The wings of Hungary

Malev (Magyar Legikozlekedesi Vallalat) was formed in 1946 as Maszovlet, a joint company formed by the Hungarian and Soviet Aviation Authorities. Maszovlet began operating Li-2 and Po-2 aircraft primarily on air mail flights.

The company was officially called Malev in the mid 1950's and started operations out of Budapest Ferihegy Airport when it became totally owned by the Hungarian government. Operations with the Ilyushin IL-18, a four-engine propeller aircraft equivalent to the US built Lockheed Electra, began in the early 1960's on flights out of Budapest to several destinations in Europe and continued through the 1970's. It was in 1968 that the first jet, the Tupolev TU-134 was introduced at Malev on scheduled flights, followed in the early 1970's by the Tupolev TU-154 aircraft. Those jet aircraft were assigned on most of the flights to destinations in Europe and the Middle East.

Malev started to phase in Western built aircraft in the late 1980's just before the collapse of the communist regime, this was a sign that the communist world was leaning towards the Western society and culture. The first non Russian built aircraft was the Boeing 737-200, followed by the Boeing 737-300 and 400 Series. The Tupolevs were gradually phased out during the 1990's with the last Russian built jet, the TU-154, leaving the fleet in 2001. Since then Malev had no more Russian built aircraft in its fleet. Two Tupolevs, one TU-134 and one TU-154, along with an Ilyushin 18, remain preserved at Ferihegy.
In 2004, Malev added the Next Generation 737-600/700/800 Series to its fleet and phased out the Classic 737's in the middle of the 2000's. Also in 2004, I flew Malev to Budapest. The aircraft was a B737-800, it looked all new I could see it had just been delivered to the airline. I had decent inflight service on board. I was in Budapest with some friends for a few days, exactly when Hungary joined the European Union. It was a nice trip, my first trip to a former communist country.
Fokker 70's and Canadair CRJ's were also added to the fleet. Future fleet planning is adding the Russian built Sukhoi superjet 100 aircraft. Sukhoi, which always built fighters, is now entering the airliner market with its superjet 100.
Malev also ordered a couple of Boeing 767 aircraft, 200ER's registered HA-LHA and HA-LHB, to expand its network beyond Europe. Destinations in the long haul sector are New York JFK, Toronto and Bangkok. End of 2007, Malev removed HA-LHA from its fleet inventory, and HA-LHB is leased to Oman Air. Long haul flights to New York and Toronto are temporarily suspended until further notice. The airline is, however, planning to add three 300ER's to resume long haul operations sometimes in 2008. I saw HA-LHA at JFK in November of 2007, this was probably one of the last long haul flights of this aircraft at Malev.

Budapest based Malev officially joined the One World alliance in 2007. Privatization of the company was achieved by the buyout from a Russian billionaire named Abramovitch, making it no longer government owned.
On Friday Feb 3rd 2012, Budapest based Malev announced that it ceased operations, thus grounding its fleet of Boeing 737s, because of lack of funding. A sad end for Hungarian aviation.

The Boeing 737 has been, after the collapse of the communist regime, the backbone of Malev fleet. This picture shows a 700 Series aircraft at the gate in Ferihegy.
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