanders don't know the winds well. It's not like SATA commanders. In the meantime, SATA ATP would arrive. It was to watch him swing in the air more than once until he touched with the left wing wheel on the ground, continued to advance, and finally laid the remaining two wheels permanently on the asphalt.


- Landed too far ahead. - someone said.


- Yes - agreed another, - ate a lot of airstrip. He should have landed further back.


It's easy to be an aeronautical expert on the terrace of an airport.


There was talk of airplanes as if talking about cows that after a lot of runways eat, open their legs, and give birth to passengers, suitcases, and parcels. Here the pilots were demoted to the category of incapable or incompetent. But in the next moment, they ended up being regarded as great men and elevated to the rank of saints or God.


"Miracles in the Azores," said a teacher of mine, "Only the Holy Christ or the SATA pilots.


Finally, the plane lifted towards the Flowers. It wasn't a very smooth climb. The plane climbed several dozen meters as steps that had to be crossed.


The clouds were several open to each other, letting you see the sea speckled with white spots here and there. The plane now seemed stalled. Just the passage of one or another cloud reminded us that we were traveling at more than 500 kilometers per hour. The uproar on board was enormous. Overlapping with the noise of the engines, the voices of three children made themselves heard. Traveling by plane was perhaps as banal as going down the corner. If we ask a Graciosa child if he has ever traveled by plane, he will surely say no. But he will answer in the affirmative if we ask him if he has ever "fly in Sata." Back then two voices agreed about the advantages of using computers, with brief dissertations on the qualities of some well-known brands.


Barely distinguishing itself among all these conversations, the voice of the hostess, with a very correct S. Miguel Island accent, referred to the emergency exits of the plane, somewhere in front and behind, before the firmest indifference on the part of the passengers.


I remember, by the way, a trip I made from S. Miguel to Terceira, in which I had as traveling companions a good twenty chicks that in the cargo compartment chirped intensely, unaware of being flying at altitudes never imagined by any chicken or rooster. I delighted in imagining along this journey what it would be like if the box of little chicks came loose, and the poor birds jumped into the midst of the passengers. I remember yet another trip, this one by boat, in the late "Ponta Delgada", the small packet that connected the various islands of the Azores over the course of a week. As I climbed the tomb, I came across not a box of chicks, but imagine, with a nice brown goat, which wistfully contemplated the blue sea strangely who knows that strange pasture color of the sky.


© Eduardo Rui Alves

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