In 1985, Sao Paulo-Guarulhos Airport opened a new runway which did away with the weight restrictions previously imposed at Brazil’s largest international airport, Galeao International In Rio De Janeiro. Varig, then Brazil’s largest airline and certainly the country’s largest cargo carrier, quickly moved cargo ops to Sao Paulo and eventually moved its major intercontinental passenger hub there as well.
In 1988, Cargo Facts related that Varig was converting DC-10s to cargo configuration and that at the time, Cargo represented 25% of Varig’s revenue. Through growing capacity with the DC-10s, they hoped to raise that to 50%.
But seen here is a PP-VNA (msn: 22105), a 747-200 Combi. It was built for Libyan Arab Airlines but not taken up. Varig took delivery on January 30, 1981. Though set up for freight operations in this photo, it would later return to passenger service for Varig and Aerolineas Argentinas (on a lease) only to end up as a freighter for Cathay Pacific (and, via lease, Air Hong Kong). 22105 served Cathay until being stored at Victorville in the spring of 2009.
Varig began to implode in the 1990s and the cargo operations were spun off into VarigLog in 2000. VarigLog inherited 3 DC-10Fs and 2 MD-11Fs from Varig, but following several financial crises, currently only runs narrow bodies – a 727-200, A 737-400, and a 757-200, all conversions.
All that is far in the future, however, for these Varig loaders at Sao Paolo. The old Varig logo even looks good on the nose of the Volkswagen Transporter van.