The rise and fall of Trans Mediterranean Airways

Lebanon’s pioneering Trans Mediterranean Airways was one of the Middle East’s biggest success stories, until years of conflict took its toll. Barry Lloyd tells the inside story of its meteoric rise and tragic fall

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One of two cargo-configured Boeing 747-100SFs, N9676 (later OD-AGC), leased by Lebanon’s Trans Mediterranean Airways taxies for departure at Basel in Switzerland on June 20, 1975
Eduard Marmet

Trans Mediterranean Airways (TMA) was the first all-cargo airline in western Asia. Set up by Middle East airfreight pioneer Munir Abu Haider in 1953, it began by carrying out ad hoc cargo flights with a fleet of four chartered Avro Yorks from its Beirut International Airport base in Lebanon.

During the Suez Crisis in 1956, military action forced the closure of this vital waterway between October 1956 and March 1957, rapidly increasing the need for the region’s cargo to be transported by air. Pressing its ageing Yorks into near round-the-clock service, TMA’s yearly revenue quadrupled to US$1.2m.

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