The military airline was founded on December 17, 1962, by Luis A. Ortega under Guillermo Freile Posso, both colonels. It was named Transportes Aéreos Militares Ecuatorianos (TAME). At the time, the Air Force required an income source; governmental transport services to remote and difficult to reach parts of Ecuador; and an entity to train pilots. The airline gradually increased in size infrastructure and number of services.
On December 4, 1962, Luis A. Ortega, Hector Granja, Eduardo Sandoval, Alfredo Barreiro, Oswaldo Lara, Julio Espinosa, Teodoro Malo and Jose Montesinos made inaugural flights in the Dakota C-47. The pilots held the rank of major and noncommissioned officers worked as flight attendants. The first commercial flight was made by Teodoro Malo on a route from Quito, Esmeraldas, Bahía, Manta, Guayaquil, Cuenca and back to Quito. Initially, TAME made domestic flights using C-47 planes. Gradually, over the next two years, DC-3 and DC-6 planes were added and then in 1970, two HS-748 Avro were acquired.
On April 30, 1966, TAME began regular international flights to Havana, Panama and Santiago de Chile. In 1997, international flights were extended to Los Angeles, Taipei and Hong Kong.
As its business grew, TAME purchased four Lockheed L-188 Electras from Ecuatoriana de Aviación. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, TAME added three Boeing 727–100s. During the mid-1980s and up until 1992, Tame purchased four Boeing 727–200s. In 1986, three Fokker F28 Fellowship 4000s were added. In December 1998, TAME rented a Boeing 757–200.
In 2000, TAME began a long process of fleet renewal beginning with the renting of two Airbus A320s. These planes were delivered at the European Corporation Assemble factory, Toulouse and were renewed in 2008. Also in 2000, the Boeing 727–100 and 200 were retired. TAME found the Embraer 170/190s suited the airline's needs. Over the next two years, two models of the 170 series and one of the 190 series were obtained. On August 25, 2008, one Airbus A319 was obtained and soon after the two Airbus A320s were replaced, completing the fleet renewal.
In 2011, Tame changed its legal status to a state owned company, no longer under the administration of the Ecuador Air Force.
TAME’s colors are blue, light blue, and gold as a decorative element. The original logo, designed by Luis A. Ortega symbolized the flight of a bird with a sun in the background. In 2010, the airline was rebranded with a new logo and colour palette.
TAME's hub is in Quito at Mariscal Sucre International Airport. TAME flies internationally to Cali and Bogota in Colombia, Panama City, Buenos Aires, Caracas in Venezuela and Sao Paulo, Brazil as well as New York City and Fort Lauderdale, United States. The main destinations in Ecuador are Guayaquil, Cuenca, Manta and Esmeraldas. Other destinations for charter flights include Cartagena, San Andres, Punta Cana, Jamaica, Havana, Varadero, and Curaçao.
In December 1992, the governments of Ecuador and Colombia signed the "Frontier Integration Agreement" establishing a Quito, Esmeraldas (Tachina), Cali, Esmeraldas (Tachina), Quito route. In 1995, TAME offered flights from Quito to Bogata for Air France passengers. In 1997, TAME extended its international schedule through an agreement with EVA AIR of Taiwan. On December 1, 2010, a codeshare agreement was made with Copa Airlines
Since its foundation, the airline's fleet has grown from the Douglas DC-3 and Douglas DC-6 planes, the Avro 748 and the Lockheed Electra to the Airbus A330, Airbus A320 and A319, as well as the Embraer 170 and 190. The Airbus A320 HC-CID began operations on August 27, 2009.
In January 2017, the TAME fleet included:
On September 6, 1969 twelve men and one woman, armed with machine guns, hijacked two TAME Douglas C-47s at Quito Mariscal Sucre Airport. The hijackers shot and killed one crewman and wounded another. The hijackers told the passengers that the hijacking was in retaliation for the deaths of several students during anti-government rioting at the University of Guayaquil in May 1969. Both aircraft flew to Tumaco, Colombia for refueling. One aircraft was left behind as the hijackers continued on to Panama's Tocumen International Airport. After a thirty-minute refueling stop, the aircraft continued to Kingston, Jamaica. After a 71-minute refueling stop, the plane left Kingston at 9 p.m., finally landing in Cuba.
On January 20, 1976, a TAME Hawker Siddeley HS-748-246 Srs. 2A with registration HC-AUE crashed while flying over mountainous terrain. The plane was flying at 10,000 feet then struck trees with its right wing, lost control and crashed into the side of a mountain. The plane was en route from Loja to Guayaquil's Simón Bolívar International Airport. Six crew members and 28 passengers died. There were eight survivors.
On May 22, 1981, a TAME de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 with registration HC-BAX crashed into a fog-shrouded mountain near Zumba. It was flying in formation with a Beech 200 (HC-BHG), which also crashed into the mountain. Fifteen passengers and three crew members on the Twin Otter died.
On July 11, 1983, a TAME Boeing 737–200 with registration HC-BIG crashed while on final approach to Mariscal Lamar Airport in Cuenca. The crash was caused by the crew's lack of training in the aircraft type. All 119 people on board were killed. This was the most lethal event in the history of Ecuadorian aviation. (See TAME 737-200 crash).
On November 20, 1984, a TAME de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 crashed into a hill while flying between Loja and Zumba. Twelve passengers and two crew members died.
On September 12, 1988, a TAME Lockheed L-188 Electra with registration HC-AZY took off from Lago Agrio airport on a ferry flight to Quito with the "number 2" engine inoperative. Immediately after takeoff, the "number 1" engine exploded causing the aircraft to veer left and crash. Six crew members and one passenger died.
On April 20, 1998, Air France Flight 422, a TAME Boeing 727–200 with registration HC-BSU, crashed into the “El Cable” cerro minutes after taking off from Bogota's El Dorado International Airport en route to Quito. In bad weather, the crew failed to execute proper departure procedures. Instead of turning, they flew in a straight line into the hill. Fifty-three passengers and crew members died.
On January 28, 2002, Flight 120, a Boeing 727–100 with registration HC-BLF, departed from Mariscal Sucre Airport, Quito en route to Tulcán. Several minutes outside Tulcán, the control tower lost contact with the aircraft. The aeroplane collided with the Cumbal Volcano causing the death of all 94 passengers and crew. The crash occurred because the captain flew too fast into the final turn.
On September 16, 2011, TAME flight 148, an Embraer E-Jet family with registration HC-CEZ departed from Loja. On takeoff, at 1911h, the plane slid off the runway. All 97 passengers and 6 crew survived.
On April 28, 2016, at 0750h, TAME flight 173 from Quito landed at Cuenca airport in bad weather. The Embraer with registration HC-COX, slid off the runway. All 87 passengers and 6 crew survived.