1919: The Launch of What is Now the Oldest Existing Airline in the Americas

December 5, 1919

The airline popularly known today as Avianca was established as Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transporte Aéro (the Colombian-German Air Transport Society), or SCADTA, in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia. The founders of SCADTA were — on behalf of business interests in Colombia — Ernesto Cortissoz (who served as its first president), Rafael Palacio, Cristóbal Restrepo, Jacobo Correa, and Aristides Noguera; and — representing business interests in Germany — Werner Kämerer, Stuart Hosie, and Alberto Tietjen. 

The airline’s first flight took place on board a Junkers F.13 monoplane piloted by Helmuth von Krohn between Baranquilla and the nearby town of Puerto Colombia. This maiden flight transported 57 pieces of mail. SCADTA extensively used Junkers planes early on since they were better suited than most other aircraft for landings along both the various rivers in Colombia and the country’s topographically challenging terrain. (The above 1920s photo shows a Junkers 34 plane on the Magdalena River, Colombia’s main river.) 

During World War II, SCADTA — under the ownership of U.S. businessmen by that time — had its assets merged by the Colombian government into the state-owned airline Servicio Aéro Colombiano to form Avianca (Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia S.A.). Avianca, now officially called Aerovías del Continente Americano S.A. (Airways of the American Continent), is the flag carrier airline of Colombia.

The one-time SCADTA airline is now that country’s largest airline and the second largest one in Latin America, outsized only by Chile-based LATAM. In addition, the 103-year-old Colombian enterprise ranks second only to Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines) in the Netherlands as the world’s oldest airline still in operation.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transporte Aéro (SCADTA), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCADTA

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