Sixty years of the jet age and the first Caravelle in Yugoslavia

By Veljko Marinković

The French-built jet aircraft Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle was rolled out in JAT Yugoslav Airlines’ colours in an official acceptance ceremony at Paris-Orly airport less than four years after its first commercial flight. That date, 21 January 1963, 60 years ago, marked the beginning of the jet era in Yugoslav civil aviation history, an era that brought many historic records and moments to be proud of and is still ongoing. At a time when civil aviation in the former Yugoslavia was below the European average, JAT made a daring, risky, and huge move, ditching turboprop engines in favour of jet engines, becoming one of only twelve companies with French-made aircraft in their fleet. This decision would soon put JAT among the top European and global airlines and open a new chapter in the history of Yugoslav civil aviation, also thanks to the country's developing network of new and modernised airports.

First Yugoslav jet aircraft, the first JAT Caravelle, the first flight

The SE-210 Caravelle was the world’s first short-medium jet and one of the most successful first-generation jet airliners completely manufactured in Europe. It was designed and built by Sud-Est/SNCASE (which later changed its name to Sud Aviation). The aircraft initially took off in 1955, and Air France and SAS were the first airlines to include this type of aircraft in their fleet in 1959. It was named after the Portuguese caravel ships of the 15th and 16th centuries that had explored the world's oceans during the so-called Age of Discovery. The Caravelle was the first aircraft on which the concept of two turbofan jet engines attached to the back body section was applied, thus considerably lowering noise, which, at the time, was a standard and a particular way of identifying and distinguishing aircraft. This revolutionary concept also improved ‘crafts aerodynamics, leading to frequent comparisons of the Caravelle to a glider. On one flight between Paris and Dijon, pilots even turned off both engines to demonstrate the ability of gliding for 46 minutes from an altitude of 13.200 meters before turning them back on for the final approach to ensure the safety of passengers. Yes, you read that correctly; passengers were present because the flight was a promotional one for journalists, which is unthinkable in modern times. This innovation would later be copied by many famous passenger airlines. Even in the USA, the aircraft had a successful sales record. The Caravelle's design was created to maximise operator convenience and passenger comfort. It was ideal for JAT's Euro-Mediterranean services, capable of landing at smaller airports and with a rear entry door complete with built-in stairs. A total of 13.000 tons of special steel, 800.000 screws and rivets, 50 km of electrical wiring, 710 avionics, and other devices were installed in every JAT Caravelle.

JAT CEO signing the agreement to purchase a Caravelle (1962) » SUD Aviation production line » Welcome ceremony at Belgrade Airport, 1963

It wasn't a simple task to introduce the Caravelle jet into the JAT fleet. First, there was political pressure to choose the Ilyushin IL-18, a brand-new Soviet aircraft at the time. After long and difficult talks, JAT finally decides in favour of the Caravelle, thanks only to General Milan Simović, the CEO of JAT, and his team. Second, the importance of bringing Caravelle jets into EX-YU aviation was reflected in the need for new maintenance facilities, practices, company organisation changes, expertise, and business philosophy. Finally, the delivery flight did not turn out as expected. Six of the eight tiers burnt during the landing roll during crew training at Toulouse-Blagnac, delaying the delivery flight for several days. The delivery flight from Paris was diverted to Frankfurt on January 21 due to a heavy snowstorms in Belgrade, the ice conditions, and temperatures 20 degrees Celsius below zero. JAT's first jet aircraft (YU-AHA s/n: 139) made its first touchdown at the recently opened Belgrade Airport on February 16, 1963, about a month after it was scheduled to. It is interesting to note that this plane was second in the production line for JAT, but due to some issues, it was the first one to be delivered. The first Yugoslav jet-powered aircraft operated its maiden commercial flight to Paris (ORY) on April 1, carrying 19 passengers and 300kg of payload. The flight was followed on the same day by one to Rome (FCO) via Zagreb. On April 6, 1963, as JU210/211 on a flight from Belgrade to London (LHR) via Zagreb, the second jet aircraft and the second Caravelle (YU-AHB) entered in service, followed by flight Belgrade-Athens-Cairo (JU440/441) ten days later.

