Early years

December 22, 2016




Loading airmail, late 1930s, Detroit.
The first cargo flight took place on the 7 November 1910 in the USA, between Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. Philip Orin Parmelee piloted a Wright Model B aeroplane 65 miles (105 km) carrying a package of 200 pounds of silk for the opening of a store. Newspaper clippings quoted the Wright brothers as stating he covered the distance in 66 minutes, but the flight was officially recorded at 57 minutes, a world speed record at the time. It was the first “cargo only” flight solely for the transport of goods; the first flight commissioned by a client, and the first example of multimodal air transport, since the pieces of silk were transported by car from Columbus aerodrome to the store.

The world's first official airmail flight took place on 18 February 1911, at a large exhibition in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, British India. The organizer of the aviation display, Sir Walter Windham, was able to secure permission from the postmaster general in India to operate an airmail service in order to generate publicity for the exhibition and to raise money for charity. This first airmail flight was piloted by Henri Pequet, who flew 6,500 letters a distance of 13 km (8.1 mi), from Allahabad to Naini - the nearest station on the Bombay-Calcutta line to the exhibition. The aircraft used was a Humber-Sommer biplane with about fifty horsepower (37 kW), and it made the journey in thirteen minutes. The world's first scheduled airmail post service took place in the United Kingdom between the London suburb of Hendon, and the Postmaster General's office in Windsor, Berkshire, on September 9, 1911. It was part of the celebrations for King George V's coronation and at the suggestion of Sir Walter Windham, who based his proposal on the successful experiment he had overseen in India. The service ran for just under a month, transporting 35 bags of mail in 16 flights.

In the early 20s, air cargo developed rapidly because numerous entrepreneurs realized aircraft could move high value and low volume consignments much faster than the railroads and shipping companies. The first scheduled flight from London to Paris in 1919 had only one passenger but carried leather for a shoe manufacturer and grouse for a restaurant. Cinema films were also a frequent consignment: original news’ bulletins were first carried to a central laboratory to make copies, and then distributed by air throughout Europe for their release in cinemas.

Post-war years
Although there were a few attempts to organize air freight airlines from the 1920s on, the first commercial airlines that were all-cargo did not emerge until after World War II. In 1945, at a conference in Havana, 57 airlines formed the International Air Transport Association.

In 1948 Berlin was jointly controlled by the Allies and Russians, although the Russians held the area surrounding the city and thus land access. As this access was closed, in the so-called Berlin blockade, an airlift remained the only option to get increasingly urgent deliveries of food, coal, and other supplies to West Berlin. Over 330 days to 12 May 1949 a total of 2.26 million tons of cargo were airlifted to Berlin, an average of 6,800 tons a day, 80% by the US and 20% by the UK.[2]

Although freight traffic developed modestly, reaching only 800,000 tonnes worldwide by the mid-1950s, the world economy was hitting its post-war stride. Germany and Japan were emerging from their period of purgatory and were poised to take the world of business by storm, the United States was approaching the height of its economic dominance, and Western Europe had recovered from the war. In 1968, Boeing launched the four engine 747, the first wide-body aircraft. The 747 was the first aircraft capable of transporting full pallets in the cargo hold, revolutionizing the air cargo industry.

Modern air cargo:

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Our air freight operations are managed through a network including 438 offices in 93 countries worldwide. 

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