During the early 1980’s San Juan ‘Isla Verde’ Airport was a Propliner paradise. Several companies operated cargo flight; these were ‘Four Star Aviation’ with a fleet of DC-3’s, Air Haiti Curtis C-46’s, Trans Air Link Douglas DC-6s, Borinquen DC-3s and Aerochago SA with single Convair 240 and an L-749A Lockheed Constellation.
Aerochago HI-422 Connie, which was initially built for TWA, was parked on the outer edge of the cargo ramp. There she stood, cargo doors open, fuel truck under her wings and black oil dripping from all her engines Wright R3350 engines. Freight pallets lay scattered across the dirty ramp as she was being loaded for her return flight back to Santo Domingo.
I walked into the cluttered freight shed and managed to speak to one of the Puerto Rican loading chiefs. I asked if I could go out on the ramp and photograph the Connie. Despite my very poor knowledge of the Spanish language he understood my intentions. I also asked him if he new when the Connie was going to leave. There was no scheduled departure time…usually they leave when the loading was finished. But she was expected back around 12 noon the next day.
Aerochago was flying on a regular basis and this was good news for me!
After taking my first pictures and not knowing when the HI-422 was going to leave I decided to spend the first night at Airport Hotel, located above the main terminal. They offered me some airline discount. I got a room for $33 dollars, instead of $40, overlooking the main apron and cargo ramp. Later that evening I heard the roar of four Wright R3350 engines at full power, when HI-422 took off from runway 08-26 and disappeared in the night sky.
I woke up early the next day, suffering from major jet-lag; I decided to check out the cargo ramp.
Early mornings in the tropics are the best time to walk about, when there is still a cool breeze. The cargo ramp was filled with the several hard working Douglas DC-3’s. I noted the ‘Southern Flyers’ N595C, N45860, N310K, ‘Borinquen’ N27PR, N28PR, ‘Air Puerto Rico’ N29PR, Air British Virgin (BVI) Islands N5117X, N4471J, Aero Virgin Islands N28346 and N100SD.