The pioneering spirit of Nordic Aviation

Aviation has been an integral part of the Nordic States’ transportation infrastructure for decades. It is the only means of long distance transport in some of the Arctic parts of the region, where cities and towns are remotely located on a rugged landscape.

Since the 1920s, the transport of goods and passengers has risen steadily in the Nordic countries. Danish airline DDL was founded in 1918, and national airlines were founded in Sweden and Norway in 1924 and 1927 respectively. In 1946, the three national air carriers united in a joint Scandinavian airline which in 1951 became Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS). SAS was the world’s first airline to fly the Copenhagen-Los Angeles polar route in scheduled services in 1954.


In 1912 the first flight took place in Norway, when an officer from the Royal Norwegian Navy flew for 45 minutes from Horten over the Oslo fiord to Fredrikstad. After that more flights took place in other parts of the country, from what today are commonly known as Trondheim Airport Værnes (TRD) we know that big crowds gathered to see the first flight there in 1913.

  The first flight in Iceland took place over Reykjavik in 1919 when an Avro 504 K took off from Reykjavík Airport, located in the centre of the capital. Air Iceland, from which Icelandair traces its roots, was established the same year, well before Iceland’s parliament passed its first aviation legislation in 1930.

  Finnair, one of the world’s oldest continually operating airlines, was founded on November 1, 1923. In recent years, Finnair’s strategy has included strengthening the company’s position in the Asian market and increasing the number of routes between Europe and Asia.

  In Denmark, Kastrup Airport (as Copenhagen Airport was originally called) opened on April 20, 1925. It was the first airport in the world designed exclusively for civil traffic. At the time, there were only a few small hangars and two short runways. Flying was limited to the summer months, since there were no navigational aids. Improved technology allowed for year-round flying in the 1930s and it wasn’t long before Copenhagen Airport became the primary connecting point between the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe. The Nordic region’s rich tradition in aviation includes aircraft manufacturing.

  Early in the 20th century, several experiments with various motor-powered ‘flying devices’ were carried out. In Denmark, Mr. Jacob Christian Ellehammer, who had previous commercial success with an early motorcycle design, pursued his dream of powered flight. His studies of birds enabled him to calculate the horsepower required to fly and to translate these calculations into his own design of a radial engine.

  Unaware of the Wright brothers’ successful controlled and manned powered flight in 1903, Ellehammer continued to experiment. On September 12, 1906, he became one of the first Europeans to fly an airplane. His flight of 42 meters at an altitude of 50 centimeters occurred on the tiny island of Lindholm. It was, however, never recognized as a ‘free motor powered flight’ because the aircraft was tied to a pole in order to keep it flying over the island and prevent it from going astray into the sea.

  In the 1920s and 1930s, aircraft production became much more sophisticated. Numerous aircraft were built both for military and civilian purposes in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden – the most well-known of these aircraft manufacturers being SAAB (Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget). Founded in 1937, SAAB’s primary aim was to supply military aircraft in Sweden. Today, SAAB has a military and civilian aircraft production as well as avionics and technical solutions for the global aviation industry.