Scandinavian Airlines System will celebrate its 60th anniversary on September 17, the date in 1946 that the airline operated its first scheduled flight, from Stockholm to New York. SAS was founded in August 1946 by the governments of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The first SAS flight was on September 17 from Stockholm to New York on a four-engine Douglas DC-4, the “Dan Viking,” with a stylized Viking dragon prow on its gleaming silver fuselage.
The flight took 25 hours, with stops at Copenhagen, Prestwick in Scotland and Gander on Newfoundland in Canada, before landing at LaGuardia Field in New York City with its 28 passengers. The group was hosted at a welcome luncheon the next day at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel by New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
Two pilots who were on board the inaugural flight (Rupert Hansen, now 83 and Byron Cramblet, now 85, both Americans living in San Diego) are in Stockholm to participate in the anniversary celebrations.
Since then, SAS has been an aviation pioneer in a number of areas:
—SAS was first airline to operate scheduled flights over the North Pole region, with the launch of Copenhagen-Los Angeles service (1954).
—SAS was the first airline with a route across the North Pole to Japan, which reduced the flight time by 20 hours to 32 hours (1957).
—SAS was first to operate the French-built twin-engine jet aircraft Caravelle in scheduled service, between Copenhagen and Beirut (1959).
—SAS was the first airline to introduce an electronic booking system for all of its services in Europe (1965).
—SAS was the first airline to ban smoking on some flights (1986).
—SAS was the first airline to offer passengers Wi-Fi Internet service on all intercontinental flights (2005).
—During its 60 years, SAS has operated service to all of the world’s inhabited continents except Oceania.
The 60th anniversary will be celebrated in various ways at a number of airports throughout the SAS system on September 17, including a brief ceremony at Newark Airport before departure of SAS flights to Stockholm and Copenhagen.
SAS has also been nominated this year for a
World Travel Award as World’s Leading Business Class Airline.