Airmail Firsts – flights, routes, stamps

fly south to see the spreadsheet.  ↴ 

This page explores the history of aviation and airmail firsts from around the world.  Some of the content appears in multiple sections). It's broken down the following areas:

Aviation Firsts (everything about pioneer aviation & when possible commemorative stamps that have been issued)

History of aviation firsts 

  • first heavier than air flight - will eventually include balloon flights
  • pilots and aircraft
  • distance and route

Airmail Firsts (focused on pioneer flights & experiments)

Airmail Firsts – flights, routes, stamps, experimental flights  

  • first airmail delivery (will include balloon flights)
  • first rocket mail delivery
  • commemorative stamps
  • pilots and aircraft
  • distance, route and amount of mail carried

Airmail stamps (official & semi, first)

Airmail – First official stamps & regular routes 

  • first official stamps
  • first rocket mail stamps
  • first semi-officials and special flights
  • first regular route establishment

Aviation related coins & banknotes

Aviation – Coins & Bank Notes - scroll down past first spreadsheet

  • relevant coins and banknotes related to aviation firsts (posted below airmail/aviation spreadsheet)

The list will grow slowly, primarily because some countries are difficult to confirm details. Any Bitter Grounds articles related to an event will be included in the last column.

You can support this page, and contribute towards a growing library of articles celebrating flight. If you donate to this page, don't forget to mention it in your donation so I can put your name on the "Aviation Geek Wall of Support".

Pioneer aeroplane designs pre-1920 (pilots, designers, airplanes, companies regardless of success)

Early Aeroplanes – pre 1920s  

Early aircraft & photos when I can find them. Details taken from various early aeroclub & aviation newspapers and magazines c 1895-1920. Purpose is to create a sortable archive of early aviation attempts.

This is an experimental list and format/details will change.

Slowly growing list of early aircrafts, designers & dates. Not all aeroplanes were successful.

 

Books and references from my library that I use on a regular basis:

  • Sanabria Airmail catalogues - they include details not found in most catalogues
  • Scotts (various ages)
  • Stanley Gibbons
  • Unitrade Canada
  • Pioneers of Aviation (Christopher Chant)
  • Wings of Speed (Sir Harry Brittain)
  • British External Airmails until 1934 (Alexander S. Newall)
  • Wings of Madness (Paul Hoffman)
  • Aviation: the Early Years (Peter Almond)
  • Contact! The Story of the Early Aviators (Henry Serrano Villard)
  • The aeroplane (Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harper) 1914
  • Buch des Fluges (Hermann Hoernes ed) 1911 German book. Bit of a slog but still has some interesting tidbits
  • The Aerophile (Aéro-Club de France)
    Aviation magazine published from 1893 to 1947 
  • La Revue aérienne from 1908-1914
  • Aerial League of Australia - archives I've been able to find
  • Royal Aero Club - Flight starting 1909
  • Aero Club USA
  • Aero Club Chile - only have a few
  • The Canadian Philatelist - the journal of the Canadian Philatelist Society
  • The Airpost Journal
  • Regulating Airmail Transportation, 1975, Michael E. Levine, California Institute of Technology and University of Southern California Law Center

Airmail Firsts – flights, routes, stamps

Airmail first flights by country - commemorative stamps & articles. Routes and special notes about the mail carried on inaugural flights. Usually exhibition flights.
These flights were often one off flights, years/decades before regular routes were established
Country1st Airmail Flight Details Commemorative Stamp DetailsArticle
ArgentinaSeptember 2, 1917

Experimental flight

Route: Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay, crossing over the Río de la Plata
Pilot Pablo Teodoro Fels

Licensed May 23, 1913, license #11.

Carrying one sack of mail with 90 letters/postcards
Pablo Teodoro Fels

Pablo Teodoro Fels undated photo

September 2, 1917 Experimental flight Route: Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay

Centenary of First Airmail Flight in Argentina
Issued for Centenary of First Airmail Flight in Argentina.

2017

Australia July 7 - 18, 1914

ROUTE:
Melbourne to Sidney

DISTANCE: 940 km

Pilot Maurice Guillaux

Flying a 50hp Blériot XI

Carrying 1785 postcards & some Lipton tea
Belgium 1913

ROUTE:
Sint-Denis-Westren to Ghent

For the Ghent International Exhibition
Pilot Henri Crombez

Flying Deperdussin monoplane

Carried unknown number of commemorative postcards
 First Airmail Flight: departure of pilot Henri Crombez at Si

First Airmail Flight: departure of pilot Henri Crombez at Si

Issued for the
Centenary First Airmail Flight.
Issued 2013
Designers:
Guillaume Broux | Jean Libert
Canada June 24, 1918

