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      JEE3


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      Post #41724, posted on 03-10-2012 GMT-5 hours    

      Power, Greed, Retribution, Loyalty, Secret dealings; a new primetime soap opera?......No, just the true story of TransGabon and their YS-11's!
      (Thanks to the guys at the Air Afrigue website, the full story of the twists and turns, not only a battle involving colonial authority but a 'bare knuckles' aircraft manufacturer sales war, could not have been completely told without their generous help. Many photos from their private collections and having confirmation from an Air Afrique (TransGabon) Flight Dispatcher (1969-72), who had a 'front row seat', is really appreciated!)
      The story starts with a French youth in WW2, Jean Claude Brouillet, who was just 14, when the Germans occupied France. JCB began working with the French Underground and later transferred to the Free French forces and was sent to Tuskegee, Alabama for pilot training. JCB would get his 'wings', though the War would end before he could be sent back to fight. By 1947, Jean Claude Brouillet ended up in the colony of Gabon in French Equatorial Africa.
      A dream of creating his own airline was rebuffed by the French Colonial authorities, so a trucking company would suffice for the time being. Along the way, a unique and longtime friendship would develop between JCB and a local village Chief Leon M'Ba (eventually becoming Gabon's first President).
      By 1949, JCB was able to start charter work for the local Timber and mining interests, using a de Havilland 89 Dragon Rapide and TransGabon (Transports Aeriens du Gabon) was born.
      (JCB is pictured on the left)
      The unique Blue Rapide Dragon fleet with their White 'TransGabon' titles would grow to (8), after 1951, when passenger service finally permitted, though it wasn't that Air France didn't try to put TransGabon out of business!
      Air France claimed sole rights to all of the Gabon Colony and planned to use their DC-3's but the pilots refused land the DC-3's on these crude landing strips, citing safety concerns. TransGabon would be paid by Air France to operate as a 'feeder' service, bringing passengers to and from the interior to Libreville.
      Politically, the end of Colonial rule was under way and in 1958, Gabon was given 'Republic' status, 1-step from Independence. An interesting short-lived flag was created.
      In August 1960, the new nation of Gabon was created and JCB/TransGabon was front and center in the Independence parade.
      As part of the Independence deal, Air France had to transfer authority to UAT and JCB took this opportunity to purchase (3) DC-3's from Air France.
      The TransGabon "Black Mask" logo, created in 1959 was first seen on the company "Par Avion" (Air Mail) stamps and would not be seen on Transgabon A/C for another (9) years.
      Also in 1960, TransGabon's official name was changed to Compagnie Aerienne TransGabon, though the use of just TransGabon would continue. On June 26, 1961, TransGabon became part of the new Air Afrique consortium, that would take care of all international services for some (11) new African nations (for a 6.2% annual fee). The consortium was run by Air Afrique/UAT (UTA) and a 33% share from the (SO)ciete pour le (DE)veloppement du (TR)ansport aerien en (AF)rique-SODETRAF. SODETRAF was a 'Society' that became the 'Voice' of French interests in the newly formed independent African states, investing in airlines plus other entities. By the mid-1960's, DC-4's joined the fleet, though still mostly a DC-3 fleet.
      By the early 1960's, the long line of DC-3 'replacements' had begun to take shape. For the British it was the AVRO 748.
      The 36-40 passenger A/C used the RR Dart 514 engines and was initially sold to mostly British carriers, though Aerolineas Argentinas was an early export customer. The Series 1 was a bit underpowered and it was when the new more powerful Dart 531-2L/SL engines were added in 1967, creating the Series 2A, that export sales began to increase. On the other side of the world, Japan's 'DC-3 replacement' was the YS-11.
      The YS-11 was a slightly larger 60-passenger A/C using RR Dart 542-10K engines. The Japanese government funded the project through a consortium of 6-manufacturers, final assembly being done at the Mitsubishi plant.
      The YS-11A 200, created in 1967 also, would be the export version which initially sold well with (21) ordered by Piedmont Airlines. The now re-named Hawker Siddeley 748, though 10-12 mph slower than the YS-11, was equal in max payload range (680 mi) and was a less complicated A/C (which was a selling point especially to smaller new African nations) and the export sales war was on!
      For TransGabon in 1967, they were still not ready to make the big jump to these A/C types but did add (1) B-N Islander in 1968 and this would be the 1st to wear the "Black Mask" logo on the tail.
      Both Nihon (NAMC) and Hawker Siddeley 'Demonstrator' A/C began appearing on visits and short-term leases all over the world. In 1969, G-AVRR after a SATA-lease, would end up in October, with Olympic Airways. The airline was impressed enough to place an order for several HS 748's. This same G-AVRR would show up for a brief visit at TransGabon's Libreville base at the end of December 1970.
      Though TransGabon was impressed with the HS 748, their new 'masters' would have other ideas!
