A double dose of Dutch

The historical ties that bind the Netherlands with the Dutch Caribbean and Guianas forged prolific, but sometimes turbulent, aviation links. Keith Otto explores the history of ALM Antillean Airlines and Surinam Airways (SLM) and their connection to Dutch flag carrier KLM

The Netherlands has been present in the Caribbean since the 17th Century, so it was only natural the European country and its national flag carrier, KLM, would be heavily involved in the development of aviation in the region.

In the 1630s, the Dutch colonised three islands in the Leeward Antilles – Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (commonly referred to as the ABC Islands) – in the Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Venezuela.

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SLM returned to Amsterdam in the 2000s using an ex-KLM, 1986-built Boeing 747-300
AVIATIONIMAGENETWORK/ SIMON GREGORY

These were followed by a trio in the Leeward Islands, roughly 550 miles to the northeast, consisting of St Maarten –a split island comprising the Dutch in the south and the French in the north (St Martin) – Saba and St Eustatius. Suriname, formerly Dutch Guiana, sits on the northeast coast of South America.

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