Onboard JAT's Caravelles, the 1960s

With the addition of three Caravelles in 1963, JAT increased its overall capacity by 59%, and by 75% in international traffic, allowing it to launch a number of new European destinations, including East Berlin, Moscow, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and many others in the years that followed. The Caravelle "doubled" everything when compared to the Convair, which served as the backbone of JAT's fleet. It carried twice as many passengers (72, and subsequently, 91), travelled twice as far (2.500 km), and flew at a speed of 800 km/h. To the surprise of many experts, who did not anticipate such high demand and load factor above the European average, the Caravelle, also known as "Sky beauty", quickly became a favourite for both domestic and foreign passengers. These factors included increased comfort, a pressurised cabin, shorter flight times (from Belgrade to Zagreb in just 34 minutes and to Paris in 2 hours), punctuality, distinctive appearance with triangular windows, first class, and catering from the prestigious Belgrade hotel “Metropol”. JAT launched an unprecedented advertising campaign to highlight its products and service benefits and organised promotional flights and giveaways. Therefore, it was not surprising that the JAT Caravelle was the aircraft that flew passengers from Belgrade to Dubrovnik as part of Pan Am's travel packages when Pan Am inaugurated direct flights from New York to Belgrade in May 1963. Since the opening of the brand-new, cutting-edge airport at Ćilipi in 1962, JAT saw an opportunity for growth of leisure traffic in Dubrovnik and deployed Caravelle jets on new seasonal services to Vienna, Munich, Paris, London, Athens, and Venice. Caravelle, along with the additional capacity that foreign carriers deployed, was reportedly one of the primary reasons Dubrovnik Airport's passenger numbers doubled in 1963, according to the "Politika" daily.

JAT Caravelle and its passengers » the actress Milena Dravić after flight at Belgrade Airport (photo Zoran Miler) » First Lady Jovanka Broz and Tahia Naser » Hubert Humphrey former US Vice President after a flight from Moscow » Mikis Theodorakis stepping down after flight from Paris » Lola Novaković on her way to Japan (Photo Stefan Kragujević) » Belgrade mayor Branko Pešić welcomes his Paris college

JAT Caravelle and its passengers » Johan Cruyff, considered one of the world's best footballers of all time, steps off a JAT flight » Sofia Loren » Zuko Džumhor Yugoslav artist, writer, cartoonist... before the flight to Rabat » Fourteen year old Biserka Faflja from Zagreb starting her tour around the world, onboard Caravelle » Italian actress Rosanna Schiaffino at Dubrovnik after the flight from Rome » Little Bojana Bogdanović, the winner of JAT prize contest » Children boarding for a flight to Dubrovnik » Departure of the men’s and women’s basketball Red Star teams to USSSR » Popular Yugoslav actors: Miodrag Petrović-Čkalja, Miodrag Popović-Deba, and Žarko Mitrović » Captain Steva Popov

Taking all of the above into consideration, it was a natural choice for the first Yugoslav jet, the Caravelle YU-AHA, be named Dubrovnik during a ceremony on June 2, 1963, when it made its inaugural flight from Belgrade to Rome via Dubrovnik (JU406/407). It is interesting to note that all other JAT Caravelle aircraft were given Yugoslav resort town names, including Bled (YU-AHB s/n: 135), Opatija (YU-AHD s/n: 151), Budva (YU-AHE s/n: 194), Split (YU-AHF s/n: 218) and Ohrid (YU-AHG s/n: 233). What's more intriguing is that JAT did not name other types of aircraft until the mid-1990s (except for the first two DC10s, which were given the names “Nikola Tesla“and initially “Mihajlo Pupin” but later renamed to “Edvard Rusjan”). When the new Split Airport opened in November 1966, JAT deployed Caravelle as the first aircraft to ever land there. A local journalist's report of the event perfectly captures the excitement that was generated by the occasion: “The Caravelle, JAT's sky beauty, passed over Ćiovo at precisely 10:09. It glided noiselessly towards the direction of Split's new airfield's runway. The jet engines suddenly made a loud noise, and the plane rushed down the concrete runway while flying low above the vineyards. Nearly all of Split's residents cheered as the first Caravelle entered the new air harbour, slowing down as a braking parachute flew out of its tail“. A year later, the new member of JAT's fleet, YU-AHF, would be given the name of this Adriatic coastal city. Intriguingly, Sud Aviation delivered “Split“ with a cockpit painted in green intended for SAS rather than the UAL grey as per JAT standards, in order to fulfill its contract delivery date. Similar circumstances to those in Split occurred at the opening of the new airport in Ohrid, but this time “Ohrid“ would be given credit for ceremonial events.

