The ancient Greeks, always attracted by challenging and difficult goals, were pioneers in mankind’s flying efforts. Failing to achieve these in real life, they made use of myths to compensate for their failure. Thus, in antiquity, there are numerous myths relating to flights of gods and heroes. According to Hellenic mythology, Hermes and Iris were often in the air, while Daedalus and Ikarus are regarded as the first mythical airmen, who attempted to fly making use of self-made equipment rather than divine power.
According to the myth, the King of Crete Minos invited in Knossos the famous Athenian craftsman, architect and inventor Daedalus, as he was intending to build an inimitable palace. Thus the Knossos palace was constructed.
It was the largest and grandest of the palaces. It covered an area of 22,000 sq. metres and consisted from 1300 rooms of all sizes, large halls, storerooms, workshops, staircases and corridors. In the eastern wing there were four storeys of royal apartments, and in the western wing the official “Throne Room”. The halls of the palace were decorated with splendid frescoes. (It is estimated that the palace was built between approximately 1700 – 1450 B.C.).
The palace was designed by Daedalus with such complexity that no one placed in it could ever find its exit. King Minos then kept the architect prisoner to ensure that he would not reveal the palace plan to anyone.
There, Daedalus had a son, Ikarus, with King Mino’s slave Nausicrates. Father and son lived together in the palace offering their services to the King.
This situation did not last long since two events broke the existing status. The first was that Daedalus helped the King’s wife Pasifae to realise her wish for Poseidon‘s bull, giving birth to the Minotaur. Secondly he supplied Ariadne, daughter of Minos, with the thread with which she guided Theseus through the Labyrinth where he killed the Minotaur.
Daedallus and Ikarus were strictly confined by Minos, rendering their escape by sea impossible. Thus another way of leaving had to be improvised and the only available possibility was an escape by air, however risky. Daedalus, thus, built wings with cloth, flax-made bands, bird feathers and wax. He also made up a flight plan of the escape route over the Aegean sky. This plan seems to have involved a flight over Paros, Delos and Ikaria ending at Samos or Ephesus on Asia Minor coast.
Before take-off, Daedalus had warned his son to fly neither at a very high nor very low altitude, since either the heat of the sun or the humidity of seawater could destroy the wings. However, while flying over the southern coast of Ikaria, young Ikarus, captivated by the thrill of the flight, ignored his father’s advice and began to fly higher, closer to the sun. The wax began to melt, the feathers came loose and scattered in the air and thus, Ikarus fell to his death. He crashed into the sea which since then bears his name and so does the island where he was buried by his father (Ikarian Sea, Ikaria).
Daedalus arrived at Kimi, with broken heart, where he built a temple in honour of Apollo, to whom he dedicated the wings that gave him freedom.
However mythological, the death of Ikarus was the first sacrifice of mankind in its struggle to tame the skies. Many scholars have examined the myth of Daedalus and Ikarus and have tried to place it chronologically, concluding that the most likely date would be around 1400 B.C.
Those pilots, who trained other pilots before and during WW I, formed the core of the Hellenic Air Force.
At that time the Air Force was divided in Army and Navy Aviation which were subordinated to the corresponding General Staff.
In 1919, after WW I ended, the first “Military Aviation School” was established in Thessaloniki, where pilots and observers were trained.
At the same time the Navy Aviation forms training Centers in Tatoi and Paleo Faliro. Training flights were conducted with the de Havilland-4, de Havilland-9 and Sopwith Camel airplanes for the Army Aviation and with the Breguet-19, Henriot and Morane for the Navy Aviation.
Those training centers provisioned the front in the Asia Minor operations with pilots and observers, until 1922.
In 1926 the training is upgraded and provided degrees of bomber (pilot), photographer (pilot) and other specialties.
On December 19th 1929 the Ministry of Air Force is established and places the air forces under a unified command.
The flight training for the students lasted 150 hours, with the AVRO type airplane in the beginning and thereafter with BREGUET and the single-seater MARS airplanes.