ROUTE:
Montreal, Quebec to Leaside, Toronto, Ontario

FLYING TIME: 6 hr

RAF Captain Brian Peck and Corporal C. W. Mathers

Flying Curtiss JN-4 Canuck

Delivered bag of mail & crate of Old Mull scotch
Curtiss JN-4 Canuck

Curtiss JN-4 Canuck

Curtiss JN-4 Canuck
Part of the Canadian Aircraft (2nd series)

Issued 1980

Designers:
Jacques Charette | R. W. Bradford
Canada's First airmail delivery
Canada1918

ROUTE:
Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta
Katherine Stinson

Flying Curtis Stinson Special
DenmarkSept. 2, 1911

ROUTE: City of Middelfart across the Little Belt to the city of Fredicia on the Jutland peninsula

DISTANCE: 6.78 km (4.22 mi)


SPONSORED by Middelfart Avis, a local newspaper.

An exhibition flight
1911 first flight
Pilot Robert Svendsen

Flying Henry Farman 50 hp Gnome engine


Carrying 150 postcards franked with regular 3 Ore stamps.
Sold to public for 2 Kroners apiece. All signed by pilot. Some also bore one of two handwritten notes:
Fra Beltflyvningen
(From the Belt Flight) or Beltflyvning 1911.

Less than 20 are known to exist1911 postcard from flight
1911 postcard from flight
Image courtesy Airpost Journal, Nov. 1929 p 11
International
France to England crossing English Channel
August 28 and 29, 1911

ROUTE: Bolougne, France to Folkstone, England and return flight at the widest point between the two countries.

Unlike previous flights across the Channel, Pourpe flew it without a ship escort (in case he crashed into the Channel). He also flew by sight, because his compass was damaged prior to take off.

The lack of compass caused Pourpe to fly off course and initially land in Dover where he accidently triggered a near international incident. British officials were already on high alert because of growing tensions between England and Germany.

Dover officials were not aware of the flight and Pourpe quickly found himself explaining his presence to around 400 British soldiers who suspected the pilot was up to no good

Pourpe kept his cool and identified himself. The situation quickly de-escalated and he was allowed to continue on his flight to Folkstone.
Pilot Marc Pourpe
Aéro-Club de France Aviator Certificate:
No. 560
Certified July 28, 1911(possibly in a Bleriot). Started flying in 1909 & even acted as a flight instructor before gaining his certificate.


Flying a Bleriot monoplane

Carrying 2 letters - one from the Mayor of Bolougne for the Mayor of Folkstone and second from M. Jacques Altazin, a correspondent of 'L'Auto magazine to the French Vice-Consul at Folkstone.


Marc Pourpe

French pilot Marc Pourpe in front of his Bleriot monoplane

1st int’l airmail- skimming the English Channel
International:
1st nonstop flight across Atlantic & 1st International Airmail delivery
June 14 - June 15, 1919

ROUTE:
Newfoundland to Ireland

16 hrs 3,040 km
Alcock & Brown

Flying Vickers Vimy bomber
image of stamp: CanadaTransatlanticflight

Canadian stamp: Alcock and Brown's transatlantic flight

Image: Newfoundland 1929 stamp for 1919 Atlantic crossing

Newfoundland 1929 stamp for 1919 Atlantic crossing

First stamp 1969 Canada

Second stamp 1929 Newfoundland
1st Terrifying Atlantic flight,
Alcock & Brown 1919 and Canada's sad little stamp commemorating Alcock and Brown
International:
England to Australia
Nov. 12 to Dec. 10 1919

ROUTE:
Took off from Hounslow Heath, UK the morning of Nov. 12.

Lyon - Rome - Cairo - Damascus - Basra - Karachi - Delhi - Calcutta - Akyab - Rangoon - Singora - Singapore - Batavia - Surabaya - Darwin.

They landed in Darwin late afternoon Dec. 10, 1919.

DISTANCE: 17,911 km
FLYING TIME: 135 hours 55 minutes
Pilots brothers Captain Ross Smith and Lieutenant Keith Smith. Two mechanics, Sergeants James Bennett and Wally Shiers, flew with them.

Flying Vimy Vickers
The Vickers was preserved and is now located at the Adelaide Airport


Letters and cards bore a black oval cachet inscription First Aerial Mail - Great Britain to Australia. Received 26 Feb 1920
First Aerial Post - England - Australia 1920 later reprint

Many reprints were created, some quite crude looking.

Colour of originals are a rich, deep steel blue, while reprints are much lighter blue.