JAT Caravelle as a special “guest” at Split, Dubrovnik and Ohrid airports » Pioneers welcoming a JAT Caravelle jet in Skopje » Parachute preparing for next flight » Render of Air Yugoslavia livery for Caravelle » JAT Caravelle decreasing speed with a deployed parachute after landing at Zagreb Pleso.

In 1963, JAT handled 33% more passengers than the previous year. The biggest improvement was in international traffic, which rose by 45% and was directly influenced by the advent of jet aircraft to the sky. By 1965, 80% of JAT's international flights were operated by the Caravelles. After the visa requirement for foreign visitors was repealed, the number of passengers carried tripled, and the percentage rose to 88% two years later (albeit only on 7% of domestic flights). Initially, JAT Caravelles were fitted with first and economy-class cabins, with 12 seats in first and 67 seats in economy, before all planes were configured in all-economy class with 91 seats beginning in 1968. Additionally, Caravelles were utilised for charter flights, including those operated by Air Yugoslavia, a JAT "paper" charter company established in 1969. Although JAT created a specific livery for those operations (pictured above), a plan to transfer two Caravelles to Air Yugoslavia in May 1970 did not materialise. JAT performed all maintenance work on Caravelles at Belgrade Airport and, by 1975, was doing third-party overhaul work on the type. The engines were flown (via JAT DC-3) to Brussels for major overhauls by SABENA because JAT was not large enough to support its own engine shop.

JAT Caravelle » Basel Airport 1972 » Boarding at Zagreb » “Budva“ few seconds before touch-down » “Split“ taxing at Amsterdam Schiphol » Cabin crew » “Ohrid“ first time in the air» Taking off from rwy 12 Belgrade » Tail stairs boarding at Prague, in the back first Soviet jet aircraft in Aeroflot colours Tu-104 (photo Vladimir Pesl) » On finals at London Heathrow Airport » First time at Ljubljana Brnik » A view at Sky Beauty »

There were ten Caravelles in the YU registry: JAT owned six Caravelles VI-N variants, as well as a leased one VI-N (YU-AHK) and one model III (YU-AJG); Inex Adria-Aviopromet leased one model III in 1972 (YU-AJE, operating largely flights between Dubrovnik and Pula to Dusseldorf, Munich, Stuttgart, Geneva, and Zurich). JAT’s seventh order for a Caravelle VI-N was placed on behalf of the Yugoslav government, (s/n: 241, reg: 7601) and it was also the final one built of this variant. The aircraft was in standard passenger configuration when it was delivered to JAT in February 1969, but the aircraft was purchased for the Yugoslav Air Force (JRV) for service as a VIP jet for President Josip Broz Tito. Soon after, this Caravelle would be reconfigured and fitted with a presidential suite that included a main lounge, cocktail cabinet, tape recorder, radio, film projector, bedroom, and accommodation for personal staff. The plane would remain in the presidential fleet until 1979, accumulating less than 1.000 flying hours, becaming the Caravelle with the fewest cycles in the world.

JAT promotional campaign regarding Caravelle » Sud Aviation advertisement- 21 companies flying Caravelle (including JAT)

