What Happened To Scandinavian Airlines’ Boeing 747s?

Today, the Scandinavian carrier SAS operates long-haul flights using Airbus twinjets like the A330 and A350. However, earlier in the carrier’s history, it also flew aircraft from Boeing’s iconic 747 family. Let’s take a closer look at the Queen of the Skies’ time at SAS.

SAS Boeing 747
SAS flew 10 747s between 1971 and 1997. Photo: SAS Museet via Flickr

The first deliveries

SAS entered the ‘Jet Age’ with the Sud Aviation Caravelle in 1959, and added the Douglas DC-8 the following year. However, 1971 represented a particular milestone for the airline when it came to jetliners. Indeed, at this point, it received its first Boeing 747s. The aircraft had revolutionized high-capacity long-haul travel since entering service a year previously.

According to Planespotters.net, SAS’s first 747-200 arrived at the airline brand-new in February 1971. It was registered as SE-DDL and named Huge Viking. However, both its name and its registration changed during its time at the airline. By the time it left SAS in July 1985, it was registered as LN-AET and named Bjarne Viking. After spells with Gulf Air, Minerve, AOM French Airlines, and AIRCO Group, it was eventually broken up in San Antonio in July 1994.

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SAS Boeing 747
SE-DDL at Stockholm Arlanda. It flew for SAS for 14 years. Photo: Brorsson via Wikimedia Commons

The other 747-200 that SAS received in 1971 was registered as OY-KHA, and named Ivar Viking. Aside from a lease period at Nigeria Airways from April 1982 to June 1983, this aircraft spent 15 years at SAS. After leaving in 1986, it flew for various British carriers, the last of which was Virgin Atlantic. It retired in 1998, and was broken up at Kemble a year later.

A second wave of arrivals

SAS had hoped that the addition of the 747 to its fleet would help bolster its international image. While this may have done so, it soon found that it was hard to fill the aircraft on its transatlantic routes from Scandinavia. Nonetheless, it persevered with the aircraft, and six more examples were delivered in the late-70s and early-80s.

SAS Boeing 747
SAS often leased its 747s due to insufficient demand. Photo: SAS Museet via Flickr

Two of these six aircraft were the original 747-100 model. The first arrived in July 1982, bearing the registration N356AS. However, it left the airline at the end of the year, having also been leased to Icelandair and Air Algérie during this time. SAS’s other 747-100 was registered as N747BA. It flew for the airline from August to October 1983, although this period also included two leases to Air Algérie.

SAS’s remaining four 747s belonged to the -200 variant, and the first arrived brand-new in October 1977. Other examples came to SAS fresh from the factory in March 1979, February 1981, and October 1981. However, by the end of the 1980s, all of these aircraft had moved on from SAS, whose demand ultimately didn’t warrant the 747’s capacity.

A brief period of cargo operation

In the late-1990s, SAS also briefly operate two cargo-configured 747-200s. It leased both of these from Atlas Air, and, during their time at SAS, they retained their original US registrations. N640FE reportedly had a very short stay at the airline, with Planespotters.net showing that this lasted from March 29th to April 3rd, 1986. N640FE was eventually placed into storage in Valencia, Spain in 2009, and scrapped 10 years later.

Pronair Boeing 747
N640FE’s last operator was Spanish carrier Pronair. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr

Meanwhile, SAS got a longer period of use out of N517MC. Coincidentally, this began on the same day that the other cargo-configured 747-200 left the airline. All in all, the aircraft flew airfreight for SAS for nine months before returning to Atlas Air in January 1997. It spent the remainder of its career there, before being withdrawn and stored at the Mojave Air and Space Port in April 2012, where it has since been scrapped.

Did you ever fly on one of Scandinavian Airlines’ Boeing 747s? If so, when did you do so, and where did the journey take you? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!