The amazing shapes and lines drawn on the plains of Nasca have led to a growth in passenger numbers at the Maria Reiche aerodrome of some 110% in the past 10 years. This however has not gone hand in hand with proper renovation of the terminal’s aircraft.
A recent finding by the El Comercio newspaper has shown that 90% of the 38 planes operating at the aerodrome are between 35 and 40 years old. One aircraft, with registration OB-1202, is a staggering 52 years old! Thankfully the operator, Nasca Air Lines, formally Aero Ica, has recently been shut down.
In a similar situation is the company Nasca Connection, who operate three light aircraft manufactured in the 60’s and two in 1976. They have however bought three new planes of the Caravan brand made in 1998, 1999 and 2004 – this meaning that on average they have Nazca’s most modern fleet.
Carlos Palacín Fernández EIRL, another of the operators that recently changed its name to Travel Air, offers its services with six light aircraft built between 1961 and 1980, while Aero Paracas owns five aircraft built between 1960 and 1963. These are joined by Alas Peruanas who operate four planes with ages between 28 and 45 years, Expreso Moche has one plane from 1983, Aero Santos with one from 1966, Alas de América with one from 1973, Taxi Aereo Ejecutivo with two from 1963 and 1972, and finally Aero Palcazú with planes between 26 and 32 years old.
A source at the aerodrome explains that on these old planes, navigation is carried out visually and by radio, whereas in other countries it is done by satellite. “In other countries this assistance from air traffic is through satellite equipment to minimize risks”.
The source goes on the explain that the 38 light aircraft that operate from the aerodrome have the exact same control panels, instruments, equipment, cabs, seats, doors, fuselage and wings from the year they were built. Nothing has been renewed.
Another issue is the limited passenger capacity. Of the 38 aircraft, 17 have space for three passengers, 12 for six passengers and only 4 for twelve passengers. This means, due to saturated skies over the lines, their is little capacity for further grown in tourism.
In March of this year, five French citizens were killed after mechanical failures caused their plane to crash. The aeroplane was operated by Aeroica (Aero Ica) which has now had its operations shut down.
Last December a light aircraft belonging to Aerocondor carrying four French tourists had to make an emergency landing on the Panamerican highway due to a mechanical fault. Just days before, also due to a mechanical fault in their ageing fleet, 12 Japanese tourists and one North American were also involved in an emergency landing. The company’s licence to operate was revoked.
In March of 2007, another five French tourists almost lost their lives when their plane ran out of fuel mid-air. The operating company Aero-Palcazú had not given the group enough fuel to complete the trip. Luckily the pilot was able to land on the Panamerican highway without hitting cars.
Ten years ago, one of the worst accidents occurred. Two aircraft hit each other over Nazca killing ten Italian and German tourists.