Cameroon Airlines served as the flag carrier for the country of the same name in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In more than three decades of operations, the airline flew an interesting variety of commercial aircraft, but was plagued by a less than perfect safety record. Let’s take a closer look at the carrier’s wider history.
The life and times of Cameroon Airlines
According to ATDB.aero, Cameroon Airlines first came into existence more than half a century ago, backing 1971. The reason for its formation, which was backed by Cameroon’s government and Air France, was the fact that the country wanted its own flag carrier rather than being a division of the multi-national Air Afrique.
Initially serving African destinations with Boeing 737s, the arrival of larger designs such as the 707 and 747 later allowed Cameroon Airlines to expand its network as far afield as Europe. Among the destinations that the carrier served there were Marseille, Paris CDG, Rome Fiumicino, and Geneva. Moving into the 1990s, Cameroon Airlines also began serving the likes of Brussels and London Gatwick.
However, the 21st century saw it fall upon harder times. Indeed, increasing financial difficulties forced Cameroon Airlines to suspend its operations between June and November in 2003. Meanwhile, 2005 saw the carrier banned from flying to Paris by French authorities. A failed attempt to secure funding from Brussels Airlines ultimately meant that the then-bankrupt airline ran out of steam in 2008.
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Over the years, Cameroon Airlines operated a fascinating variety of aircraft before Camair-Co eventually replaced it as the new national airline. The largest of these, as seen below, was the Boeing 747-300, of which the carrier operated a single example (TJ-CAE) on lease from Wilmington Trust in the early 2000s. Cameroon Airlines also flew a 747-200 and a 747SP over the years.
Data from ATDB.aero shows that other widebodies that served the carrier included the Airbus A310, Boeing 767, Lockheed L-1011 ‘TriStar,’ and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 families. When it came to narrowbodies, Cameroon Airlines had a penchant for US designs, flying models from Boeing (707, 727, 737, 757) and Douglas (DC-8, DC-9). Regional jets and turboprops also played an important role.
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A checkered safety record
One of the aspects that contributed to Cameroon Airlines’ downfall was its poor safety record. Indeed, the Aviation Safety Network lists six accidents involving the airline, of which four were fatal. It was banned from UK airspace in 2004.
The carrier’s worst accident occurred in December 1995, when 71 people (from a total occupancy rate of 76) lost their lives onboard Cameroon Airlines flight 3701. This happened on the flight’s second approach to the carrier’s Douala International Airport hub, on a flight from Cotonou , Benin. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-200, crashed due to a power differential between its engines, which prompted a dive.
What do you make of Cameroon Airlines’ history? Did you ever fly with the carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Sources: ATDB.aero, Aviation Safety Network