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Smithsonian National Postal MuseumTitle: The Pichs CollectionSan Carlos Institute
HomeRoberto PichsThe Pichs Collection, Exploring Cuba's History Through Postage StampsSan Carlos InstituteCredits
Smithsonian National Postal Museum The Pichs Collection, Exploring Cuba's History Through Postage Stamps
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Postal History
Aviation History

Maintaining International Links

Since the Castro revolution, Cubana has been an important, even vital, element of Cuba’s economy. As an island nation, politically ostracized by the United States, and without close ties with most Latin American countries, the national airline’s ability to maintain overseas services was a critical lifeline.

The entire fleet (with the exception of some jets leased for a short time during the 1970s form Air Canada) was supplied from the Soviet Union. By the late 1980s, this fleet consisted of 14 long-range Ilyushin 62M jets, eight Tupolev Tu-154 medium-range jets, thirty-eight Antonov An-24 and An-26 turboprops, eight Yakovlev Yak-40 jets, plus two older Ilyushin Il-18 turboprops and three Antonov An-2 biplanes. Cubana also operated three Ilyushin Il-76 freighters.

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Services abroad were augmented during the 1970s. On 26 June 1971 Cubana began service to Santiago, Chile (at that time under a Marxist government), via Panama City and Lima, with Ilyushin Il-18s. On 24 April 1972 the fine Ilyushin Il-62 rear-engined jets were put on the route to Madrid, via the Azores (fig. 31), and on 3 April 1973, a route was established to Berlin, East Germany. However, on 11 September 1973, the South American service was curtailed to Lima, when Chile’s President Salvador Allende was assassinated, but this was compensated for in the following month by a service to Georgetown, Guiana, via Bridgetown, Barbados and Port of Spain, Trinidad.

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International relations between Cuba and non-communist foreign countries started to improve during the 1970s. One result was that Cubana was able to operate non-Soviet aircraft. In February 1976 it leased two Douglas DC-8s from Air Canada (fig. 34).

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Map: International Routes Flown by Cubana

Today, Cuba’s national airline is able to hold its own in competition with foreign flag jet airlines. It leased McDonnell Douglas DC-10s form a French airline in the mid-1990s and now operates Airbus A 320s. Almost two million tourists arrived in Cuba’s four international air gateways in 1998, and Cubana carried almost half of them.

 

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Aviation History

The Birth of Air Transport in Cuba

The Start of Pan American Airways

Pan American Dominates the Caribbean

A National Airline for Cuba

Cubana Develops International Routes

A New Regime

Maintaining International Links

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