Aero Latam

Where only a plane can go

Satena has a purely social mission, this is how it aims to reach places where there is little economic development and the plane is the only means of transport.

By Florencia Lucero Heguy

Photos: SATENA

The Colombian state company Satena was born 57 years ago with a social function; reach forgotten, underdeveloped places, not losing sovereignty. We interviewed the Head of Public Communication of the company, Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Serrano, who provided an overview and perspectives of Satena.

Why is Satena’s goal due, above all, to regional flights?

The origin of the creation of Satena was due to the most remote and less developed places of the Colombian economy that, formerly, were called intendencies and curators. From the Constitution of 91 they changed their condition and became called departments. They are the poorest places in Colombia, located to the east, south and in the Pacific. The historical development of Colombia occurred through the three mountain ranges from north to south, all the development entered through the Atlantic Coast to cities such as Santa Marta, Cartagena and Barranquilla and along the Cauca and Magdalena rivers between these cities were developed most important in Colombia.

What was not close to that was forgotten or had less economic and social possibilities. On the other hand, they are areas of high rainfall, jungle, which prevents transport, since the water ends up eating the routes. In other words, the only way to reach these locations is by plane. From the year 1962 the need was seen that these places could not be forgotten and given the mission within the Colombian Air Force to access or connect those places with the country’s central development and in the face of a complicated geographical need. This is how Satena was born.

Uniting the population

Marketing is very complicated in places where the economic level or access to money is bad. In addition, one cannot compare cities such as Cartagena or Santa Marta, where tourism is attractive, compared to places like Puerto Carreño that do not have an important tourist handhold and are livestock or agricultural populations and that is not profitable in regards to the subject of supply and demand. In Cartagena one can put more daily flights and greater capacity in chairs, while if you go to Puerto Carreta with a daily flight and 50 passengers is enough because that is the market. “Really there we are as a social function, because we know that we have to make those connections so that people can go to their medical appointments, businesses, notaries, etc. It is important to highlight that the state has the need to exercise sovereignty over the territories that are bordering because the citizen of that region is going to look in nearby towns, meet their needs, ”said Serrano.

Do you need airplanes to get there?

Yes, because the tracks are short. That is why the large plane does not enter or may enter but do not leave because, when leaving with cargo, they need a longer runway.

Are you going to start flights to other regions in March?

We begin to reach Tame which is a town very close to Saravena and Arauca. Tame is 40 minutes by land from Arauca, which is the capital of the department. We will intersperse the flights between the city of Arauca and the city of Tame. For example, we enter Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Arauca and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Tame. In this way, we supply that geographical niche.

Which planes you currently have?

The Embraer 170 is the largest, the next one is the ERJ145 and the smallest we have is the ATR42-500 / 42-600. For the jungle flights the need is still there and we cannot enter with a 50-passenger plane because it does not fit, so we hire a company to meet that need.

Do you have perspective of buying airplanes to reach those areas?

Yes, but being a state entity we depend on the budgetary availability that the government gives us to buy those planes. Satena is a mixed economy company where the shareholders are the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense and between them two decide what we are going to do.

Do you have any specific aircraft to buy?

Many companies want us to buy them and carry out demonstrations in this regard, but we cannot really commit to any, when the decision has to be made it will be based on the best aircraft in the market for the purpose we are looking for.