Unfortunately, Caravelle YU-AHD, which was operating flight JU738 from Skopje (as part of a Belgrade-Skopje (JU762)-Titograd-Sarajevo (JU738)-Titograd-Skopje (JU739)-Split rotation) to Podgorica Airport (TGD), crashed onto the mountain Maganik in 1973, killing all six crew members and 35 passengers on board. Two more Caravelles were damaged beyond repair and withdrawn from use: due to landing gear failure YU-AHE performed a "belly landing" and later was used for spare parts. The fuselage of leased YU-AJG, which had sustained significant damage during landing at Belgrade Airport in 1972, was on display in front of JAT Ground Service for quite a long time. Caravelles, on the other hand, are the best-preserved JAT aircraft to date, with up to three intact. At Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, YU-AHB, the second Yugoslav jet-powered aircraft, is on display in front of the Museum of Aviation. "Split" YU-AHF is preserved at the Delta Museum at Paris Orly Airport (not in JAT livery and currently not accessible), while "Ohrid" (not in JAT livery) is preserved as a hotel in the village of Moyenpal, about 150 kilometres from Strasbourg in north-eastern France and the same distance from Basel, Switzerland. Every Caravelle enthusiast can stay a night and relive a portion of what passengers enjoyed 60 years ago, for 120 euros for two people.

The Caravelle operated its last commercial flight on behalf of JAT on the last day of 1976, en route Belgrade-Skopje-Ohrid-Belgrade as if it were the first flight, and the last was performed by the first Yugoslav civil jet, YU-AHA. The retirement of the Caravelle fleet sparked considerable debate because the Caravelle had become a symbol of JAT's development, as well as given that the fleet had generated an average of 20.000 flying hours, which was half of the aircraft's expected lifespan. The company considered converting them into freight aircraft, however, the introduction of second-generation jets and rising fuel and maintenance costs forced JAT’s management to make the final decision. In the documents and testimonies of passengers, the Caravelle was frequently mentioned with the possessive pronoun "our", which speaks volumes about the popularity of this plane in the region.

JAT Caravelle YU-AHB displayed in front of Aviation Museum at Belgrade Airport, 1989

The Caravelle marked the beginning of the jet age, but as passenger numbers increased (by an average of 25% annually), so did the progress of jet aviation. The second generation of jet-powered aircraft, the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32, a medium-short range aircraft with a greater economy, up-to-date equipment, and reduced noise levels, was purchased by JAT in 1969, just three years after its first flight. At the same time, another Yugoslav carrier, Adria Aviopromet, entered the jet age by introducing the same type of aircraft. On May 1, 1969, "Ljubljana", the first 115-seat McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 (YU-AHJ), operated its first flight from Ljubljana to Paris as Inex-Adria Aviopromet. IAA would later introduce an upgraded version, the MD-80 "Mad Dog", becoming the first charter company to operate this type of aircraft. Particularly, the "Nines" served as the backbone of Yugoslav aviation until the late 1980s, and JAT continued to fly the type until the early 2000s. One of the two DC-9s (YU-AHL) that JAT sold to Northwest Airlines (which later became part of Delta Airlines) remained in the air until the end of 2010.

First flight Inex Adria Aviopromet DC-9 (YU-AJT) » Summertime at Newcastle Airport » Two JAT Boeing 707’s at Belgrade Airport » Aviogenex Tu-134 YU-AJA few seconds before touch down » First flight JAT DC-9 YU-AHN (Photo: Museum of Aviation Belgrade)

The jet era was in full swing, as evidenced by the establishment of a new charter company that introduced a brand new Soviet airliner, the Tupolev Tu-134 (which is also this year marking the 60th anniversary since its first flight), Aviogenex. A unique feature of the first Aviogenex Tupolevs was their distinctive glazed nose, which contained a navigator's station. This crew position was removed in later variants, which instead featured a "solid" nose fairing with radar. Gracija Merković, the first commercial female pilot in Yugoslavia and the first commercial female pilot of a jet aircraft, would work in the Tu-134 distinctive emerald-colored cockpit. At the same time, those Tu-134As would be also utilised for cargo transportation, exporting hatching eggs and day-old chickens to the Middle East and North Africa, or as a rescue plane for transporting dolphins from the Adriatic, and finally, in the executive version, flying a 12-hour flight from Belgrade to New Delhi, with technical stops in Damascus and Muscat, to transport the Yugoslav delegation to the 7th Summit of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries in 1983.

