Mexicana 4C XA-NAS
Brilliant Video of Mk.4C XA-NAS with John Cunningham operating by Edouard Chalaron here.
The flight appears to be a demonstration flight from Mexico City to Maracaibo, Venezuela
Compania Mexicana de Aviacion was founded 12th July 1921 to carry pay-roll gold from Tampico to the oil fields in the state of Veracruz. On 20th August 1924 the title of the company was changed to Mexicana (Compañia Mexicana de Aviación de CV). Originally Pan American owned 100% of the Company but in stages (by November 1961) their holding was gradually reduced to zero.
The airline provided scheduled passenger services between Mexico and Los Angeles, Denver, Fort Worth, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago and Miami. It also operated to San Juan (Puerto Rico), Kingston (Jamaica) and Havana. Mexicana also operated domestic services to 22 cities within Mexico.
Mexicana had the distinction of being the first carrier to purchase and operate the Comet Mk.4C. Three were ordered initially at cost of $14 million including spares, the order being placed on 30th October 1959. The three were eventually to receive Mexican registrations – XA-NAR known as the ‘Golden Aztec’ and XA-NAS and XA-NAT. It was intended that the 4C’s would replace DC7C’s on international routes. Right from the beginning there were high hopes in Hatfield of further Comet sales. It was rumoured that at one point negotiations for the sale of more aircraft were at an advanced stage.
Perhaps the deciding factor, finance aside, in Mexicana’s choice of the Comet its exceptional field performance characteristics. These were ably demonstrated when a Mk.4 (G-APDA) visited Mexico City Airport in September 1958 during the Company’s American sales tour. Mexico City Airport is at an altitude of 7,300ft (2237m) and endures high ambient temperatures for much of the year.
The first Mk.4C to fly at Hatfield flew on the 31.10.59. This aeroplane had been temporarily registered G-APMD by the Company. Being the first Comet to require certification for operation within the United States sphere of influence (Federal Aviation Authority being the relevant Certification Authority) it was necessary to get F.A.A. approval. de Havilland registered the aircraft G-AOVU for the certification process which was completed in March 1960. The aircraft was then re-registered XA-NAR and was officially delivered to Mexicana on 8th June.
The first 4C actually delivered to the airline was XA-NAS which was handed over in January 1960. de Havilland had temporarily registered the aircraft as G-AOVV – again for certification purposes.
Therefore by spring 1960 Mexicana had two Comets. Extensive training and route-proving flights were undertaken with de Havilland staff. However initially things did not go smoothly for the airline. In May both Comets were grounded because of a strike by the airline’s pilots over pay. They were demanding a ‘substantial’ increase in pay for operating Comets (as will be seen with other operators it had become the norm for jet crews to receive higher rates that other aircrews).
Mexicana retaliated by announcing that they had asked de Havilland to cancel the remaining three aircraft on order (actually two were options) and take back the two already delivered! That statement must have made a few hearts flutter in Hatfield! The matter was resolved.
Mexicana Comets were configured for 22 first class and 64 tourist class passengers. As elsewhere where Comets were introduced passenger demand was high and during the introductory period Mexicana and de Havilland were regularly achieving a utilization of more than 8 hrs a day with the two aeroplanes.
The third Mk.4C was delivered at the end of the year. Ex-G-ARBB had been registered XA-NAT ‘Golden Knight’. It left Hatfield for Mexico City via Gander and Chicago on November 29th. On board were two de Havilland directors and Mr Rovzara – who was Mexicanas’ Director of Public Relations. The flight set a new record covering 5880 miles in less than 15 hours! During November 1960 Mexicana began operating non-stop 4C services between Mexico City and Chicago with 5 to 10 flights a week.
Sadly, for both parties, financial difficulties meant that Mexicana’s two options (allocated the registrations XA-NAD and ‘NAE) were not taken up. These two airframes were eventually delivered to Sudan Airways.
Mexicana continued to expand it’s routes though and still required more aircraft. Ex-BOAC Mk.4s found their way to Mexico. G-APDR was bought in December 1964 and re-registered as XA-NAZ (it was re-registered XA-NAP in 1966). In addition G-APDT was leased from BOAC in November 1965 – initially as XA-POW – it was later re-registered in 1966 (while still on lease) as XA-NAB. It was returned to the Corporation in December 1969.
[See above. One other ex-BOAC aircraft found it’s way to Mexicana – but not for use by themselves. G-APDI (c/n 6428) was en route for Aerea of Equador. Aerea needed to obtain F.A.A. certification for the Mk.4 and Mexicana were well placed to make the modifications. ‘DI was re-registered HC-ALT.]
When Comets were surplus to requirements Mexicana leased a 4C to Aeronaves de Mexico.
What became of their other Comets? XA-NAP a Mk.4 was sold to Channel Airways in June 1971. XA-NAR, XA-NAS and XA-NAT were phased out of service in December 1970 and eventually found their way to Westernair of Albuquerque (as N888WA, N999WA and N777WA respectively) and then on to various U.S. buyers including Redmond Air Inc. In 1980 ‘NAR was said to be in storage at Paine Field-Everett, Washington. ‘NAS was stored at Chicago’s O’Hare airport until recently and ‘NAT was derelict at Mexico City airport. What a waste!
I am indebted to Mr. Dick Durand III of Westernair Inc. for the following material
Westernair have been involved in the sale and service of aircraft for over 50 years.
In 1973 the company bought three ex-Mexicana Comet 4Cs which were then offered for sale.
Posters used for promotional materials
Golden Aztec was given to XA-NAR cn 6424