An interesting footnote to that event was that the Shah of Afghanistan personally designed the logo for the new airline, the very same logo which is still proudly retained. The design represents the Afghan Swallow whose graceful fight has always delighted Afghans throughout the ages, and the blue field was inspired by precious stone lapis lazuli, found uniquely in the high mountains of Afghanistan.
In 1957 an agreement was negotiated between the Royal Afghan Government and the United States International Co-Operation Administration (ICA) to create a partnership with a leading American airline company. Ariana was reincorporated as a limited Liability Company with 51% of the shares owned by various entitles of the Afghan Government, and the remaining 49% acquired by Pan American World Airways. PanAm’s management contract featured technical assistance as well as the controlling management role. Two DC-4 type aircraft were purchased with the assistance of ICA to augment the four Dakotas which Ariana was still operating.
Some thirty PanAm technicians and managers were assigned in a full-time basis to the joint venture. Services expanded as Afghan personal were trained and more facilities became available. During those early years, the airlines operational and maintenance headquarters was located in Kandahar, the second city of Afghanistan located in the southern plains and well suited to airline operations because of the lack of adjacent mountain ranges. Initial operations were from a sandy runway, and maintenance work was done in the open with only minimum shelter.
Concurrent with the development of Ariana as the national carrier, air facilities in Afghanistan were being developed with assistance from the U.S Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) and continued funding from ICA. A modern airport and air traffic plan was developed for Kandahar, featuring advances terminal and hangar facilities. Meantime, assistance was granted by the Soviet Union to develop the airport at Kabul, and in 1965 the operational headquarters of Ariana moved to Kabul to share modern office facilities with the Afghan Air Authority.
The Joint Venture Mission the Pan Am partnership with Ariana had two objectives, being to operate the airline profitably, and to train Afghan nationals to eventually assume all operational and management roles. This meant years of training and development, and to a major extent, both objectives were accomplished.
Initially Ariana was staffed with foreign pilots and mechanics primarily Indians. as Afghan professionals gained their their qualifications, they assumed responsible positions. Initial flight training was conducted in Kandahar with three small aircraft with the best trainees then sent to the United Sates to acquire FAA commercial successes with Instrument Ratings. During the 1970s and 80s, 26 Afghan pilots completed this intensive training program, eleven qualified as captains with FAA Air Transport Ratings, the highest license rating obtainable Flight Engineer Licenses and were placed on Ariana flight duty.
A considerable number of nationals were trained for specialized airline professions, such as dispatchers, communicators, engineers, flight attendants, logistics, flight
Service specialists, as well as management staff for accounting traffic, sales and so on. By the time that the PanAm partnership was terminated in 1985, Ariana employed about 650 people, over 630 of whom were Afghan.
Fleet and Routes of the Early YearsThe airline’s fleet expanded steadily. Two DC-6A/Bs and a Convair 340/440 were purchased during the early 1960s. The first Boeing 727-100C was acquired in 1968, and a second Boeing 727-C was added in June, 1971. Ariana was proud to be the first regional airline to operate jet aircraft, as well as to be ranked during the 70s in the top ten globally in terms of airline safety.
Ariana started operations with only domestic routes. In 1971 the internal routes were taken over by a government owned domestic airline. That service was eventually reintegrated once again with the national carrier more than a decade later.
By the peak period of operations at the end of the 70s, Ariana’s Boeing fleet flew internationally twice a week to Istanbul, Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Amsterdam, and thrice weekly to New Delhi, Lahore and Amritsar. In addition to this regular schedule, each year Ariana served large numbers of Afghans on their way to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual Haj Pilgrimage.
Ariana is proud that it has operated successfully in Afghanistan for more than fifty years, from a mountainous terrain which has some of the most challenging operating conditions that can be found anywhere in the world Home base is Kabul International Airport, which is 6,000 feet high surrounded by mountains, with high temperatures in the summer and frigid conditions in the winter. Added to this mix are summer dust storms rising over 20,000 feet on the northern plateau, as well as send storms in the Kandahar area.
Ariana progresses well in the technical realm during the PanAm partnership. The advent of jet operations at Ariana meant as extensive program of training in Afghanistan as well as at Boeing and Pratt & Whitney engine plants, for pilots, engineers, mechanics, and operations personnel. The commitment to training has continued though the years, with Ariana technicians constantly being exposed to further training to keep their technical skills current.
In 1979 Ariana purchased a wide-body DC 10 to operate on its Asian and European routes. After some years of service, that aircraft was sold to make room for two Topolov TU 154 from Russia. In 1993, Ariana purchased three Boeing 727-200 from Air France, with the pilots trained by the Royal Jordanian Air Academy in Amman.
During the Taliban regime Ariana operated two Boeing 727-100 and one Boeing 727-200 for International routes, and five AN 24 for domestic routes. Eventually international sanctions against the fundamentalist regime curtailed all Ariana International flights as the world community signalled its disapproval of the repressive character of the regime and its acquiescence to terrorist cliques.
Disaster and a new beginning After the tragedy of the September 11 attacks on the United States, an international coalition quickly coalesced to ally with the Afghan resistance to depose what had become a criminal rouge regime. In the course of the rapid and decisive onslaught, Ariana lost six of its eight remaining planes during the bombing of air fields around Afghanistan.
Peace once again graces our nation. With the generous assistance of the international community, Afghanistan is making a new start again after 23 disastrous years of conflict. An interim regime has been established under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai, and the Traditional Islamic State of Afghanistan is asserting its control over the whole country. Roads and schools are being rebuilt, a more stable currency has been introduced, and a hopefully long-lasting partnership has been forged between the world community and Afghanistan.
Ariana Afghan Airlines is also already well on its way to recovery. The Boeing fleet has been expanded, and the Government of India has generously granted several Airbus passenger planes to expand our fleet. Routes are rapidly being extended once again. By the third quarter of 2002 the Ariana network has expanded from neighbouring nations to the Arab Gulf states, to India, Turkey and Germany. Plans are in process for more routes to match once again the peak of Ariana operations and, sooner rather than later, to surpass that mark.
Ariana is very proud to be spreading our wings again. We offer our passengers a well-maintained air fleet, convenient routes, attractive prices, and the best of traditional Afghan hospitality. Let us invite you to fly with us to visit the new Afghanistan.
|Ariana Afghan Airlines Head Office