The introduction of long-haul aircraft was the next logical step in the former Yugoslavia's sixty-year history of jet aviation. The 4-engine Boeing 707, as part of the JAT fleet, connected Yugoslav cities with direct flights to the US, Canada, and Australia, while JAT became one of the few airlines in the world to operate the type on the longest intercontinental routes. Adria, the first Yugoslav airline to fly overseas in 1963, attempted to resume its transatlantic operations to the US and Canada in 1972 utilising a leased 184-seat Douglas DC-8-55. The flights were not lucrative and were quickly cancelled due to high costs and intense competition over the Atlantic. Following global trends in jet aviation, the Boeing 727 was introduced in 1974. It was the first commercial aircraft that was produced in more than 1.000 units and the first whose fleet transported more than one million passengers. In an effort to promote a friendlier environment, an issue still relevant today, JAT pilots were awarded 10.000 German marks for completing the quietest B727 landing and takeoff at Frankfurt Airport, less than a year after introducing the type. In addition to JAT, this type of plane was also used as a presidential jet, where Tito's more unusual flights were accounted for, such as Belgrade-Moscow-Irkutsk-Pyongyang-Beijing, Belgrade-Lisbon-Bermuda-Mexico-Caracas, or Belgrade-London-Grenada-Washington. These two B727s would eventually join Aviogenex's fleet in the 1980s, despite expectations and announcements that AGX would opt for the Soviet Tupolev TU-154. JAT eventually used Boeing 727 (YU-AKI) in a special configuration, as a presidential aircraft, in the mid-1990s, and in 1998, the B727 was deployed on an intercontinental route to Beijing as a replacement for DC-10, with a fuel stops in Moscow and Novosibirsk and on the return leg, Krasnoyarsk and Kazan. One member of the fleet, YU-AKF, was donated to the Museum in 2003, but it is currently stored at Jat Tehnika and awaiting to be relocated to the Museum.

Aviogenex Boeing 727 (YU-AKD) departing Dubrovnik » First flight JAT DC-10 YU-AMB » First flight JAT Boeing 727 YU-AKA (Photo: Museum of Aviation Belgrade)

Narrow-body aircraft were not the only jets in this 60-year span; there were also wide-body planes. The first "Jumbo" with YU markings, the DC-10, YU-AMA, accomplished an 11-hour, 22-minute nonstop flight, and landed at Belgrade Airport in December 1978, setting the new record for the longest flight of the type without a landing. The flight was carried out by JAT’s crew. At the welcome ceremony, the plane was named after the great scientist, Nikola Tesla. Since Tesla was also working on a turbo-jet engine design, it is an interesting testimony of 95-year-old Miloš Tošić, who knew Tesla during the 1930s, that Tesla once told him: "The time will come when we will be able to have breakfast in New York and dinner in Belgrade". This visionary statement best describes international and Yugoslav jet aviation development. DC-10 flights that will be remembered are those to North America and Australia, Zastava Yugo and Florida car shipments on board DC-10 to the USA, flight to Columbia, in 1985, bringing humanitarian aid from Yugoslavia due to volcano Nevado del Ruiz eruption, low fly-pass at the Vršac Air Show and Batajnica Air Show accompanied by Flying Stars or brief operations in the area, including its use, during the ’90s, as an air tanker to transport fuel from Thessaloniki or Bucharest to Belgrade due to a lack of supplies. The last remaining DC-10 (YU-AMB, popularly called “Banka”) left the "YU" registry in 2005.

Since 1963, EX-YU aviation has always followed trends, with the introduction of new types of aircraft and the application of new knowledge in the shortest possible time. A significant turning point in the 60-year history of Yugoslav civil jet aviation occurred in August 1985, when JAT became the first airline to introduce the most modern aircraft, the Boeing 737-300 (YU-AND), to the skies of Europe for scheduled service. The fleet of this type would continue to cross the meridians of the world to various destinations over the next 36 years, with one member of the fleet (YU-ANI) holding the record as the world’s oldest passenger Boeing 737-300 in service.

