SX-DAK Olympic SX-DAK “Queen Frederica”

Olympic Airways – Comets Operated

SX-DAK 6437  SX-DAL 6438  SX-DAN 6440 SX-DAO 6447

This airlines origin dates back to the merger of some smaller Greek airlines – T.A.E., Hellos and Aero Metaforaia Ellados – in 1951. In effect T.A.E. simply became a bigger operator and as such became recognised as the Greek National Airline. It was nationalised fully in 1954.

In April 1956 it was taken over by Aristotle Onassis who had built up an enormous shipping empire and become a multi-millionaire into the bargain. He obtained (by having the power to do so) from the Greek Government a 50 year concession to handle the airline as part of his empire. In 1957 it was announced that when the takeover was complete he planned to rename T.A.E. as Olympic Airways.

Onassis was determined to take Olympic into the jet age and saw tremendous financial and operational advantages in a consortium agreement with another major airline – preferably one already experienced in operating jet-airliners. With this objective the whole Olympic setup was reorganised and on July 20th 1959 a consortium agreement was signed in Monaco with BEA.

Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, Chairman of BEA., represented the British airline and Onassis represented Olympic. The agreement had to be submitted to the Greek Government for their approval before it could take effect. Approval was duly given. Both parties expected the arrangement to generate much new traffic and they planned to offer more first class seats on their respective routes. It was intended that each airlines identity would be maintained and in fact there was no sale or exchange of stock involved.

de Havilland too were pleased with the agreement. For in addition to the seven 4Bs BEA. had on order it was decided that Olympic would need another two to supplement the fleet.

The announcement of the order was made at the time of that of the agreement. Further details were that BEA. would provide operating crews for the initial period while crew training took place. The contract provided for delivery of the two Olympic 4Bs in early 1960 and under BEA’s earlier contract their deliveries were due to commence in October 1959.

(Incidentally the Olympic order brought the total Comet Mk.4 variants to 36 – BOAC19, Aerolineas Argentinas 6, East African Airways Corpn. 2, in addition to the above).

The first 4B delivered (ex-G-APYC) was registered SX-DAK and named ‘Queen Frederica’. It was handed over to Olympic on 26th April 1960. This aeroplane was flown to Athens four days later and in doing so set a record time of 3 hrs 14 min.

The second aeroplane – SX-DAL (ex-G-APYD) and named ‘Queen Olga’ – was handed over on 14th May. First Olympic scheduled services began in conjunction with BEA. on 18th May 1960. Joint routes flown were along the axis London-Athens. Services were offered too via Rome, Paris, Zürich, Frankfurt, Brussels and Amsterdam.

Operating from Athens the airline served Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Nicosia, Beirut and Cairo. Olympic also linked up with another BEA. associate company Cyprus Airways.

The Olympic Comets were identical to BEAs and configured for 22 first class and 64 economy class passengers. However their operation was different in that, unlike BEA., Olympic used a flight engineer as part of their three man crew.


As with BEA. initial training courses took place at Hatfield and this included ground engineers of which approx. 50 were trained for Olympic. Later training became a joint project undertaken by, and with, BEA.s already experienced crews. Olympic were also able to make use of BEA.’s flight simulator when it became operational. The joint arrangement made the purchasing of a flight simulator even more cost effective for BEA.

Without doubt the Comet was a great success. It had great passenger appeal and Olympic had found an economic way of moving into the jet age.

As the traffic grew Olympic found it needed another aircraft to supplement it fleet. On 14th July 1960 they leased a 4B from BEA. which initially retained its British registration – G-APZM – but was given the name ‘Queen Sophia’. This ‘loan’ became a long term lease and in April (13th) 1966 the aircraft was re-registered SX-DAN (retaining the same title). This particular aircraft was eventually returned to BEA. in March 1970 prior to sale to Channel Airways.

The BEA fleet increased through 1961 as more deliveries were made and it was decided that Olympic needed yet another 4B. So on 25th March 1961 – G-ARDI – was leased to Olympic bringing their operational fleet to four aircraft. As with the previous leased aeroplane, ‘ZM, ‘DI took a name – in this case ‘Princess Sophia’ – but retained its British registration – that was until becoming SX-DAO in April 1966. This lease expired in November 1969 when the aircraft was returned to BEA. It too was eventually sold to Channel Airways.

For a number of years the 50 year concession looked to be just another Onassis coup. The airline went from strength to strength. Then in the early seventies came the Oil crisis and, on top of that, an internecine war broke out in Cyprus. All airlines operating in the Mediterranean area were affected but Olympic Airways in particular saw it’s profits slump badly. After a number of falling returns in 1974 Onassis decided that enough was enough and pulled out of Olympic.

The Greek Government were obliged to step in and take control of the airline. The fleet was grounded pending a re-organisation – which was not completed until August 1975. Operations did not start again, however, until January 1976.

As mentioned above the two leased 4Bs were returned to BEA. and eventually sold to Channel Airways. This coincided with the phasing out of Comets by Olympic. SX-DAK and ‘DAL (the two original purchases) were sold to BEA. in the autumn of 1969. As with the leased aeroplanes they too were sold to Channel Airways. Eventually all the Olympic operated Comets ended their flying days with Dan-Air, London.




Copyright © David Young 2021