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						Lögberg-Heimskringla   •   Föstudagur   2.   október   1992   »3
lceland's f irst airline: a nation takes to the air
Continued from last issuo
On March 10,1944,
Loftleiðir was
founded and on
April 6 the same year ran
its maiden passenger flight
between Reykjavík and
ísafjördur in the West
Fjords. Loftleiðir also took
on herring surveillance
during the summer, and
this task was nearing its
completion when the
Stinson crashed on take-
off. Some time earlier,
however, Loftleiðir had
already bought two other
aircraft; a Stinson and a
Grumman seaplane.
Operations of both air-
lines expanded significantly
during the following years.
Flugfélag íslands pur-
chased three Catalina seaplanes, one of
which was used on the company's first
international flight to Scotland on July
11, 1915. Later the same summer two
flights were made to Copenhagen.
Flugfélag íslands also bought two other
aircraft, a Norseman and a Grumman
seaplane. Loftleiðir bought a total of
seven aircraft in 1945-46, mostly from
the U.S. Air Force.
Regular scheduled flights between
Iceland and Scotland were introduced
in 1946. Flugfélag íslands made an
agreement whereby Scottish Aviation
handled the service, using Liberator air-
craft, former bombers converted to
accommodate passengers.
Of the two airlincs then in Iceland,
KeflaVfk Airport — showing Leifur Eirlksson
Loftleiðir was the first to acquire an air-
craft specifically for international ser-
vices, a Skymaster D(M purchased in
the summer of 1946. The plane was
scheduled to begin passenger flights in
the autumn of that year, but the
American company which had been
contracted to install the passenger com-
partment went bankrupt, delaying deliv-
ery until July 1947. Named Hekla, the
aircraft arrived in Iceland for the first
time on June 15, 1947, and was wel-
comed by a large crowd at Reykjavík
Airport. Loftleiðir immediately began
operating it in international services
mainly from Iceland to Britain and
Denmark. In addition, the airline under-
The Powcr of the Word:
Some Reflections on
"The Icelandic Academy"
a lecture by
Professor Viðar Hreinsson,
Department of Icelandic Language and Literature,
on Friday, October 9, 1992,
at 7:30 p.m.
in the Senior Common Room at
the University College, University of Manitoba.
There is a reception to follow in the Senior Common Room.
Admission is free. with free parking in B-Lot.
This is sponsored by
the Department of Icelandic Language and Literature.
Please RSVP by October 6 to 474-9551 if you wish to attend.
This space is provided monthly by Neil Bardal Inc, Family Funeral
Counsellors, for the use of community groups. If your group would
like to use this space, give us a call 949-2200.
terminal which was opened in April 1987.
took long-distance charter work for for-
eign parties, for example flying from
Europe to South America. Loftleiðir
purchased a second Skymaster in 1948,
which was named Geysir and made the
company's maiden flight to the U.S. on
August 26, 1948, under authorization
for transatlantic flights which Loftleiðir
had been granted on the basis of the
Chicago treaty of 1944.
Aiming to solve financial problems
which resulted from difficult operations
in 1949 and 1950, Loftleiðir leased both
its Skymasters to the U.S. airline
Seaboard & Western. On its maiden
flight carrying cargo from Luxembourg
on September 14,1950, Geysir crashed
on Vatnajökull glacier in the central
highlands of Iceland. The entire six-man
crew survived, but were unable to indi-
cate their location bccause the aircraft's
radio equipment had been destroyed.
Two and a half days after the crash, the
crew managed to reach the emergency
transmitter in the plane's rubber liferaft
and sent out an S.Ö.S. Around the same
time, visibility on the glacier improved
and the Loftleiðir Catalina which was
searching for the lost aircraft spotted the
wreckage on the glacier. An American
military DC-3 ski-plane was brought in
to try to rescue the stranded crew, but
despite a perfect landing on the glacier it
was unable to take off again and had to
be left behind. A ski-patrol from
Akureyri rescued the crew of Geysir.
Loftleiðir bought the ski-plane as
scrap and sent out an expedition to try
to retrieve it in April, 1951. The aircraft
was completely buried beneath snow
when the party arrived, but they dug it
out and dragged it down from the glaci-
er using two bulldozers. It
was found to be completely
undamaged and was flown
to Reykjavik. With the price
that the aircraft fetched
when it was sold, Loftleiðir
managed to make a signifi-
cant step towards putting its
finances back on a firm
Loftleiðir's operations
reached a low in 1951-53,
and some of its owners
wanted more operations.
Others disagreed, in partic-
ular some of the pilots, and
enlisted Sigurður Helgason,
then a Reykjavik business-
man, to help win control at
a historic shareholders
meeting in 1953. Shortly
afterwards, Alfreð Elíasson
became president of the
The 1953 meeting also marked the
beginning of a new policy at Loftleiðir.
The airline strengthened it's co-opera-
tion with the Norwegian Braathen's
S.A.F.E. charter line, and began advertis-
ing lower transatlantic fares than carriers
in IATA: "We are slower, but we are
lower," as it's advertising slogans said.
On May 21,1955, Loftleiðir intro-
duced scheduled services between the
U.S. and Luxembourg via Iceland.
Flights began irregularly, but grew
steadily to make Luxembourg the most
important gateway of the many &erved
by Loftleiðir in Europe. Since the I >C-ls
proved unprofitable on the long transat-
lantic journey, Loftleiðir soon tumed its
attention towards renewing its fleet, pur-
chasing two Cloudmaster DC-6Bs in
1959 and 1960. With their introduction,
two simultaneous developments occur-
red. The airline's passenger traffic in-
creased sharply, and its dispute with the
IATA airlines over discount fares grew
fiercer. Three more Cloudmasters were
bought over the next two years, and
Loftleiðir stepped up its Luxembourg-
U.S. services via Iceland.
Tempers flared in the airline world
over the question of low fares, and
Loftleiðir was subject to pressure from
various quarters.
There were positive sides to the fares
war for Loftleiðir. intensive coverage of
the dispute brought free publicity for its
low fares. The company soon needed
still greater fleet capacity and purchased
several Canadair CL-44s at the begin-
ning of 1964. Originally designed to
carry cargo, these aircraft were modificd
and stretched to seat 189 passengers,
making them the largest civil passenger
aircraft in use in transatlantic service at
the time. Load factor was high, with
young people in particular taking advan-
tage of the low fares offered. For a while,
Loftleiðir became known as "The
Hippies' Airline."
Continued next week
Barristers & Solicltors
4th Floor - 386 Broadway
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C 3R6
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Office houre are held et Winnipeg Beach between 2 and 4 p.m. in the Winnipeg Beach offica of Gimli Credit Union.
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