JAT Boeing 737: The aircraft everyone talking about

Only four years later, Adria Airways would be the first company in the world to fly a brand-new Airbus A320 (YU-AOA) powered by new V2500 engines. This would be the first west European aircraft in the YU registry nearly 30 years after the introduction of the Caravelle jet, and the first fly-by-wire aircraft in Yugoslavia, the most modern passenger airplane. Adria’s new flagship had 168 seats and made its first commercial flight on May 22, 1989, on the Ljubljana-Belgrade-Larnaca route. A flight by Adria from Seychelles to Athens that took 7 hours, and 40 minutes, held the record for the longest flight made by the A320 at the time. The first Yugoslav Airbus operated its last flight 22 years later, in September 2010, from Tirana to Ljubljana as JP705. In the meantime, Aviogenex upgraded its fleet in 1987 by bringing in a brand-new jet, the Boeing 737-200. The fact that the penultimate aircraft in this series joined Aviogenex's fleet is something that is another more important moment to be remembered in jet aviation history. One Aviogenex, B732 YU-ANP, once named "Zadar" and afterwards known by the nickname "Squawky" (and one of the final ever manufactured in this series), is stored at Belgrade Airport. The fleet of EX-YU airlines included the Origin, Classic, and Next Generation Boeing 737 aircraft family (aside from the 100, 600, and MAX), while all other Airbus A320 family had EX-YU airline codes, with the exception of the smallest, A318. The fact that the top-selling jets in the world over this 60-year span were distributed fairly evenly is more than interesting.

First flights of the brand-new jets: Adria Airways YU-AOA » JAT Boeing 737–300 YU-AND (Photo: Museum of Aviation Belgrade) » Aviogenex Boeing 737–200 YU-ANP

And just as the launch of the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, a new wide-body aircraft, with JAT as the launch customer, was about to mark yet another significant turning point in the 60-year history of domestic jet aviation, the breakup of Yugoslavia put an end to any further growth. Instead, a lot of new airlines emerged, many of which flew quite exotic types of aircraft. Sadly, the majority of such airlines did not remain in operation for very long. On May 5, 1991, Croatia Airlines' first jet aircraft (MD-82) took off for its inaugural flight between Zagreb and Split under a lease from Adria Airways. The airline later bought its first three Boeing 737-200 series aircraft from Lufthansa in 1993. Up to this point, Croatia Airlines has primarily operated Airbus A320 family aircraft, starting with the first A320 which joined in 1997. The first company in this region to use the Dutch-built Fokker 28Mk 4000 named "Lovćen" (YU-AOI) was Montenegro Airlines, which was established by the federal government in 1997. Starting in 2000, Montenegro Airlines would operate a larger variant, the Fokker 100 aircraft.

Tupolev Tu-154 Meta Aviotransport » Adria Airways Rombac 1-11-561RC (Udo Haafke) » Croatia Airlines Boeing 737-200 9A-CTC approaching Zurich » First Montenegro Airlines jet, Fokker 28 " Lovćen" (YU-AOI) at Podgorica Airport » JAT Boeing 727 preparing for departure to London Heathrow as JU210, Belgrade Airport

The situation was similar in terms of growth of jet aviation as the new millennium brought instability to the business of national airlines and a gradual adaptation to new market conditions, with ups and downs where certain companies had more success in the business while others underperofmred. The introduction of a brand-new Embraer E195 manufactured in Brazil in 2008 by Montenegro Airlines, the first E-Jets operator in the Balkans, was certainly the most exciting event. It was followed by the arrival of the wide-body jet, the first "jumbo" after the DC-10 in 1978, with a "YU" registration, named also after Nikola Tesla, the Airbus A330-200 (YU-ARA), made up of 18 lie-flat business class seats and 236 economy seats, introduced by Air Serbia in 2016. This period also saw the launch of scheduled flights by European low-cost carriers Wizz Air and Ryanair, who would base the Boeing 737 and A320 family aircraft at EX-YU airports. These aircraft depart to numerous places in Europe and the Middle East.

