By Mark Evans
Throwback Thursday: Zuliana De Aviacion and A Venezuelan Scrapyard
Zuliana De Aviacion was a Venezuelan airline formed in 1985 and based in the city of Maracaibo, Venezuela. Initially starting out as a cargo airline, it later started passenger flights. In addition to several domestic routes, the airline expanded into Colombia as well as started international flights to the U.S. with a route to Miami. Unfortunately, the airline ceased operations in 1997, unable to keep enough revenue coming in to cover mounting expenses.
Amazingly, almost a quarter of a century later, seven of the airline’s planes still remain mostly intact in the country’s second-largest city. They have been stripped of useful parts, but the shells of the aircraft are generally intact and easily identifiable in full color schemes.
The name of the airline was derived from the state of Zulia, of which Maracaibo is the capital. It’s located in the northwest corner of the country, close to Colombia and the Caribbean sea.
Zuliana operated a total of 13 aircraft, including three Douglas DC-8s, five Douglas DC-9s and five Boeing 727s. Records suggest that eight remained at the time the airline stopped operating. The seven aircraft that remain at Maracaibo are:
• YV-458C Douglas DC-9 31
• YV-459C Douglas DC-9 31
• YV-495C Douglas DC-9 31
• YV-496C Douglas DC-9 32
• YV-497C Douglas DC-9 32
• YV-499C Douglas DC-8 54F
• YV-464C Boeing B727 227
Another aircraft, Boeing 727 YV-465C, was flown to Miami for storage and broken up several years later.
The first two DC-9s were built in 1971, originally flying for Ansett Airlines Australia for 10 years. They then moved to the U.S. with Midway Airlines, finally joining Zuliana in 1993. The other three DC-9s all started life in Italy operating with Alitalia or ATI before moving to Venezuela between 1994 and 1995.
YV-464C was delivered to Braniff in 1970. It remained in the U.S. operating for Northwest and Pan Am, until finally joining the South American carrier in 1992. YV-499C started operations in 1964 with Air Canada. A more adventurous life followed in Zaire and Liberia, returning to the Americas with Zuliana in 1994.
All seven remain in derelict state in a small scrapyard on the north side of the main ramp, and have been joined by a few Boeing 737-200s in recent years. Two of these belong to another local airline, Venezolana.
Undeterred by Zuliana’s failure a few years earlier, Venezolana started operations out of Maracaibo in 2001 as RAVSA, rebranding in 2007. However, from 2009 the airline encountered financial problems leading to most of its aircraft becoming unairworthy. By 2014 the airline was grounded before being purchased by a group of private investors. It still flies today with a reported fleet of just two 737s and two McDonnell Douglas MD80’s.
One of the Venezolana aircraft, however, was not granted the same luxury as the Zuliana aircraft. YV287T has been chopped up into several pieces. Piles of wreckage are scattered around the scrapyard along with an unknown Rutaca 737. YV296T does, however, remain mostly intact.
Based on data from Google Earth images, it appears that the scrapyard has been extended onto the northern end of the ramp. Five aircraft have remained in the same position for several years, and the latest images show what looks to be many parts of the aircraft placed on the ramp surrounding them. These aircraft include two more Venezolana B737s, which likely once carried the registrations YV515T and YV535T, assuming the aircraft were never moved around. The other three aircraft should be:
• YV497T Boeing 737-200, which flew for Estelar
• YV529T McDonnell Douglas MD83, which operated for Perla Airlines
• HP-1754CTW Boeing 727-200, which once flew for PanAir Cargo
All the aircraft mentioned were seen on a visit in February 2017. None of them appear to have moved, remaining in the exact same positions on several google earth images since, the most recent being from July 2021.