      In 1969, TransGabon's leader, Jean Claude Brouillet, had decided to sell his airline (in 1968 had been designated the National Airline Of Gabon) to UTA. Though it made JCB a millionaire, it created a hostile working relationship, as local control was lost. In Japan, the effects of the 1969 recession was beginning to have an impact by 1970 on the government-funded YS-11 program, as completed unsold airframes were starting to pile-up, causing criticism in Japan.
      Between January-June 1970, there would be (2) African YS-11 Sales Tours.
      Jacques Julien (Air Afrique-Transgabon agent during this time) got a ride on JA8256 (the other Demonstrator A/C) during the 1st YS-11 Sales Tour flight in January 1970.
      That earlier mention of the Olympic Airways HS 748 order comes back into importance as SODETRAF VP Roger Loubry was also General Manager of Olympic Airways. Japanese desperation and Olympic Airways leverage would meet in early 1970!
      The Air Afrique/UTA/SODETRAF consortium had the upper hand as Nihon-Japanese Government was hoping to get rid of the building YS-11 backlog and reportedly offered an interesting deal..FREE YS-11's! With a stipulation that for each ship that Olympic Airways owner Aristotle Onasis would have built in Japanese Shipyards, (1) YS-11 would be given "leased" to Olympic. (8) ships were ordered and (8) 'leased' YS-11's would soon be delivered. Now the possibility of adding a few addtional YS-11's for Air Afrique's Regional African network, including (2) for TransGabon, (1) for Gabonese Govt. & (2) for Air Afrique's Cameroon network was agreed upon. Jacques Julien mentioned in an e-mail that he remembers hearing the rumor about this deal in early 1970. The deal was signed and by March 1970, the 1st "leased" Olympic Airways YS-11's began arriving.
      For TransGabon, their new YS-11's were on the way....Not so fast!
      Thing were to go quite smoothly for Air Afrique's (2) YS-11-309 (TR-LPJ & -LPG), as they prepared to leave Japan in September/December 1970.
      The (2) Air Afrique YS-11's would begin passenger service in December on the Cameroon & Central African regional network, including stops in Gabon. Both were based in nearby Douala.
      As for TransGabon's 1st YS-11 TR-LPM,
      (the only known photo in full TransGabon colors)
      the airline and the Gabonese government refused to accept delivery! Nothing wrong with the A/C, turned out to be more about 'colonial rule'-like authority memories from those who still remembered. Eventually in 1972, TR-LPM was sold to SGA as (9Q-CWL).
      TransGabon had won the YS-11 battle, or so they thought!
      In July 1971, Cameroon announced it was dropping out of the Air Afrique consortium and going to start it's own airline. Air Afrique now had (2) YS-11's that they didn't need! Hello TransGabon....(2) YS-11's will be on the way.
      The 'TransGabon' YS-11's wore a pretty interesting color 'hybrid' color scheme with the previous Green window stripe now Red and continuing up to the tail. (2) "Black Mask" logos were placed between the new 'TransGabon' tittles, now in Black. A new style of "Black Mask" was introduced, with both the previous Yellow and Red eliminated, though with slightly different style wings than this later version.
      The Gabonese Governments and the airline's frustration brought back JCB to TransGabon in a November 1971 ceremony.
      TransGabon YS-11's were used to replace the DC-4 on the towns in Blue. From September 1971 thru 1972, the YS-11's would stay in TransGabon service, joined by a really leased HS-748 (G-AVRR) in Oct. '71). This A/C was soon purchased (TR-LJY) , followed by a 2nd Demonstrator, becoming TR-LQY.
      The new TransGabon color scheme was introduced in 1972. The Gabonese Government got (1) YS-11 in 1972 and the 2nd -321, which was supposed to be TransGabon's 2nd YS-11, in 1973.
      With JCB back at helm, TransGabon would begin planning to leave the consortium, first purchasing (2) F28-2079's that had been NTU by Linjeflyg, arriving in July 1974, bearing the 'new' Air Gabon name.
      In 1976, Air Gabon left the consortium placed an order for (1) brand new 747!
      (RR-engines would be available in 1977)
      I can only imagine the pride that Jean Claude must have felt, remembering the early days on canvas & string DH 89's.
      Air Gabon officials did begin to have second thoughts about new international travelers acceptance of the 'Black Mask' and adopoted a short-lived new logo with the delivery of their 3rd F28 in April 1976. The rather bland 'bird-in-flight' never made it to the 747, as the airline did a complete re-brand in 1977, with the 'Parrot' logo on the 747.......Once again, I really wish to thank the webmaster at www.airafrique.eu, Daniel Daix, contributors David Chinaud and Jacques Julien. They always answered all my e-mail questions (with the help of Google Translate) and opened up their personal photo collections, that the story couldn't have been told without. This "LS" Update was a bit longer than I'd planned but thought you'd enjoy the complete story......John3 (Thanks to www.jcbrouillet.com, Chuck Gowing/Airlinecolors.com, Dakota Association Of South Africa/dc-3.co.za, Flight International.com, KH748 Flickr Photostream, AirlineFan.com, Bjorn Larsson/Timetableimages.com, PlanesCZ, Worldstatesmen.org [1958-60 flag], Airliners.net & WilliamDemarest.com. Photographers: Will Blunt, Alphie Tufnell, Peter de Groot, Jacques Julien & Clint Groves).

