WORTH A SECOND GLANCE
By Leonardo Pinzauti
Not many African airport post cards exist. With the possible exceptions of French Algeria and South Africa, the majority show just the terminal or an interior view. So I was very pleased to find this almost unknown Libyan airport at a small paper-fair and at a reasonable price.
It is a black and white photographic card on Agfa paper with the edge pattern variously known as deckle, crinkle, scalloped or cayman. The US registered DC-3 is shown on a basic desert airstrip with a fort in the background. On the back the caption is Sebha Fort, Fezzan, Libya in English and Arabic and rubber-stamped “Sebha Palace Hotel”. The fort dates from the 1920’s during Italian occupation, to garrison the oasis of Sebha which is actually 5 km distant. From the early 30s air transport was the most appropriate method for this outport, 900 km from the main settlements on the coast. Both the fort and airfield were occupied and enlarged by Free French forces in 1943.
The DC-3 is equally unusual. The carrier is Libyan Aviation Co Ltd – LAVCO. This was established early in 1960 by one Libyan and 2 US investors to operate contracts for oil companies active in Libya. Oil had been discovered in the 1950s which was to result in the transformation of Sebha from a group of small villages round an oasis to a modrn economic centre. LAVCO was headquartered in Benghazi and based at that city’s Benina airport. It started flying with a DHC Beaver in July 1960. Two years later the Uk operator, Metropolitan Air Movements, began to provide technical and operational support including the lease of 5 DH Doves. LAVCO and Metropolitan also shared a managing director, Capt BLR Pocock. From the mid 1960s DC-3s, all leased in the US, were added. A dozen have been recorded. Later in the 60’s a DC-6 was added and 4 Beech 18s and other types were in service. The company ceased operations in 1967 and its equipment, even though leased, was abandoned in Libya.
The DC-3 itself is equally interesting. Originally USAAF it was civilianized to a private operator in 1946 as NC79907 and later N63T of Transocean Airlines who sold it 1959 to a company who leased it to LAVCO as shown. Later the abandoned aircraft was taken over by the Libyan government and reputedly handed over to the military and destroyed in target practice.
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