What Happened To Former Ecuadorian Flag Carrier TAME?

Last year, Ecuadorian flag carrier TAME was liquidated after nearly half a century of operations. The carrier, known in full as TAME EP Linea Aerea del Ecuador, had served the country since 1962, and used to be its largest airline. Let’s take a look back at the history of TAME, a carrier that was originally formed by the Ecuadorian Air Force.

TAME Ecuador Boeing 727 Getty
Among other aircraft types, TAME flew two variants of the Boeing 727 trijet. Photo: Getty Images

Air Force origins

TAME came into existence in December 1962, with its name standing for Transportes Aéreos Militares Ecuatorianos (‘Ecuadorian Military Air Transport’). The airline’s first flights were of a domestic nature, and it operated these using Douglas C-47s. This was a military development of the Douglas DC-3, a propeller-driven airliner that TAME later used.

In addition to these two Douglas models, a third, larger type was present in the form of the four-engine DC-6. TAME eventually expanded its operations internationally in 1966, when it commenced flights to Chile, Cuba, and Panama. The airline added turboprop designs to its fleet, in the form of the Hawker Siddeley HS748 and the Lockheed L-188 ‘Electra.’

TAME was a little late to the party as far as turbofan-powered aircraft concerned. Nonetheless, the airline eventually joined the jet age in the 1980s by acquiring Boeing 727s. It ultimately operated both the -100 and -200 variants of the 727.

TAME Fokker F28
TAME’s jet operations also included the Dutch Fokker F28 ‘Fellowship.’ Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

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Later years and liquidation

The turn of the century marked the start of a period of fleet renewal at the former Ecuadorian flag carrier. It modernized its fleet with aircraft from the Airbus A320 family, as well as Embraer E170 and E190  regional jets from nearby Brazil. 2011 saw the airline transition from Air Force ownership to a state-owned commercial entity.

However, at this point, its demise was less than a decade away. As reported by Simple Flying at the time, TAME was liquidated in May 2020. The reason for this decision was losses of “over 400 million dollars in the last five years,” according to President Lenin Moreno. The impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic compounded these financial struggles.

It was hoped that the airline could continue operations on a smaller scale. This would have allowed it to retain service on routes where there are no alternative travel options. However, to this day, its website still states: “According to government regulations and TAMEs policies, (…) flights are suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis until further notice.”

TAME Ecuador Airbus A320
TAME’s largest aircraft when it was liquidated was its single Airbus A320. Photo: Andrés Ramírez via Wikimedia Commons

A new airline for Ecuador?

While TAME’s liquidation caused Ecuador to lose its largest airline, it seems that a replacement may be waiting in the wings. Last September, the story emerged that former state airline Ecuatoriana de Aviación could be set to make an unlikely comeback.

The company initially folded in 2006, but, with the backing of Ecuadorian and US investors, it may be set to rise from the ashes. It plans to do so under the name Ecuatoriana Airlines, with operations starting off with turboprop aircraft. A spokesperson told Simple Flying that the carrier would “eventually move into larger aircraft as operations see fit.”

Did you ever fly with TAME? If so, when did you do so, and where did the former Ecuadorian flag carrier take you? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.