- A beautiful tribute to former Belgian airline
- With the portrait of King Philip!
- Struck in the highest quality Proof
- Strictly limited to 2,500 coins
- Delivered in a luxury cassette including a numbered Certificate of Authenticity
Sabena NV (French: Société Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne; Dutch: Belgische Naamloze Vennootschap tot Exploitatie van het Luchtverkeer) was Belgium's national airline from 1923 until November 2001.
23 May 1923, the day Sabena was founded, also saw the immediate departure of its first flight! This made it, after KLM, the oldest airline in Europe. Closely involved in its foundation were 'Father of Belgian Aviation' Georges Nélis (the first Belgian military with a military pilot's licence) and King Albert I.
Sabena: a volatile history
That there was real aviation pioneering before WWII is proven by the first successful scheduled flight between Belgium and the Belgian Congo. It took pilot Edmond Thieffry no less than 51 days in his propeller plane with open cockpit!
After WWII, modern aircraft were acquired, Sabena started the Sabena Flight Academy pilot training programme (which still exists today, under the name CAE Oxford Aviation Academy Brussels) and introduced the flight attendant on board. It also acquires national competitor Sobelair. Sabena develops it as a charter airline and also sets up a helicopter network.
After the 1958 World Expo in Brussels, Sabena, like Belgium, was definitely on the world map. Its home base became Zaventem Airport, a dedicated railway line was built from Brussels-Central to Zaventem, and it became the first European airline to purchase jet-powered aircraft. During the riots and uprisings that led to the independence of the former Belgian Congo, Sabena evacuated all Belgian refugees. At least 35,000 compatriots in just 18 days. After that, flights to this part of Africa disappeared and the focus shifted to cargo flights.
The turbulent 1970s and 1980s: from class and luxury to bankruptcy
In the 1970s, flying was still exclusive and Sabena guaranteed class and luxury on board.
Sabena board chairman Gilbert Périer bought René Margritte's painting Heavenly Bird (L'oiseau de Ciel), which was delivered in early 1966. It was then used to promote Sabena everywhere. From Sabena's 50th anniversary in 1973, the Heavenly Bird was used even more frequently as a logo, adorning aircraft, porcelain tableware on board, advertising, airline tickets, etc. That way, Sabena's management wanted to transfer to Sabena the prestige of the international personality of surrealist painter René Magritte.
Because the Belgian state always stepped in when Sabena was doing worse, they were not prepared for the fierce airline competition in the 1980s. As a shareholder, the Belgian state pushed for a merger. Many attempts were to no avail and after the 9/11 attacks Sabena's final bankruptcy followed on 7 November 2001. This remains the largest bankruptcy ever known in Belgian history.
At the end, the fleet was no less than 52 aircraft and flew to almost 150 destinations on five continents. The technical knowledge of Boeings in particular was great, so the technical and maintenance department was taken over, still exists and is now called Sabena Aerospace. Subsidiaries of Sabena eventually merged into today's Brussels Airlines, which is also based at Zaventem. On 21 March 2016, Brussels Airlines unveiled the A320 OO-SNC Magritte, decorated inside and out with various works by Magritte. Where Sabena identified Magritte with prestige, Brussels Airlines emphasises Belgitude.
Designed by Iris Bruijns, the coin's obverse shows a rendering of a Sabena Airbus A340-211 with René Magritte's Heavenly Bird designed for them on the winglets. The plane flies around the globe. On the left we see SABENA in the company's font with the sky bird, below it: ANS 100 YEARS.
This silver Proof 20 euro coin not only has a beautiful front design, but also shows King Philip's portrait! In Luc Luycx's design, King Philip looks to the right where his monogram is also depicted.
|Designer||Iris Bruijns (obvers) Luc Luycx (reverse)|