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      Metropolitan2


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      Post #41765, posted on 03-12-2012 GMT-5 hours    
      As always - a beautiful piece of documentary..
      Thanks!

      - Harry B.

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      JEE3


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      Post #41767, posted on 03-12-2012 GMT-5 hours    
      Glad you enjoyed!..........Some interesting YS-11 decals maybe? The first non-Japanese YS-11 customer was the long-forgotten Filipinas Orient Airways. The new airline was formed in 1964 and began domestic service in June 1965. (4) YS-11-100's were delivered between 1965-66. They were shut down by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. Their other claim to fame was they had (2) options for the VFW 614. Had (2) Caravelle 6R's in the early 1970's.......



      John

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      Post #41788, posted on 03-13-2012 GMT-5 hours    
      Hi John!

      Nice livery - it sure suits the YS-11 just fine!
      - Harry B.

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      Post #45163, posted on 11-03-2012 GMT-5 hours    
      Excellent story!!! Very interesting bit about Olympics YS-11's and how they came to be aquired. The HS748 competition was fierce. A HS748 (G-AVRR) was operated on Olympic routes for approximatly a month before the arrival of the YS-11's. The a/c had the Olympic titles applies to its fuselage and was spotted on several island runs such as Athens-Mytilini.

      in progress:

      Minicraft DC-6 - Olympic Airways
      Airfix Comet 4B - Olympic Airways

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      Kikiferret


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      Post #45180, posted on 11-04-2012 GMT-5 hours    
      As usual, great story John! Thanks again for share it.

      Saludos / Greetings

      Fernando Castaņón