After graduation, training exercises took place with the POTEZ-25, MORANE-230, HORSLEY and VELOS airplanes. Also, some pilots took further training with the FAIREY type hydroplane in naval co-operation missions.
On October 16th 1935, a second department came into operation, the non-commissioned officer department, with a duration of two years, with the following specializations: bomber pilots, machine-gunner & bomber pilots with secondary specialization as photographers and radio operators.
In 1939 operated a third department, the engineers department.
On February 6 1939, the first class of Cadets engineer officers consisting of 15 cadets was formed at the school.
From this school had graduated most of the people who gave their lives in air fights during WW II.
The hero 1st Lieutenant Mitralexis was a student of Air Force School. In WW II during a dogfight, when he ran out of ammunition, he attacked and shot down an Italian bomber aircraft by ramming its tail.
After April 1941 the School redeployed to the Middle East and following that to South Rodesia, where it operated as a training center from September 1941 until summer 1946.
During stationing in the Middle East, 40 graduates of the Air force School completed their training and continued their action in Egypt.
High level training was offered to flying and technical personnel at the Greek training centers in S. Rhodesia and S. Africa.
The Greek cadets and pilot officers’ training during WW II was carried out at the RAF units of M. East and S. Rodesia. While the school operated abroad, the total activity amounted 145.000 flight hours.
In 1945 the 19th pilots’ class was the first post-war class. Those cadets were trained in England from October 1946 until October 1947 with the MOTH type airplanes.
In March 1947 the School returns to Dekelia. The normal Air Force School’s operation starts in October 1947, when it welcomes the first students who followed a post-graduate program in England. The same students continued their flight training to the Air Force School with the HARVARD and SPITFIRE airplane types.
The initial organization of Air Force School was based on the standards of the English Air Academies in S. Rodesia and was as follows: Training & Flight Directorate with the air training squadron, the ground training squadron and the Cadets’ squadron under it.
At that time the School had the minimum means ground and flight training. For the flight training the school had 10 – 15 TIGER MOTH, 15-20 HARVARD and 15-20 SPITFIRE aircraft at its disposal. The students carried out a total of 160 flight hours (40 with the TIGER MOTH, 80 with the HARVARD and 40 hours with the SPITFIRE aircraft).
In 1949 the Engineer Officers School was established as a department of the Air Force School.
In 1950 the first Cadets’ Squadron returned from the USA, where they were trained. Since then, the air training in Greece started to be influenced by the American training system.
From the Air Force School establishment until 1951, 23 officers’ and NCOs classes were trained. The School trained over 500 pilots in 20 operational years inland and abroad.
In 1953, after the Ministry of Defence decision, the organization of the Air Force School changed and was formed as a typical American Wing being renamed to 121 Air Training Wing (121 ATW).
The Air Training Group replaced the Training & Flight Directorate. The T-33 two-seater jet trainer was used for the students’ initial training.
In 1952 the Reservist Pilots’ Training Center was established according to the British and American models.
The Center operates until September 1958 and during this period it trains 8 classes of reservist pilots.
In 1958, in the context of modernization, the School redeployed to new premises at the Dekelia Air Base, where the «Ikaron School» is based until today.
At the same time laboratories of Physics, Chemistry, Aerodynamics, Telecommunications, Propulsion systems, Aircraft construction and material resistance are created and equipped with the most up-to-date machinery and laboratory equipment.
In 1962 the first foreign students from Libya entered the school. In the following years students form many African and Middle East countries, such as Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Botswana and Chad had graduated from the Air Force School.
In 1964 the «Ikaron School» becomes a University equivalent to other State’s Universities.
In 1967 after the 43rd class admission, the school duration is expanded to 4 years. Also the school was renamed to «Ikaron School».
In 1991 it was the first time that women were admitted in the Ikaron School, exclusively in the Engineers department.
In 1999 the disastrous earthquake in Parnitha caused severe damages to the school’s premises.
In 2002 women entered the Pilots department.
In 2003 the provided educational framework of the Ikaron School is changed by law. The school is granted as Higher Military Educational Institute, equivalent to all the other national universities.