In the autumn of 1918 Danish sculptor and entrepreneur Willie Wulff joined forces with shipowner H.N. Andersen to form DDL, Det Danske Luftfartselskab A/S, an airline that today is one of the oldest still in existence. Denmark’s Scandinavian neighbors were not far behind. A Norwegian airline, DNL (Det Norske Luftfartsrederi), was formed later the same year, though it failed to operate anything other than trial flights before going out of business two years later. Another more successful DNL, Det Norske Luftfart-selskap, was formed in 1927. This was three years after the formation of the Swedish airline ABA, AB Aerotransport. Those early years were difficult ones for the airlines. Commercial aviation was still very much in its infancy and changes in management, co-operations, re-organizations and injections of new capital were the order of the day.
Towards the end of the 1930s the idea of the Scandinavian countries co-operating in the introduction of transatlantic air services came up for discussion. All such plans had to be abandoned at the outbreak of the Second World War, which obviously had a profound effect on commercial aviation in Scandinavia.
With the end of the war in prospect, Sweden was keen to purchase aircraft from the Americans but political sensitivity prevented the state-owned airline ABA from entering such negotiations. A privately owned airline, Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik AB (SILA) was therefore formed at the end of May 1945. Its head, Per A. Norlin, soon made the trip across the Atlantic to place an order for new Douglas DC-4s for delivery after the war.
When the war finally came to an end, the mood was positive and expansive. The idea of a joint Scandinavian airline was again put on the table. The national airlines of Denmark, Norway and Sweden reached a tentative agreement under which flights between Scandinavia and the USA would be coordinated under the name Scandinavian Airlines. The long, arduous process of deciding upon a suitable organizational and ownership structure for such a joint venture began. The negotiations faltered and at times it seemed that agreement would never be reached. A final meeting was held in the offices of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association in Oslo. The chairman of three airlines: DDL’s Per Kampmann, DNL’s Thomas S. Falck Jr. and Marcus Wallenberg of SILA, emerged from the meeting room just before dawn on the first day of August 1946 to celebrate the signing of the consortium agreement on which the foundation of SAS was based.
The fledgling airline operated its very first transatlantic flight on August 5, 1946 but it was flown with a DC-4 still painted in SILA’s livery. On September 17 of the same year, 28 specially invited guests gathered for the inaugural flight with SAS’ new DC-4 “Dan Viking” from Stockholm’s Bromma airport to New York. The journey took 25 hours with intermediate landings in Copenhagen, Prestwick in Scotland and Gander on Newfoundland. The true history of SAS had begun.