ATHENS – Lt. General RHAF George Pandelides was the first Greek pilot to break the sound barrier and, later, the Aide De Camp to King Paul of Greece as well the personal pilot of the royal family.
He then went on to found what is now the oldest privately held ground handling firm in Greece, Pandair S.A. He lived an incredible life and passed away at the age of 94 on December 29 in Athens.
Born on July 2, 1924 in Tanta, Egypt, Pandelides was the son of Emmanuel and Dimitra Pandelides. His father was from Smyrna, Asia Minor and left his homeland in 1922 following the Smyrna Catastrophe by the Turks, moving to Egypt where a vibrant Greek community was thriving. His mother, Dimitra, was born in Souli in Epirus.
Pandelides spent his childhood in Egypt until he enrolled in the Hellenic Air Force. He moved to Athens at 18 and lived there until his death at 94.
Pandelides is survived by his wife of over 70 years Eudokia Pandelides (also known by her nickname of Lucy), son Emmanuel Pantelides and daughter-in-law Janice Pantelides, his daughter Iris Pierrakou and son-in-law Ilias Pierrkos, his Grandchildren Emily Pantelides and Peter Robbins, Kristina Pantelides and George Iassonidis, George Pierrakos and Panagiotis Pierrakos, and two great-grandchildren George Emmanuel Robbins and Alexandra Veatriki Robbins.
Granddaughter Kristina Pantelides shared her Facebook post about her remarkable grandfather:
“A legend of the Greek Air Force took his final flight on Wednesday on a mountain overlooking his beloved blue Aegean Sea. He lived the kind of life that inspires movie scripts. A Greek born in Egypt, he was one of three siblings to survive childhood out of 13 brothers and sisters. He enlisted in the Greek Air Force and became the first Greek to surpass the speed of sound during flight and the first commander of a jet plane. He fought bravely in three wars and won countless medals heralding his contributions to his country. He became the Aide De Camp to King Paul and personal pilot to the royal family. He had fighter jets named after him and documentaries made about him.
“After such incredible accomplishments, most would have retired with great contentment. Instead, my grandfather went on to create what is now the oldest privately held ground handling company in Greece with offices in every airport in the country.
“Always the most charismatic person in the room, he spoke four languages fluently, danced the tango incredibly, had a fantastic singing voice he would put to use at every available opportunity and had a laugh that put all other laughs to shame. He only remembered the good in people, literally forgetting when someone wronged him.
“He also had a tireless work ethic – going to work every day as the President of Pandair S.A. until he left this world at 94 years old. Despite all these professional and personal accomplishments, he considered only one thing as his life’s greatest achievement: the family he built with his wife of over 70 years. To him, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren were his greatest success and biggest priority. He made every one of us feel special. The song that my grandfather loved and sang more than any other up until the end of his life was «Μάτια Μπλε» (Matia Ble, Blue Eyes). More times than I can count he would tell my sister and I to sing with him since it was ‘our special song, too’ – because we were the two that inherited the blue of his eyes.
“Growing up, I thought it was normal to sing and dance at dinner- that everyone’s family did that. I thought everyone’s grandfathers knew the names of the children of the gas station attendants. I learned much later in life that my Pappou’s love for his family, his friends, his countrymen and his country was not normal. My Pappou was not normal. He was a blazing comet streaking through this world with blinding brightness, showering all of us lucky enough to know him with his brilliance. We are all made special because of him- stardust now in his wake.
‘Μάτια μπλε στα μεγάλα ταξίδια σου/ Θα ‘μαι εδώ θα ‘μαι πάντα μαζί σου [in English: Blue eyes on your great journeys, I will be here, I will always be with you].’”
The funeral was held on January 2 at the Holy Church of the Pamegiston Taxiarches and interment at the New Cemetery of Glyfada.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Cerebral Palsy Greece Open Door Foundation here: https://www.eps-ath.gr/en/support/46-donors-sponsors/157-dorea-eis-mnimi-i-anti-stefanou.html.