During the INAEC first flight from Manila to Iloilo, February 1, 1933, Claro M. Recto and wife Aurora (7th and 6th from right) were among the passengersThe Lopez Group of today is known for its highly successful ventures in broadcasting, cable and telecommunications, and power and energy—industries that are “vital to nation building.” But 81 years ago, when it was still a start-up known as E&F Lopez Inc., Eugenio “Eñing” H. Lopez Sr.—also known as “EL Sr.” and the “E” in the company’s name—established a myriad of pioneering enterprises in his Iloilo hometown.
Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit, EL Sr. had a knack for seeing a need and putting in place the infrastructure to meet that need. More often than not, these enterprises were ones that provided a service that helped improve people’s lives, such a crusading Spanish-language newspaper called El Tiempo. Some of his earliest ventures were in the transportation industry, where he and his brother Fernando established fast-ferry services and bus lines in their hometown.
The brothers also conquered the skies, pioneering in civil air travel in the Philippines through Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company (INAEC) in August 1932. At this time, aviation was barely out of its “pioneer era,” with the Wright brothers’ game-changing exploits in Kitty Hawk happening only 29 years earlier.
The Lopez venture came ahead of Philippine Airlines [PAL], “which was only set up on March 15, 1941 and Japan Airlines, …set up in 1951; and Cathay Pacific, only set up in September 24, 1946. So it really predated most of these airlines by almost a decade,” noted href="/special-feature/3349-federico-r-lopez-faithful-adherence-to-lopez-values-will-guide-our-growth.html">Federico R. Lopez (FRL), chairman and chief executive officer of First Philippine Holdings Corporation and EL Sr.’s grandson, during a town hall meeting on February 11, 2013.
INAEC’s inaugural flight, on February 1, 1933, transported a handful of passengers from Iloilo to Manila. The airline began regular flights to Manila, Iloilo and Bacolod immediately after, then beefed up its offerings with flights to Cebu, Zamboanga and Davao, FRL said.
A handout distributed by the airline outlined these benefits enjoyed by its clients:
“From the moment you telephone or visit any INAEC office to request information, until you step out of the plane at your destination, you will encounter courtesy, helpfulness and a sincere desire on our part to help you.
“In fact, most of our passengers who have had the pleasure of enjoying our service are the ones responsible for the big bulk of our traffic.
“Only the INAEC offers both the deluxe sky lounge and the 15 commodious, deep-cushioned easy chairs in an 18-passenger type cabin plane—a new standard of luxury, speed, service. From takeoff to landing, at intervals of every twenty minutes the pilot reports his position and the kind of weather he encounters to the different radio stations along the way.
“The Sikorksy’s ability to depart or alight via land or water greatly reduces travel time and increases the confidence of the traveling public.
“The nation’s largest, most powerful, most luxurious airplane is at your service three times a week between Manila and Iloilo, twice a week between Manila and Cebu and once a week between Manila and Davao. And it’s 900% faster.”
Post-World War II, INAEC, by then known as Far Eastern Air Transport Inc., was sold to Spanish-American businessman Andres Soriano, who absorbed it into his own fledgling airline, PAL. This took place in 1948.
INAEC was again resurrected to become the transport service for the executives of power utility Meralco, which EL Sr. had acquired from its American owners in the early 1960s. This chapter in INAEC’s history lasted until its shutdown during the martial law period.
In 1993, the third-generation Lopezes led by EL Sr.’s offspring revived INAEC. Now going by the corporate name INAEC Aviation Corporation, the airline serves the aviation needs of the Lopez Group companies.
In 2001, INAEC, under the charge of president Benjamin R. Lopez, ventured into the domestic and international chartering of the nonscheduled air services market. The airline’s fleet, to date, includes Beechcraft Super King Air 350s, and AS 350s, an AS 355, EC 135 and Bell 206L-3 helicopters.
From mere passenger transport, INAEC now offers a much wider scope of services that includes corporate charter, cargo transport, hotel services, offshore oil rig and exploration, news and events coverage, aerial photography services and medical evacuation. It counts among its clientele not just private individuals but also multinational corporations, government institutions, and even spas and hotels.