PROLOGUE: The Lockheed Model 10 Electra was a twin-engine, all-metal monoplane airliner developed by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in the 1930s to compete with the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2 and was Lockheed’s first all-metal and twin-engine design. After October 1934 when the US government banned single-engined aircraft for use in carrying passengers or in night flying, Lockheed was perfectly placed in the market with its new Model 10 Electra. In Latin America, the first airline to use Electras was Cubana de Aviación, starting in 1935, for its domestic routes. It was used extensively throughout the Americas by both airlines and commercial customers including Aerotecnica S.A. ATSA, Línea Aeropostal Venezolana and Standard Oil of Venezuela.
Carrying a crew of two and up to ten passengers – or about 4,000 pounds of freight – it had a range close to 700 miles at a speed of close to 200 miles per hour. The two Pratt & Whitney 450 horsepower motors could carry it to an altitude of 19,000 feet which allowed it to operate across the mountainous terrain of the tepuis in the Gran Sabana in the south-east of Venezuela on the border with Guyana and Brazil which reach 10,000 feet and host Angel Falls which at 3,000 feet is the highest waterfall in the world.
While being a work horse with a solid record for dependability the aircraft had gained somewhat dubious fame since it was being flown by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared during her ill-fated around-the-world expedition in 1937. By the late 1940’s, the Electra design was obsolete although many smaller airlines and charter services continued to operate them well into the 1970s like the Douglas DC-3‘s, introduced about the same time, that we used to fly around the Caribbean and South America in the 1980’s. As Bill Leach would have said, They don’t build them like that any more.
June 28th: Am getting ready to go to Caripito – Understand that I am to fly on the company plane, a Douglas. It seems good to be able to leave this place even though it is to be for a short space of time, but, however I’ll welcome the change after being here for over three months. I’ll look forward to some sort of a rest. No doubt there will be plenty of work in story for me in Caripito after being away for three months.
Left on the 29th with pages, Morris, Frieze, Senor Don Joachim Mollinos, and Mr. H. E. Linam, the company manager. Senor Joachim Mollinos is one of the few Venezuelan millionaires who has much property on which the S.O.V. is drilling. The general ride over the vast savannahs appealed very much to me and I certainly enjoyed the aerial views of these great savannahs which are dotted with intermittent meandering morichals which take a general east-west trend thru these vast expanses. While up at the high altitude I often wondered just how it would feel to be forced down in the open spaces, where large expanses of densely wooded tracts far from pueblos and habitation of any description. I could vaguely picture the wild animal life that abounded here and there – then again the huge swamps which no doubt were lurking dangers of almost any conceivable description.
Somehow I felt rather sorry for the plane that was forced down near El Dorado, south of Ciudad Bolivar, only a short time ago. Oh, well, if such a thing happens one must make the best of circumstances and let it go at that. Over the jungles one could see various types of trees and plants, birds of a different class than I have been accustomed to seeing. It did indeed present a very fine picture. Even the morichi palmed roofed houses looked different in the air from what they looked like when seen from the ground. It took us 40 minutes to cover the necessary ground from Temblador to the airport at Cachipo which is near Quiriquire. We landed at the port a few minutes ahead of a heavy but short duration storm which is typical of these parts. When the rain did come down it certainly did come down heavily. The storm was heavy enough to delay the take-off of the regularly scheduled Pan American plane which was headed for Caracas. Arrived at Caripito after a short ride through a sort of a misty rain – it seems that it always rains in and around Caripito.