Due to the limited size of its local market, TAP Air Portugal replaced its 747-200Bs with half a dozen smaller capacity L-1011-500s, which became its intercontinental type for a decade and a half.
However, the impetus for the creation of the aircraft carrier was not necessarily so clearly defined. While the country’s strategic location optimized it to serve as a transatlantic gateway during World War II, and aeronautical advancement would one day place it at the air crossroads between Africa and North and South America, interest in establishing an airline so indigenous it was lukewarm at best.
Indeed, airline operations up to that point had been sporadic, unstructured, and considered particularly important. The first skeleton company, controlled by Air France, served Tangier and then Casablanca with a Lockheed Lodestar under the Aero Portuguesa banner, but was discontinued in April 1953.
A domestic city pair, Lisbon-Oporto, which it had also connected, was later served by another local fledgling company, Companhia de Transportes (CTA), but its reign was also brief, giving way to what would become the flag carrier definitively, Transportes Eros Portugueses (TAP), a company created by the government and considered a division of the Secretariat of Civil Aeronautics.
Its initial route structure was, at the same time, logical and almost unfathomably ambitious: in the first case, it covered domestic destinations and Ilha do Sal, or Sal Island, in the Cape Verde Islands, where a solid runway facilitated operations, and in the latter, an African transnavigation of 24,540 kilometers to the Portuguese colony of Lourenco Marques (Mozambique) called “Linha Aera Imperial” or “imperial airline”, with intermediate stops in Casablanca, Vila Cisneros, Bathurst, Robertsfield, Accra, Libreville , Luanda, Leopoldville, Elizabethville and Salisbury.
Opened on New Year’s Eve 1946, it was operated by a 21-passenger twin-engine DC-3 and took four days to complete.
Other less ambitious scheduled services had included TAP’s inaugural to Madrid as a group with Iberia four months earlier, on September 19, and to Paris the following summer, on August 10, 1947. Seville and London were added to the route system at the end of the of the decade.
Its eight DC-3s, registered sequentially from CS-TDA to -TDH, were soon joined by four four-engine tricycle DC-4 Skymasters equipped with landing gear that were converted from military C-54 versions to commercial-capable versions. for 44 to 54 and registered CS-TSA, -TSB, -TSC and -TSD.
The 1950s were marked by the acquisition of an even larger and more advanced commercial airliner, the Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation.
Based on the original L-649/-749, it introduced a lengthened fuselage, giving it a new overall length of 113.4 feet, four 3,250-hp Wright R-3350-972TC18-DA3 Turbo Compound engines, and new maximum weights of takeoff. and ranges of, respectively, 137,500 pounds and between 4,160 and 4,810 miles.
Numerically the most popular of the Constellation versions, it offered accommodation for 99 single-class passengers, five deep, and interiors in the style of Henry Dreyfuss.
Placing its initial order for three aircraft in December 1953, TAP took delivery of them two years later, in July and September 1955, operating them nationwide, from Lisbon to Porto; continentally, to London and Paris; and intercontinentally to Lourenco Marques via Kano (Nigeria) and Leopoldville, reducing the journey to 22 hours.
Its eventual fleet of six aircraft, including a leased L-1049E with earlier engines, had registrations CS-TLA through -TLF and was in operation until 1967.
In progressive expansion, TAP achieved several records in 1958, including the creation of a route system of more than 14,000 kilometers, a base of 1,000 employees and the transport of more than 64,000 passengers.
The 1960s served as the airline’s threshold for the jet age. To be progressive and offer higher speed flights between Lisbon and London, it leased a de Havilland DH.106-4B Comet from British European Airways (BEA), which in turn had ordered six from the manufacturer for its Mediterranean sectors so that it could remain competitive with Air France on European routes, which in turn operated the pure jet Sud-Aviation SE.210 Caravelle III.
Based on the long-range Comet 4, the 4B, the continental version, introduced a stretched fuselage, accommodating 84 first-class passengers of four a day or up to 102 coach passengers of five a day, and offered a new overall length of 118 feet. Powered by four Rolls Royce Avon 524 turbojets installed in the wing root, it featured a shortened wingspan of 107.10 feet and a cruising speed of 545 mph, which greatly reduced block times between cities. Ironically, it shared the same forward fuselage and cabin section as its Caravelle competitor.
Conceding, perhaps, to French competition, TAP discontinued its leasing of BEA aircraft in 1962, when it took delivery of its own thrust reverser-equipped Caravelle VIRs, eventually operating three twin-engine 80-passenger aircraft registered CS-TCA, -TCB, and -TCC. between Lisbon and Madrid. However, like many other European airlines, such as Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Finnair, SAS and Sabena, it soon regarded it as its short- to medium-haul workhorse, connecting its home base with an increasingly continental network. which included the like Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, London, Madrid, Munich and Zurich, albeit with a service less than daily, offering passengers a calm and superior outside speed in the open and a meal service with wine inside, even on his coach. cabins
By 1964, it had carried its one millionth passenger.
However, a third pure jet type entered the fleet the following year, the 707-320B. Registered CS-TBA through -TBJ, along with CS-TBT and -TBU, the four-engine Boeing facilitated the opening of intercontinental routes, such as its “Friendship Flight” to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, a 19-hour segment to Goa, India, with five intermediate stops and one to Bissau via the Cape Verde Islands.
