Greece's national airline developed along a rocky path through the 1950s until Aristotle Onassis agreed to purchase it in 1956. It was grandly renamed Olympic Airways in 1957 and by 1960 the first jets were in service in the form of Comet 4Bs. Long haul services began in 1966 connecting Athens to New York using new Boeing 707-320s. Three years later in 1969 Athens-Montreal-Chicago was begun and in 1972 service between Greece and Australia started. This involved stops in Bangkok and Singapore for the twice weekly route to Sydney, which used a 707.
Olympic under Onassis was well known for its style, which involved designer uniforms for cabin crew, golden utensils and a piano and pianist in first class. Given this level of service and new long haul routes it was hardly surprising that the airline purchased a pair of brand new Boeing 747-200s. They were the airline's first widebodies with SX-OAA 'Olympic Zeus' arriving in June 1973 followed by SX-OAB 'Olympic Eagle' following in December. The 747s were fitted in a two class configuration consisting of Olympian Executive Class from the nose to the L2/R2 doors plus the upper deck and Y class on the rest of the lower deck. The Olympian class seats wouldn't fit in the smaller upper deck giving the aircraft the appearance of having a three class layout.
Unfortunately the arrival of the 747s was overshadowed by the death of Onassis' son in a plane crash in January 1973. This incident appears to have contributed towards Onassis giving up on the airline and in 1975 he sold his shares to the Greek government. Hence forth Olympic would be a true national airline with all the baggage that this entailed. In 1977 the Australian route was closed followed by the Canadian one in 1978 as cost-cutting measures, however six years later both routes were re-established and extra 747s acquired to operate them. These aircraft were all young ex-Singapore Airlines 747-212Bs, which became SX-OAC-E (named Olympic Spirit, Flame and Peace respectively). Their purchase enabled the sale of one of the existing 747-284Bs and SX-OAA was sold to TWA in April 1985 where she became N305TW. She served with TWA until May 31, 1997 and was subsequently broken up at Mojave.
Olympic struggled through the 1980s and 1990s, deeply unprofitable and racked by corruption and poor government decision making. Various attempts to reorganise the airline were unsuccessful and the 747-200s continued in service long after most airlines had replaced the type with newer aircraft. Finally in 1999 the first of four new A340-300s began to arrive signalling the end for the carrier's 747s. The last operational aircraft in the fleet was SX-OAD still to be seen flying in March 2000.
The three other frames were all retired in the second half of 1999. Two of the 747s (OAC and OAE) ended their days at Jakarta after their sale to Garuda (or perhaps an Aero Nusantra - its unclear) for Haj flights fell through. Of the other two OAD ended her days at Bruntingthorpe in the UK and was still there in early 2015, largely intact. SX-OAB was one of several ex-Olympic aircraft that became marooned at the old Athens airport where she too remains largely intact. Olympic itself gradually degraded further and further with multiple name and ownership changes until nowadays as a subsidiary of Aegean Airlines it operates only a few DHC-8s.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: