The history of these two aircraft is quite amazing. CS-TLA was originally a TAP aircraft, used to bring 84 VIP’s, including the President of Portugal, to the official opening of Faro Airport in July 1965. From such prestigious flights, things went downhill. After leaving the TAP fleet it flew Biafran leader Colonel Ojuwku to exile from Biafra on 10 January 1970. Both aircraft were rumoured to be involved in gun running to Biafra but were finally abandoned when the funds to pay the pilots and for fuel and airport fees never turned up.
Tracing the history of these two aircraft is not easy, not least due to many changes of registration number, some reputedly false, and changes of ownership and livery. As they were allegedly engaged in running guns and supplies to Biafra (not as TAP aircraft) this is not surprising. One of my family spoke to one of the pilots who confirmed at the time that Faro was a staging point for the aircraft to refuel and continue to Biafra. On the return via Faro, they were met by a representative of the owners who paid the pilots and paid for fuel etc for the second stage of the journey. One day this man simply didn’t turn up and without money for fuel or salaries, the pilots abandoned the aircraft. It would seem that the Biafra air bridge was at its end. Tel Aviv is frequently mentioned as where allegedly ‘supplies’ were being
Quite what happened to the exiled Colonel Ojuwku after he landed in Faro is a mystery. A large Quinta and stables between Porches and Armação de Pêra was reputed to be owned by an ‘African dictator’. Nobody was ever named, but its quite possible this could have been owned, or occupied, by Colonel Ojuwku. However, other reports from the time say he went on to the UK where he later died.
In May 1974 some North American technicians came to the Algarve to try to get one of the Constellations to fly again but due to the political instability at the time, the task was aborted. Yet again, the aircraft was abandoned and handed over to Faro Airport. In the middle of 1977, some personnel moved again, and the plane was registered as belonging to the Californian holding company Air International Inc. In the end the Connie would end up just being used for spares.
Finally this aircraft was removed to site near the Sumol factory on the N125 where it was frequently vandalised and finally broken up and removed for junk. At best the fate of these two Super Constellations can be described as ‘colourful’ but those who saw them will not forget the strange site of these two previously magnificent aircraft with such a fascinating history.