The Politics of Pride
In the immediate post Second World War period, Spain was still reeling financially and socially from the rigors of the civil war which had ravaged the country from 1936 to 1939 and left Fransisco Franco and his Nationalist policies in charge of the country.
World War II did nothing to improve things in any regard for Spain and the nation remained in a state of financial depression and isolation throughout the conflict.
Though Spain took a non-combatant stance in World War II, Franco’s right-wing leanings and good relations with Axis powers ensured that the victorious Allied nations were initially cold to good relations with Spain through the late 1940s and the bulk of the 1950s. In response to this, Franco initially steered Spain in the direction of self-sufficient autarky despite the fact that the country was still financially very fragile and bureaucracy and corruption were rife.
In the context of aviation, it was a time when Spanish aircraft companies moved away from license building the machines of companies from other countries and were encouraged to design their own aircraft. It was a direction that bred mixed results and, in many cases, aircraft types that generated little foreign interest that saw very limited production
One of those companies was CASA, short for Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA. Founded in 1923, CASA became one of the most famous aircraft manufacturers in Spain and was responsible for building several aircraft types that played large parts in the nation’s history. CASA merged with another legendary Spanish aircraft company, Hispano Aviación, in the early 1970s and became one of the original companies in the formation of the Airbus consortium.
Good, Just not Good Enough
First flown in 1955 as a scaled up variation of an older CASA design, the C-202 Halcón, the Azor had airlines as its target market. The aircraft was intended for use by the Spanish national airline, Iberia, to fly their short and medium length routes inside the country. The Azor had a capacity for 40 passengers
However, luck would not be on the Azor’s side for a career in the civil sector. While it was a quite capable flying machine of competent design, it was simply lacking in performance and capacity compared to contemporary designs of American and European origins. The Azor also lacked a pressurised passenger cabin, something airlines would definitely be looking for.
By the time the Azor was ready to go into service in 1958, it had been surpased in nearly every regard by contemporaries like the Fokker F-27 from the Netherlands and the Convair CV-440 from America.
Ultimately, Iberia chose the Convair CV-440 over the Azor and the CASA aircraft received no further interest from the civil sector.
Air Force to the Rescue
Iberia’s lack of interest did not mark the end of the Azor. While the C-207 was never intended for military use, the Spanish air force was desperate to replace their aging fleet of CASA 352 transport aircraft. The CASA 352 was a post war Spanish built version of the German Junkers Ju-52 transport, a design that dated to the early 1930s.
CASA 352s had seen extensive use in Spanish West Africa from the late 1940s through the 1950s and were well ready to be replaced in the transport role.
The Azor was available and fit the air force specification for a new transport. Shortly after Iberia decided against purchasing the aircraft, the Spanish government purchased 10 of the basic C-207B version of the Azor for the air force, this version of the aircraft could carry 40 passengers or 400 kilograms of cargo. In 1960, ten examples of the slightly improved C-207C version were ordered.
Production of the Azor lasted from 1958 to 1967 with a total of 22 examples made including the two C-207A prototypes. All 22 aircraft were taken into Spanish air force service.
The Azor provided the Spanish air force with reliable, if unremarkable, service from 1960 to 1982. It carried out cargo and passenger transport as well as medical transport duties and served as a jump platform for paratroopers. Some references indicate that a few were modified to carry out aerial survey and mapping work.
The Azor was replaced by another CASA product, the C-212 Aviocar.
In roughly two decades of service, only one Azor was ever lost in an accident. In 1977, an Azor fatally crashed into a mountain while on approach to land at Valencia.
What Remains and Learning More
With such a small number of the type having been built and none seeing service outside of Spain, it should come as no surprise that one would have to travel to Spain to see an Azor these days.
Five Azors are known to have escaped being scrapped after the fleet was retired and are publicly viewable today.
Three are in the vicinity of Madrid, two are on display at the Museo del Aire in the Cuatro-Vientos suburb while the other is on display outside the CASA factory at Getafe.
The other two Azors are in the Seville area, one on display outside a sports facility in the Gelves district and another at the city’s airport. The one at the airport is only a fuselage and in poor condition, likely used as a firefighting or rescue procedures trainer.
There are no Azors flying today and it’s very unlikely the world will ever see one fly again.
There isn’t much English language information available online about the Azor, but I’ve found these websites respond reasonably well to online translator functions:
Link to C-207 article at leandroaviacion.blogspot.com
Link to C-207 article at elsitiodejactres.blogspot.com