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Dan Viking, the first SAS aircraft with the Viking name. Here on the route Copenhagen-New York in 1947. Photo: SAS
Dan Viking, the first SAS aircraft with the Viking name. Here on the route Copenhagen-New York in 1947. Photo: SAS

Aviation

Dragons and Vikings - the Scandinavian heritage of SAS

All airlines use livery, the colors and design used on aircraft, to distinguish their brands from the competition. For SAS, early aircraft livery designs reflected Scandinavian symbols and the Vikings.

Flags and flying colors are powerful tools in creating recognition and pride in the airline business andIllustration: Otto Nielsen SAS has taken its image seriously since the beginning. When the SAS began operating in 1946, it needed a striking Scandinavian symbol that Sweden, Denmark and Norway could each relate to.

And what is more strikingly Scandinavian than the Vikings?

A dragon-headed Viking longship motif was designed and painted on the hulls of each SAS aircraft, and each plane was given a Viking name. For almost 40 years, the SAS silver longships carried the dragonhead design all over the world.

In the 1980s, SAS decided an image makeover was needed to better reflect the times. The “Scandinavian Belly Stripes” livery was created in 1983. It reflected aspects of the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish flags. The stripes were used on SAS aircraft until 1998 when the current corporate identity, with new livery and an updated logo was established. This new livery, still in use today, features red engines and a blue tail.

1946: Rune Monø designed the first ever ”Viking Longship Dragonhead” in 1946. It was used on SAS Douglas DC-4s, DC-6s and DC-3s until about 1950.

1950: In 1950, the dragon went through a streamlining process and new design elements such as white cabin roofs and tails were introduced. This came with the Douglas DC-6B.

1956: In 1956-57, a new makeover was needed as the dragonhead entered the jet age.

1966: The old red, white and blue version of the dragonhead was adapted for famous SAS jets like the Caravelle, the Douglas DC-8 and the Convair Coronado. The introduction of the Douglas DC-9 in 1966 created the opportunity for further simplification and modernization of the design.

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