The rise and fall of Aeropa

By Mike Zoeller




Societa Aerea Veneziana


Società Aerea Veneziana (SAV) (trans: Air Venice Co.) was formed in 1969 to operate passenger, air-taxi and cargo charters. By 1972 plans were underway to start operations using ex-Lloyd International Britannias for cargo work, mainly the transport of flowers and agricultural produce from Italy to North America, and on 12th June 1972 the company was officially registered with the Italian authorities. Staff were predominantly former employees of Itavia or Turavia (who had ceased operations in Sept. 1971). However SAV didn’t commence operations until 1973. These were turbulent times for charter operators especial in Italy where the industry was heavily monopolised and under bureaucratic attack, this probably accounted for the slow progress with commencing operations. Their head office was at Via Emilia 47, Rome 00187, Italy. The Executive Directors were in 1973: Mario Braccini, Vincenzo Di Raco, Roberto Grecchi (Commercial and Sales), Orlando Luciani, Capt. Eliseo Pasanisi.



SAV becomes Aeropa


In September 1972 SAV took delivery, on lease, of a former TWA Boeing 707-131 N737TW from Israel Aircraft Industries. She was delivered from Tel Aviv in SAV/Aeropa’s full red, white and blue colours and was scheduled to be pressed into service on 26th October however the granting of operator’s certificates was delayed by the Italian authorities. It was due to these delays that a restructuring was arranged and the 707 was to be sub-leased to the new airline Aeropa, with SAV being the holding company. The new company Aeropa was founded in January 1973, with the activities planned to start in March 1973, but this was not to be. Finally towards the end of May Aeropa obtained the necessary authority and, in June 1973, the 707 now registered I-SAVA and named  ‘Libeccio’ was ready to commence operations. By the end of 1973 Aeropa was serving: Bangkok every Thursday; Nairobi every Saturday. Frequently flew to Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, the Canary Islands and Istanbul, all with the lone 707-131.



100% fleet expansion!


After the initial problems in getting off the ground, the airline made steady progress and in early 1974 announced that a second Boeing 707 was to be leased, originally slated as a 707-131, the actual aircraft was to be a 707-321. The aircraft was to be leased initially for one year with the option to extend the lease period if required. The airline also appointed a new General Manager, Piero S. Vodret.

N716HH Boeing 707-321 was repainted from JAT colours into those of Aeropa at Stansted in early 1974. On the 9th April Harrison W. Holzapfel/Pan Ayer (the aircraft’s registered owners) delivered the aircraft on lease to Aeropa routing Stansted-Rome Ciampino. Soon the two 707s began to show signs of their age, encountering many technical problems and spending a lot of time out of service. N716HH in particular had serious corrosion problems probably as a result of poor inspections carried out when in service with THY (something which Tempair encountered with their ex-THY 707’s too).



Dark clouds


One incorrect report in November stated that the airline had gone bankrupt on 4th October, that I-SAVA was parked at Milan Malpensa and N716HH was at Ciampino, however the airline was still in business. It was also reported that the airline intended to sell the 707-131 in 1975 and replace it with two Boeing 707-121Bs leased from Pan Ayer. The airline was certainly involved with the 1974/75 Hadj, though which aircraft were used is unclear. Though the statement about Aeropa’s bankruptcy was incorrect, one suspects that the situation was not good with the airline at this time. To make matters worse the US CAB refused the airline permission to operate charters to the USA due to the CAB’s concern regarding Aeropa’s financial position.



Operations ceased


During 1974 the airline moved offices to Via Palmanova 24, Milan 20132, Italy. The airline’s executives now consisted of Chairman, Mario Volante; Managing Director, Sergio Spinoglio; Directors: M. Braccini; Operations, Vincenzo di Raco; Commercial, Roberto Grecchi; Maintenance, O. Luciani; Flight Operations, E. Pasanisi. Aeropa at this time employed 87 staff.

However operations were suspended on 15th February 1975, following the Italian authorities’ refusal to renew the airline’s operating license. Flights from Rome and Milan to Brussels, Bangkok, Cairo, Nairobi and Mauritius were contracted out to other carriers. Prior to this the airline had returned N716HH prematurely to Harrison W. Holzapfel on 31st January when she made her last flight ever routing Gatwick-Heathrow-Stansted. Although I-SAVB had been reserved the registration was never worn by the aircraft.

Boeing 707-139B N778PA which was also owned by Pan Ayer was seen at Stansted on 4th February 1975 in full Aeropa colours, just over a week before the airline was wound up. By 29th February, the Aeropa colours were crudely painted over and the aircraft remained with Pan Ayer. After a unsuccessful rescue attempt the company’s owners put the Aeropa in liquidation, as mentioned above, on 15th February 1975.

And so ended Italy’s only commercial Boeing 707 operator. I-SAVA returned to it’s owners, IAI, in March 1975. She had been ear-marked for use on an Israeli military program, but due to budget cuts and the condition of the aircraft she was broken up at Tel Aviv between May 1977 and 1980.

N716HH was sold to Pan Am by Harrison W. Holzapfel on 26th February with a TT44938 and 16350 cycles. She remained at Stansted and was apparently leased to Quisqueyana either from March - June 1975 or November 1976 -March 1977. The intention of the lease is unclear - the airframe was in poor condition and really only good for parts. This is precisely what British Midland’s intentions were when they acquired the aircraft in May 1977 and broke it up for parts by August 1977. The airframe was donated to the local fire school at Stansted and had eventually disappeared by July 1981.



Antares rises from the ashes of Aeropa


Soon after Aeropa’s failure in February 1975 some of it’s executives planned to start passenger IT flights from Rome under the name of Antares S.p.A. (Società Aerea Turistica Italiana). The fleet was to be one Boeing 707 and there are reports that N778PA Boeing 707-139B was painted in Antares colours at Stansted in January 1976, thought I have never seen photographic evidence of this, and somehow doubt it.


Flight International in April 1977 reported: Antares SpA was reported to be under formation in July 1976 to operate charter flights. Head Office: Aeroport Turin-Caselle, Turin, Italy. Executives: Technical Director, Ing Cinquini; Maintenance Director, Orlando Luciani: Flight Operations, Capt. Eliseo Pasanisi.

In October an Italian airline called Antares Airlines placed an order for two Yak-42s, they were later cancelled and the airline never commenced operations, it is unclear if the two Antares’s were connected.



Editors note:


“Next to Aeropa Boeing 707 N716HH, the two Perfect Air Tours  Boeing 707s, were also permanent fixtures at the dump of Stansted in the mid to late 1970s. I can sill remember their tails on my first spotters trip to the UK in 1978, then barely 17 years old”.


Jan Koppen


Photo credit: Ian Haskell, David Oates, Michel Gilliard, Andy Pope, Alberto Storti and Richard Vandervord.



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