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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




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