Drax Air Freight – Varig Brazil

In Moonraker Bond goes to Rio to investigate the affairs of Hugo Drax. In a warehouse belonging to the importer firm ‘C&W’ (Carlos & Wilmsberg) in downtown Rio, Bond learns that Drax is moving his merchandise through his cargo airline ‘Drax Air Freight’. Manuela tells Bond that ‘Drax Air Freight’ operates out of San Pedro Airport and Bond gets up to the Sugarloaf mountain to check it out.

The airport can be seen from the viewpoint on top of the mountain, no doubt one of the most famous tourist attractions in Rio. In reality the airport is called Santos Dumont Airport, after a Brazilian aviation pioneer. Why San Pedro was used instead of the real name is unclear.

The Varig star logo can vaguely be seen on the tail.

The Drax Air Freight plane however is a Lockheed L-188 Electra, in reality belonging to Varig Airways, the leading Brazilian airline at the time. The dark blue plane livery can be recognized if you compare Drax’s plane with the Varig plane in the picture below. Santos Dumont airport was one of the main airports that Varig used in Brazil. In 1959 together with two other airlines, Varig had initiated an “air shuttle service” between Rio-Santos Dumont airport and São Paolo airport. The three airlines coordinated their schedules and operations and shared their revenue. Due to the success of this shuttle service led by Varig, it was abandoned only in 1999. The interesting fact is that this route was served exclusively by Varig’s Lockheed L-188 Electra between 1975 and 1992 and the aircraft used on this route did not have the Varig name on the fuselage for the sake of neutrality to the other two airlines. This would have made it easy for the filmmakers to use one of Varig’s aircraft in the film and put the name “Drax Air Freight” on the side, since the fuselage didn’t have the Varig logo on it.

Copyright Bill Hough, used with permission. 

The Lockheed L-188 was developed in the 1950’s by the American manufacturer Lockheed. It first flew in 1957 and was the first large American turboprop airliner. However, the engines would soon be replaced by turbojets and many of the aircraft that still used this engine type were modified as freighters.

Copyright Bill Hough – airliners.net. 

Another Varig aircraft, or at least the tail, can be seen behind the Concorde when Bond arrives in Rio. The Concorde did not land at Santos Dumont Airport however, but at the larger Galeão International Airport. Varig also receives a thank you in the end credits of the film.

Varig was the leading and almost only international airline in Brazil between the years 1965 and 1990. Beginning with the new millennium, Varig experienced financial difficulties and after a reconstruction and two failed attempts to auction the airline, Varig was split into two companies. The call sign ceased to exist in 2008.

On a Lockheed related subject, both the president and Goldfinger have private planes from the Lockheed company in Goldfinger. As Pussy Galore points out:
    “The humming means you’re in Mr Goldfinger’s Lockheed Jetstar heading for Baltimore.”

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