Avioimpex Yakovlev YAK-42 at Zurich Airport » Macedonian Airlines DC-9-32-HK arriving from Skopje at Frankfurt Airport » Croatia Airlines A320 taxing at Belgrade Airport » Dubrovnik Airlines MD-83 on finals » Early morning departure of Adria Airways Boeing 737-500 at Ljubljana Brnik (Borut Smrdelj)

Many of those who are familiar with the early days of aviation are optimistic that, when the second wide-body A330 (YU-ARC) joined the Air Serbia fleet in December 2022, the golden age of Yugoslav jet aviation would be repeated, when up to five DC-10s were departing EX-YU airports for the world. The growth of Air Serbia and the announcement from Croatia Airlines, which has placed a firm order for six Airbus A220 aircraft - a completely new type of jet aircraft in this region - are positive signs for the future development of jet aviation in the next 60 years.

Air Serbia A330 YU-ARC “Mihajlo Pupin” at Belgrade Airport » First Air Serbia A319 YU-APC “Novak Djoković” and Montenegro Airlines Fokker 100 » Take off: Air Montenegro Embraer E195 and Fly Bosnia A319 » Air Serbia Boeing 737 YU-AND and Adria Airways CRJ-900LR at Belgrade Airport (Photo: Uroš Mitrović)

Special thanks to Mr. Laurent Gruz, co-writer of the book “Caravelle: The Complete Story“

Sixty years of Belgrade Airport | World's oldest B737-300 in operation


  1. Anonymous09:20

    Very nice

  2. Anonymous09:21

    13.000 tons? Are you sure?

  3. Anonymous09:47

    It must've been a lot of work to compile the article, but be aware there are many greatful readers who utterly enjoed reading it. Especially the ones who were not around in those times.
    Thank you!

    1. Anonymous10:09

      And for me this year is 50th since my first ever flight and it was on one of those JU Caravelles. Love those vintage planes, DC-9, 727, 707 and was lucky to fly on all of them.

    2. Anonymous11:08

      Lucky you 😉I envy you, and I would say there are quite a few of us. Did Caravelle was 2-2 or 2-3 configured? And what about this braking parachute, is this mean that all the time mechanic was flying or airport staff was in charge?

    3. Anonymous11:26

      I was 5 back then in 1973, don't remember seat configuration. It was BEG-SPU flight for a summer vacation at Brač. Caravelle + Liburnija ferry to the island. I and remember also one of returnig flight, late 70's, SPU-BEG they sent a federal 727 with Yugo trobojka on tail. It was full to the last seat and FA put me in a front row where big shots were seating :-).

    4. Anonymous11:58

      2+3 seats.

    5. Anonymous12:18

      Thanks. So DC-9 copied and seat configuration:)

    6. I flew on 48 aircraft types in my life, not including diferrent series of the same type, but will always be sorry not to had chance to fly three types : Caravelle, Concorde, and Ilyushin 62. And yes, thanks for the brilliant text, proving what kind of giant JAT had been, as well as how developed entire ex-yu civil aviation was.

  4. Anonymous09:51

    Thank you ex yu admin for this peace of art. First time to hear for Meta Aviatransport macedonia, tiger Air, Arnoro airlines, Vradra air....and so many Russian built machines, especially Yak's and Tu-154's Really supprised

    1. Anonymous12:09

      You have been reading the wrong history book as usual. North Macedonian carriers had Russian planes for a more than obvious reason...

    2. Anonymous20:15

      Yeah well luckily it wasn't the bulgarian history books

  5. Anonymous10:50

    Beautiful Saturday morning read thank you!

  6. Anonymous11:03

    A lot of interesting facts. These two ladies talking about JAT 737 over phone, I am still laughing 😂😂😂😂😂♥️

  7. Anonymous11:50

    ETF airways with two a321s?
    Was it not announced yet, and we are getting some spoilers? :D

  8. Anonymous12:50

    A wonderful read. Thank you for this gem.

  9. Anonymous13:21

    thx for this read!

  10. Anonymous13:38

    Congrats šefata!

  11. Anonymous13:56

    Wow! What a great article! I really appreciate it. I didn't know many of those facts. It's really great aviation history we should be proud on :)

  12. Anonymous14:15

    one of the best articles about civil aviation of EX YU.

  13. Anonymous17:46

    Originally it was Inex Adria Aviopromet (IAA was the tail logo), then changed the name to Adria Aviopromet and then to Adria Airways!

