SAM (Spanish acronym: Sociedad Aeronáutica de Medellín) was a Colombian airline. The airline, with its main hub at El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá, Colombia, was operating domestic and international routes and was a subsidiary airline of Avianca. As of 2004 its headquarters was in the Avianca headquarters in Bogotá.
Completely surrounded by mountains, the city of Medellín has been a figurative island for most of its history. During the 40s a group of entrepreneurs began to promote the idea of providing the city with an air transportation system that would connect it with the rest of the country and the world. The axis Medellín-Puerto Berrío was sufficiently dynamic that the idea was discussed in entrepreneurial circles of both cities and in October 1945, at the 3rd Notary Public’s Office, a deed incorporating Sociedad Aeronáutica de Medellín S.A. was recorded.
Thanks to this entrepreneurial spirit Medellín became a city with an airline, although it was still on paper. It was in the minds of its first partners and promoters, the eventual founders: Luis Coulson, Gilberto Escobar, Julián Restrepo, Joaquín Londoño, and Gustavo Correa who, from the beginning of 1946 began to bring their dream to fruition. A corporation was created with 15,000 shares, at 10 pesos each. Subscription totalled Col.$150,000, of which Col.$50,000 was from 5,000 publicly purchased shares, and the remaining 10,000 shares purchased by the Board of Directors.
The promoters gained a valuable ally in the person of Captain Denis Powelson, expert in the aircraft world market, enthusiast, in love with the country and an explorer of its infinite possibilities. The Company had originally intended to acquire small aircraft, but the concept changed and grew: There would be long-range aircraft to secure the cargo market to and from Miami. The DC-3, type C-47 aircraft arrived in October 1946. SAM was no longer the dream of a few and became a community reality. The first aircraft of the airline departed from Las Playas Airport in Medellín heading to Miami in the midst of much celebration. It was the HK 500, piloted by Powelson himself with a three and a half ton cargo capacity.
In the second year of activities, SAM’s wings grew and began to embrace the world of the nearest Colombian cities with flights to Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Planeta Rica and Barranquilla. The airline grew quickly. Industrial and commercial activity increased to the point that in 1950 the fleet comprised 18 cargo aircraft and the destinations were now far afield. SAM’s aircraft flew to and from Panama; San Juan de Puerto Rico; Lima and Talara in Peru; Kingston in Jamaica; Caracas and Maracaibo in Venezuela; La Habana in Cuba; Managua in Nicaragua; Quito in Ecuador; Curaçao; Guatemala; Mexico; Santiago de Chile; and Manaus in Brazil.
Having proved its efficiency in air transportation and establishing the routes that put an end to the isolation of Medellín and Colombia, in 1958 SAM decided to begin carrying passengers. Passenger air service began with one DC-3 and a C-46, and one of the early milestones was San Andres, where it was the first airline to provide service to the island. Two years later the first Douglas DC-4 was added to the fleet with a capacity of 65 passengers, but it was in 1970 that SAM became notable for inaugurating the Jet-Prop era in Colombia.
By then, the domestic and international airline, through its routes had become truly Colombian which was reflected in its ownership. The Santo Domingo Group had provided broader capital to enable accelerated modernisation and expanded market share.
With the introduction to service by SAM of the Lockheed Electra four-engined turboprop, expansion into Central America was made possible and passenger services began to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica and regular freight schedules were operated to Miami. The Company then modernised with the B727. Subsequently, the fleet was made up of British Aerospace RJ-100, De Havilland Canada Twin Otter, and Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft. With these modern aircraft SAM united the most important cities of the country (Medellín, Bogotá, Cali, Barranquilla, Pereira, Montería, Valledupar, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Riohacha, Cúcuta, Leticia, and Quibdó), as well as several regional destinations (San Andrés, Providencia Island, Capurganá, Bahía Solano, Caucasia, Puerto Berrío, Chigorodó, and Nuquí) as well as a number of international destinations (Aruba, Guatemala City, San José de Costa Rica, Panama, Quito, Caracas, and Curaçao).
SAM closed its operations in October 2010.
The SAM Colombia fleet consists of the following aircraft (at 4 May 2010):December 8, 1959 - A Curtiss C-46 Commando, en route from San Andrés, San Andrés y Providencia to Cartagena, disappeared. All 42 passengers and 3 crew were presumed killed.
May 19, 1993 – SAM Colombia Flight 505, a Boeing 727, en route from Panama City, Panama, to Medellín, hit Mt. Paramo de Frontino at 12,300 ft. while on approach to José María Córdova International Airport (RNG). The aircraft descended into mountainous terrain before actually reaching the Abejorral non-directional beacon. The VHF omnidirectional range/distance measuring equipment (VHF/DME) had been sabotaged by terrorists and was not in service. All 132 passengers (including a group of Panamanian dentists and doctors on their way to a convention) were killed.