by Michael Zoeller
These guys operated a Vanguard a Convair 880 and some early model Boeing 720-020s within the space of just 6 years, quite some achievement. All flights went south... as did the airline eventually.
Key staff from Air Viking were pivotal in the forming of Air Atlanta Icelandic, currently the largest ACMI service provider in the world.
Guðmundur St. Sigurðsson
Pétur P. Johnson
Air Viking was formed in 1970, initial services were ad-hoc/IT charters from Iceland to Spain, France and Ireland, the season started with an IT charter flown in June from Reykjavik (Keflavik) to Palma de Majorca. I do not think that they were owned by Sunna at this time but may well have been flying on their behalf.
7 MONTHS OF AIR VIKING VANGUARD FLIGHTS
Air Viking’s first aircraft was Vickers Vanguard TF-AVA (registered 22nd May), leased from Air Holdings Ltd, she was painted with Air Viking titles and logo but basically retaining her pervious red and white Air Canada colour-scheme. On the afternoon of 30th May 1970 she ferried Southend to Stansted and commenced training of her Icelandic crew the same day. This was followed by further circuits at Manston on 31st May, and again at Stansted on the 1st June.
Delivery of the aircraft from Stansted to Keflavik look place on the afternoon of 2nd June, following which the aircraft was placed into service, mainly carrying Icelandic tourists on holiday flights deep into Europe. The airline’s most popular route was a regular summer service linking Keflavik with Palma de Mallorca and occasionally Barcelona, flown for Sunna Travel (Air Viking’s owners throughout the airline’s existence), which is believed to have been first flown on 5th June. June also saw the operation of a charter flight from Keflavik to Heathrow, and on 24th June the aircraft flew a service to Copenhagen.
Throughout the summer the Vanguard made regular visits to Stansted, often arriving inbound from Palma. A round trip passenger charter between Stansted and Palma was flown on 2nd July on behalf of Channel Airways (making an interesting change from the Trident scheduled for this trip), and on the night of 21st July Air Viking’s flagship undertook the first of several freight flights from Stansted during a nationwide UK dock strike. This first service was flown to Brussels and the Vanguard completed a second trip to Brussels on 24th July, with flights being made to Rotterdam on 25th July and 27th, before returning to Keflavik on 28th July to operate another passenger charter to Palma later in the day.
Another Stansted to Copenhagen charter was flown by TF-AVA on the evening of the 29th July and a round trip freight charter between Stansted and Maastricht was conducted on the night of 2nd August. Throughout August the Vanguard made numerous trips between Stansted, Keflavik and Palma, and while ad-hoc charters were flown to Dusseldorf on 13th August, Stuttgart on 16th August and to Cologne on 4th September.
Air Viking had won a contract from a German real estate agent selling holiday homes in Spain and these flights were most likely in relation to that contract. However the prime route remained the Keflavik to Palma link, and this work continued until TF-AVA flew a Palma to Stansted service on the evening of 3rd November 1970. The Vanguard remained at Stansted until late on 5th November, when she returned to her Keflavik base. She operated a charter to Dublin on 8th November, but the remainder of the month little charter activity took place. She was returned to Air Holdings on 15th November.
With insufficient winter work to retain her services in Iceland, at midnight on 1st December all four Rolls-Royce Tyne engines were wound up at Keflavik for a night departure south returning home to Stansted here she landed at 03:00 on the morning of 2nd December, to conclude her lease to Air Viking. TF-AVA was cancelled on 17th December. She later was flown to Southend on 15th January 1971 as G-AXOY but still in full Air Viking colours. The airline then lay dormant for two years before being revived in 1973.
VANGUARD INFORMATION FROM PROPLINER No.81.
AIR VIKING OPERATES A DC8-50?
According to Flight International, October 1973: Air Viking leased a DC8-50 early in 1973 from Loftleidir which was then subsequently sold to Martinair. This would make it TF-LLK (45818/242) which went to Martinair as PH-MBH. I have never seen any firm evidence of this lease, actually if it did take place it would have been a sub-sub-lease as the aircraft was owned by International Aerodyne and leased to Seaboard World at this time. Maybe the lease to Air Viking was short-term at the beginning of the summer season to cover before the arrival of the Convair?
AIR VIKING CONVAIR 880 OPERATIONS
At the end of July 1973 Air Viking took delivery of a Convair 880-22M, N5863. The aircraft was leased from Areo American(sic)/Falair/Glenn W Turner Enterprises (Infamous head of a pyramid-style selling organisation in the 1970s and inspirational speaker) and after arrival in Iceland was soon re-registered TF-AVB. Officially she was registered in Iceland on 31st July, one day before the American registration was cancelled. She was flown by American cockpit crews with Icelandic cabin crews supplied by Air Viking’s owners, Sunna. As with the Vanguard operations the flight program was mainly concentrated on the Keflavik to Palma de Mallorca run. She started working a rather late summer season and was first seen outside Iceland on 6th August when she visited Copenhagen. By November she was returned to Areo American/Falair/Glenn W Turner Enterprises, registered N5863 and stored at Opa Locka, after disputes arose with Sunna over the lease agreement.