    1. Anonymous18:45

      think it was first Adria Aviopromet, then in 1968 became part of Belgrade-based Inex company (similar to Genex) and from mid 1980s changed name to Adria Airways and became independent

  14. Anonymous18:00

    Thank you for the great article. I love reading articles from Ex Yu Aviation every morning with my coffee.

  15. Anonymous18:42

    Caravelle was really a game-changer. I would add also Concorde and 747. Did not know that one Jat Caravelle is now a hotel. Great info. I know one 747 at Arlanda Stockholm, which even has rooms in the engines, and also for 747 in Amsterdam preserved like a restaurant and conference room, and also 727 and IL 62 on Novapark Hotel roof in Graz. Superb experience

  16. Anonymous19:09

    Josh Cahill, a youtuber and airline blogger just posted a video mentioning this Caravelle, attempting to visit the air museum at the Belgrade airport.

  17. Andrej76720:11

    Thank you for this great historical article.I have just a few add-ons.F-28-2000 Palair Macedonia,ERJ E-195 Air Montenegro,MD-81 Inex Adria Airways,MD-83 not by Adria Airways,BAC 111-525 Adria Airways,L-1011-500 (Royal Jordanian) leased by JAT,

    1. Anonymous21:02

      What is the year when JAT leased Lockheed?

  18. Anonymous21:07

    Bravo! This article is well-researched and thorough, in so many interesting details. Thanks for generously sharing it with us and making things closer to common reader.

  19. Anonymous21:13

    When reading these articles, I become specially proud of our country and reminded how great, competitive and innovative we were.

  20. Anonymous22:08

    Thank you for the ariticle and great photos. Being older has few advantages, one of them was experience flying on older aircraft. I did fly Caravelle many times as a kid and loved it! Cute orange curtains over triangle windows, you just can't find anything like it today. I vividly remeber my last flight on JAT Caravelle as a late night positioning flight from DBV to BEG. My father worked for JAT at that time. With only couple of people onboard I thought that Caravelle took off like a rocket! Fantastic memories. Can't wait for the one outside Museum to get a proper treatment.

  21. Andrej76722:51

    @Anonymous 21:02 I think Tristar was leased in summer 1987 or 1988.

    1. Hey Andrej! I worked in JAT 1986-1991 and I am 100 % sure Alia Tristar flew for JAT in summer 1989. What is also interesting, it was never deployed to Far East and Australia routes, and if I remember well not even to Canada. It was only deployed on flights to the US

    2. Anonymous08:48

      the first time hearing. Thanks pozdrav iz Rijeke.
      Unfortunately, there are no images to be found online

    3. Anonymous14:38

      Thanks a lot,I was not sure about the year - it is far in history.I remember the beauty of that Tristar and it was a lot quieter than DC-10.

  22. Anonymous09:59

    Great text, but just to add a slight little correction. It is claimed that:

    'The Caravelle was the first aircraft on which the concept of two turbofan jet engines attached to the back body...'

    while it fact early aircraft of the type, including JAT's, did not feature turbofan engines... bur Rolls-Royce Avon turbojets, that were the main reason for the early retirement of the type, due to their enormous fuel consumption.

    From an economical point of view, IL-18 was in fact a much better choice, as it probably would have remained in the fleet for decades - it is a far more succesfull plane then the Caravelle, and with a significantlly better safety record, too - but on the other hand, its purchase could lead to introducing more Soviet-built aircraft into JAT's fleet in the following years, which would not be good at all.

    1. Andrej76714:43

      JAT was doing right choosing Caravelle and later DC-9,B-727,B-707,DC-10 , but who knows if the soviet alternative would be worse if consist of IL-18,TU-134,TU-154,IL-62 & IL-86

    2. It would be definitely worse. Russian jets were consuming more fuel, had less seating capacity, even much less, shorter range, and incomparably less comfort for passengers. JAT couldn't count for at least half of its international and transfer passengers, and income coming from them, if Soviet made aircraft were chosen

  23. Anonymous13:45

    Amazing article👍👌

  24. Anonymous18:09

    Btw, does anyone know what happened with Caravelle YU-AHC, there are AHA, AHB and then AHD?

  25. Anonymous13:37

    Excellent article
    Staggering pictures
    Great job.


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