With the retirement of its Constellations in 1967, TAP became Europe’s first jet airline.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, and São Paulo, Brazil, were included in its route system at the end of the decade.
The 1970s were marked by continued expansion. In 1971, for example, the construction of new facilities in Lisbon was completed, including a corporate headquarters, a training center and a maintenance hangar, while 1974 saw several milestones, including a 32-strong fleet, a system over 40 destinations, some 9,000 staff members and 1.5 million passengers.
Technology was an integral part of their growth. TAPMATIC, an integrated computer reservation, passenger check-in and cargo control system, was introduced, and TAP became the first European airline certified to test Pratt and Whitney 747 engines.
On April 15, 1975, he was nationalized.
Boeing played an integral role in its fleet renewal strategy. The 747-200B became his first intercontinental widebody and the narrow-body 727-100 gradually replaced his Caravelle. Maintaining the fuselage cross-section of the 707 to allow for the installation of six-row coach seating, the latter featured three Pratt and Whitney JT8D-1 14,000-pound-thrust low-bypass-ratio turbofans mounted in the aft fuselage and in the vertical tail, whose tall horizontal stabilizer eliminated engine outflow interference. Its wings, unobstructed by pylons, offered maximum short-field lift with their full-span leading edge slats and triple-slotted Fowler flaps on the trailing edge.
The type remained in the fleet until 1989.
The decade also saw the continued addition of destinations, such as Milan, Lyon and Luxembourg in Europe, Kinshasa in Africa, Montreal in Canada, Boston as an extension of the New York route in the US, and Caracas in South America.
The 1980s served as the threshold for the airline’s new image and name “TAP Air Portugal”, which saw changes to the aircraft’s logo, livery and uniform, the introduction of its Navigator business class and the opening of a terminal cargo and a locker at the airport.
Offering too much capacity for their routes, the 747s were replaced by TriStar 500s and the 727-100s were supplemented by 737-200 Advanced in 1983. Originally powered by two Pratt and Whitney JT8D-7 engines encapsulated in the underwing. they were optimized for short-haul, low-capacity inter-European segments, although their maximum capacity was the same as the 727: 130. The previous year’s TAP order marked Boeing’s 1,000th such sale.
His records progressed from CS-TEK to -TEV.
The first of 14 next-generation 737-300s, featuring a 104-inch fuselage that stretches for up to 149 passengers and large-diameter, pylon-mounted, 20,000-pound-thrust CFM International CFM65-3 turbofans, joined the lineup. fleet in 1988, although some, as had happened with the -200, were flown for TAP’s charter subsidiary Air Atlantis.
The expansion, especially towards the end of the decade, was considerable: in Europe, Athens, Dublin, Hamburg, Munich, Nice, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Toulouse and Vienna were added, Abidjan and Dakar in Africa, Toronto in Canada and Newark in the United Kingdom. U.S.
The period was also marked by the gradual switch to Airbus Industrie aircraft, the first of which, the long-range, twin-engine, twin-aisle A-310-300, was delivered in 1988 and complemented the L-1011-500. on intercontinental routes, such as Lisbon to New York.
Transporting more than 3.7 million passengers and 65 million kilos of cargo in 1993, TAP Air Portugal operated 57 destinations on five continents: Faro, Funchal, Horta, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Porto, Porto Santo and Terceira nationwide. ; Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Bologna, Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Lyon, Madrid, Malaga, Milan, Munich, Nice, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna and Zurich continentally ; Tel Aviv in the Middle East; Abidjan, Bissau, Brazzaville, Casablanca, Dakar, Harare, Ilha do Sal, Johannesburg, Libreville, Luanda, Maputo and São Tomé in Africa; Boston, Montreal, Newark, New York and Toronto in North America; Curacao and Santo Domingo in the Caribbean; and Caracas, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Sao Paulo in South America.
The consolidation of the fleet continued. In 1994, for example, TAP received the first of four Airbus A-340-300s with a capacity for 274 passengers, which, registered sequentially CS-TOA, -TOB, -TOC and -TOD, replaced the TriStar in the intercontinental sectors. while the twin-engine, narrow-body A-319, A-320 and A-321 family took over the role of the 737-200 and -300.
TAP also became a founding member of the Qualiflyer Group of European airlines with Austrian and Swissair.
At the dawn of the 21st century, it carried more than five million passengers, operated a fleet of 40 people, implemented its Modernization of Organization (MOP) program by subdividing the company into airline, handling and maintenance business units, and launched its fifth corporate image since its founding in 1945 with the introduction of the simpler designation “TAP Portugal”.
“The new image was designed to graphically communicate the idea of modernity, lightness and Portuguese style,” according to its website, “and to reinforce the TAP name, which both the Portuguese and the company’s employees have always preferred. It was the beginning of a new stage.”
In 2005 it joined the Star Alliance.
Operating 21 A-319-100s of 132 passengers, 19 A-320-200s of 162 passengers, three A-321-100s of 200 passengers, 16 A-330-200s of 263 passengers and four A-340s of 274 passengers. 300 on more than 2,500 weekly flights to 76 destinations in 29 countries in 2017, TAP had achieved its goal of establishing Portugal as the air crossroads between Europe, Africa, and North and South America.