AIR VIKING RESUMES OPERATIONS - APRIL 1974
Air Viking (IACO Code:VV) was resurrected in 1974 after an injection of capital by the Sunna Travel Bureau because they were unhappy by the service they were receiving from the then Icelandair. The airline’s main business initially was flying Icelandic tourists down to the Mediterranean, France, Ireland and Germany, with two Boeing 720’s. Soon though, they branched out and started flying Hadj flights and general charters in Europe as well as for sub-charter work on behalf of other airlines.
Services resumed in April 1974 initially with a single ex-United Airlines Boeing 720-022 TF-VVA. She was delivered to the airline at the beginning of the month with a TT 32075 hours. And on 20th April she was seen at Palma de Mallorca (the other principal destination was Malaga) in basic United Airlines colours and with Air Viking titles. Later the Air Viking logo and Icelandic flag were added.
In May another former United Airlines Boeing 720-022 was delivered as TF-VVB.
With the new equipment Air Viking was able to expand it’s services significantly, charters were now operated to such far away places as Vancouver, Las Palmas, Bangkok and Seoul.
At the resumption of services Air Viking’s head office was at Aðalstræti 9, Reykjavik, Iceland. The executives were: chairman/managing director, Gudni Thordarson; directors: operations, Marino Johannsson (who went to Eagle Air); maintenance/engineering, Thorsteinn Thorsteinson (who went to Eagle Air and later Air Atlanta); finance, Ingvar Georgsson; sales, Gudni Thordarson; chief pilot Capt. Arngrímur Jóhannsson (who initially went on to become a prime-mover in the formation of Eagle Air then went to form Air Atlanta after a brief period with Air Arctic); legal consultant, Thorsteinn Juliusson. And the airline was employing 32 staff.
FURTHER BOEING 720 OPERATIONS
In June 1975, Air Viking initiated IT charters from Germany to Iceland with a series of flights from Dusseldorf to Reykjavik. Plans were to add two further Boeing 720-020 models to the existing fleet of two 720-022s. TF-VVC was to have been another Boeing 720-022, the former Delta Air Transport OO-VGM which had been stored at Brussels having seen little or no activity with DAT. The lease or sale was due in May but was never taken up by Air Viking. TF-VVD was never issued probably due to the unfortunate two-letter radio call sign, so the next Air Viking Boeing 720 was registered TF-VVE.
Voyager 1000 Inc., a US travel club had been operating Boeing 720-025 N15VG till their operator’s certificate was cancelled on 1st January 1974. She returned to the lessors, International Air Leases Inc. and was stored at Opa Locka in basic Voyager colours now as N8709E. On 11th July 1975 Air Viking leased the aircraft with an option to purchase. Air Viking titles were applied the same day and she was delivered Miami-Basle on the 13th followed by a revenue flight from Basle to Keflavik on 14th July. By June she was registered TF-VVE, but still wearing basic Voyager colours. During the summer she was to be seen at Dusseldorf and Copenhagen. In the autumn of 1975 Air Viking became the first Icelandic company to operate Hadj flights, flying pilgrims for West Africa to Jeddah.
AIR VIKING OPERATIONS CEASE
Sadly things did not go well for Air Viking despite a busy summer schedule the airline ceased operations in March, last flight was on 12th March 1976 (this would have been with -VVE).
TF-VVA which was slated to become a -022F was briefly transferred to Eagle Air and was allocated TF-VLB though the registration was not worn and -VVA was cancelled on 17th January 1976. Eventually she was sold to MCA Leasing as N417MA.
TF-VVB went to Eagle Air for parts only and was broken up at Keflavik between May and June 1976, though some parts were still in evidence as late as June 1982.
TF-VVE arrived at Dublin on 9th May 1976 still in Voyager colours using an Eagle Air call-sign, VL720. She was rolled out in full Eagle Air colours at Dublin on 4th June as TF-VLA. Eagle Air life was to be short for this aircraft as by May 1977 she was grounded due to wing spar corrosion. She was cannibalised at Keflavik in the summer of 1978.
FROM VIKING TO EAGLE
The remains of Air Viking were bought out of the bankruptcy proceedings by a group of for Air Viking employees and creditors, lead by Capt. Arngrímur Jóhannsson, Air Viking’s former chief pilot. The renovated airline was formed on 10th April 1976 and was given the name Arnarflug hf (Eagle Air of Iceland) and started scheduled and charter flights at once with the 720-025, TF-VLA, operating many of the IT charters intended for Air Viking. Later they operated Boeing 707’s, 737’s and Douglas DC8’s.