Airlines Remembered

Cargo Lion



Photos © R.Leeuw

Ceased operations: 17Apr01
Homebase: Luxembourg
Founded: 1992
ICAO callsign: Translux
ICAO code : TLX
Operations: cargo



Douglas DC-8-62F LX-TLB (c/n 45925/333) is seen here stored at Manston,UK on 28May03.
TypeRegistrationC/n and linenumberRemarks
McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-62F (CF)LX-TLA45960 / 347lsf Guernsey Air Leasing
McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-62FLX-TLB45925 / 333lsf Guernsey Air Leasing / cvtd -62
McDonnell-Douglas DC-8-62FLX-TLC45920 / 319lsf ALGI / cvtd -62
McDonnell-Douglas DC-10-30FLX-TLD47831 / 327lsf Stansborough Investments / cvtd -30
McDonnell-Douglas DC-10-30FLX-TLE46949 / 179oo-delivery 0700 / cvtd -30
The Cargo Lion idea was born in late 1990 when Bertram Pohl was flying as a line captain. During many discussions with friends and colleagues he decided that based on his know-how and the development of the industry the most promising aviation sector was the air cargo sector.
Finally in summer 1991 a group consisting of Bertram Pohl, Konrad Homberger and Thomas Hamilton decided to go ahead and found a Swiss cargo airline. As the name 'Swisscargo' was unavailable the name 'Cargo Lion' was chosen in honour of and with the ambition to imitate and improve upon the performance of another great cargo airline: The Flying Tigers.
Negotiations with Swiss Civil Aviation Authorities quickly proved that the registration of a DC-8 or a B.707 would no longer be possible due to the age of the aircraft (At that time Switzerland had the most restrictive regulations in the Western World). The Gulf War put aviation into a deep crisis and one of the effected airlines had been operating a Swiss registered Boeing 707 freighter. But the owners of that aircraft had totally unrealistic ideas about the value of their asset. The aircraft remained in storage until it was finally sold to Dr. Haas of Avistar at a much more realistic price.
With this setback it became evident that the initial idea of a Swiss cargo airline was not feasible. Bertram and Tom decided to find a European solution and Konni remained in Switzerland where he started his own constancy business. Bertram and Tom, having passed the DC-8 type rating together, were working colleagues. They met in early 1992 with Roger Tolley and Richard Le Lion. Together the new team of four started the second attempt to get Cargo Lion in the air. It was a lucky coincidence that at the same time Minerve of France (today AOM) decided to dispose of its DC8-62F.
Bertram and Alain Beaud of Minerve came quickly to agreement about the purchase of F-GDJM. Cargo Lion did not yet have an operational basis or licences and therefore a quick temporary solution had to be put in place and it remained in force until March 1995. Cargo Lion Ltd. in Guernsey was founded and funded by Bertram to purchase the aircraft. Ostend was chosen as operating base as it happened to be 'the' cargo airport in Europe at that time. The operating licences were provided by Southern Aviation of Ghana. This rather adventurous structure allowed the new airline to start operations.
On July 30, 1992, Cargo Lion took delivery of F-GDJM in Nimes and ferried the next day to Ostend. On August 01, 1992, Cargo Lion was really born with the first commercial flight on behalf of Race Air Cargo on the route Ostend - Accra - Ostend.
During 1993 Cargo Lion's name had become known and the company slowly started moving away from the ad hoc charter market to the operation of long and medium term contracts. The company's clientele consists of major airlines such as Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, Cargolux, Iberia, Icelandair, Lufthansa, Sabena, Swissair, etc., large freight consolidators and brokers such as ACS, Air Sea Brokers, Chapman Freeborn, East African Flowers, Intradco, Raeford, Transvalair, etc., relief agencies such as Mediciens sans Frontiers, the Red Cross, Save the Children and United Nations, and friendly competing operators such as Das Air, Intavia and LWA. In summer '93 the foundations were laid for a full European operating license and to that effect Cargo Lion S.A. in Luxembourg was founded.

In fall 1994 Cargo LIon teamed up with G. Gudfinnsson and Theo Bodem of Airmec. They were trying to establish a Luxembourg operating license under the name Translux International Airlines. It was decided that Cargo Lion would acquire Translux and join the two licensing projects. At the same time negotiations to purchase a DC8-62F from ALG started with Farhad Azima.
Thomas Hamilton had left end-1992 to pursue a career as MD-11 pilot with Eva Air. In January 1995 Roger left Cargo Lion to fly a VIP aircraft in Uganda and unfortunately died of cancer in '97. Skip who had been Chief Pilot became Director of Flight Operations and Pete Lavin who had joined in November '94 became Chief Pilot. Skip would become the main brain child to organise manuals, structure, training, etc. to comply with European JAR OPS 1 standards in view of the Luxembourg application. To finance and purchase our second DC8 and to obtain our Luxembourg operating license the company structure had to be completely revised. The aircraft were to be owned by a new company Guernsey Air Leasing and the operation was to be transferred from Cargo Lion Ltd. in Guernsey to Translux, the new subsidiary of Cargo Lion S.A.
April 1995 saw the financing for the second DC8, the Stage III hush kits and the Translux JAR OPS 1 AOC. F-GDJM was re registered as LX-TLA and the new aircraft as LX-TLB. The re structured group was now operating two Stage III compliant DC8-62F under a full European JAR OPS 1 operating license and the ad hoc activities had become almost insignificant compared to the contractual work.
After a disastrous C-check on TLA with AOM in April '95 the group had to re organise its maintenance contracts. In the fall of 1995 our relationship with Modern Jet Support Centre in Manston started. MJSC became the group's main supplier of heavy maintenance. MJSCbecame responsible for the DC8's B/C/D-checks, aircraft modifications and engine overhauls.
During 1997 a new contract with Air France, operating two DC8's on France to French Africa routes, was agreed upon. During the negotiations with Air France word was dropped about an Airbus. As one thing lead to another: after only three months of preparations operations were started with a passenger A310-300 on behalf of Air France's subsidiary Air Charter on a contract limited until April '98. Things had now moved from all cargo airline to an passenger and cargo airline and acquired the know how to operate modern high tech equipment.

In Dec97 a joint venture with ALG was concluded, about their DC8-62F and delivery was in late January. After undergoing a service entry C-check it started operations as LX-TLC in July.
During 1998 contracts were agreed upon with EAT / DHL. Business progressed well, but the DC-8 would fast become an unwelcome guest at most European airports and DC-10s were to modernize the fleet.


LX-TLD, without any markings, was chartered by Martinair and is seen here at the "Sierra"-ramp at Amsterdam IAP, on a grey day in January 2001

At some point a Boeing 737-400(Cargo) registered LX-TLF was purchased or leased. The aircraft was flown up from the Mojave dessert (June 2001?), and flown straight to it's new hub, Lisbon, where it would start it's schedule. I have no information whether it actually flew for Cargo Lion.


Sources:
Historical info: www.cargolion.com
Fleet info: JP Airline Fleets 2001


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