Some stamp experts report up to a dozen 1920 sheetlets were on the flight.
Ross Smith Issue
This stamp is a reprint of the original 1920 commemorative release

Designer Lt Courtney-Benson

Beware forgeries and reprints:
Original stamp has watermark. A genuine (not reprint) was valued at approx $20,000 Australian in 2005. A reprint is worth pennies to a few dollars.
India Feb. 18, 1911 -

1st airmail flight in world
Allahbad

DISTANCE: 8.2 km
FLYING TIME: 13 min

Note: The 100th Anniversary postmark reads Feb. 12, not Feb. 18.
Pilot Henri Pequet (1888-1974) (French)

Flying a Humber-Sommer

Aéro-Club de France Aviator Certificate: No. 88
June 10, 1910 (cerified in a Voisin)


Delivered @ 6,000 postcards and letters
India First airmail Golden

India First Airmail Two stamps

India 100th anniversary



India 100th anniversary
India 100th anniversary
India 100th anniversary
India 100th anniversary
India issued an extensive tribute to Pequet's flight on the 50th, 75th & 100th anniversary



First stamp 1961
India First Airmail Two stamps Golden Anniversary

1986
75th Anniversary of First Official Airmail Flight includes cover


Last sets all 2011 for 100th Anniversary

Designer Sankha Samanta


1932 by J. R. D. Tata. Company later became Air India

France also issued a commemorative in 2011
IndiaRocket Mail Sept 30, 1934
Saugor Island
Ship to shore attempt to send 143 letters.

Exploded in flight.

140 covers recovered. Covers taken to the Saugor Island lighthouse where they were stamped postmark Saugor Island: 30 SE 34
India Mails has a good page devoted to the first Rocket Mail experiments and an extensive list of the stamps3 Rocket mail stamps & explosive packed tubes
Mexico
July 6, 1917

ROUTE:
Pachuca to Mexico City

DISTANCE: 90 km
TITLE No. 14 Series A Biplane 1919
Pilot Horacio Ruiz Gaviño

Flying Curtis Jenny Curtiss JN-4

Carried 800 letters and postcards

Special mark Correo Aéreo Pachuca-México

Pilot Horacio Ruiz, Aviator Pilot, portrait
50th Anniversary of the First Airmail Service in Mexico1967
50th Anniversary of the First Airmail Service in Mexico

Designer:
Salvador Pruneda


PolandJanuary 10, 1928

ROUTE: Danzig to Poland
After lengthy negotiations between Danzig officials and the Polish Ministry of Posts, an agreement was reached to allow airmail in and out of Danzig
SwedenJune 1, 1912

ROUTE: Eslöv to Marieholm (landing near the Åkarp hotel

Return flight was planned but the propeller was damaged before the flight could take off

Exhibition flight First airmail route Sweden
Pilot Peter Nielson (Danish)

Flying a B-S monoplane
Cachet on first swedish flight
Covers rubber stamped with the above cachet. The mark also included No 2 because the flight organisers believed a previous airmail flight took place shortly before this one. 1912 pilot and airplane
Ukraine March 31, 1918

ROUTE:
Vienna to Lviv

DISTANCE: 540 km
Pilot Stefan Stec (Poland) 1893–1921

Flying Hansa-Brandenburg C.I biplane

Carried 120 letters and postcards

Special mark Flugpost Wien-Lemberg
United Kingdom Sept. 9, 1911

ROUTE:
Hendon Aerodrome to Windsor Palace

DISTANCE: 30 km

Part of the coronation of King George V celebrations

**This is the first officially recognised airmail flight. A previous flight took place in 1910 (see next entry for details)
Gustav Hamel (1889-1914)

Flying Blériot XI monoplane

Carrying letters & postcards specially marked "First United Kingdom Aerial Post". Number of cards & letters vary. Wings of Speed claims 100,000 specially printed postcards were produced, but Hamel's flight carried approx 400 letter and 800 postcards.

From my collection:
Some swine ripped the original stamp off, but the card is still a great addition to any airmail set.

1911 UK aerial Post front

1911 UK aerial Post back
GustavHamelUK commmorative
GustavHamelUK commmorative one
GustavHamelUK commmorative four
GustavHamelUK commmorative four
4 stamps issued on 100th anniversary of flight - Sept. 9, 2011

Designers:
Robert Maude | Sarah Davies
United KingdomApril 27-28, 1910

ROUTE:
London to Manchester air race - 1st night flight

** not officially sanctioned/recognised
Claude Grahame-White (1879-1959) (English)

Flying Farman III biplane

Grahame-White carried a bag of mail on this flight.

Aéro-Club de France Aviator Certificate: No. 30
Jan. 4, 1910 (certified in a
Blériot)
United States Sept. 23, 1911


ROUTE:
Nassau Boulevard aerodrome, Garden City, New York to Mineola, New York.
Pilot Earle Ovington

Flying Blériot XI

Carried 640 letters & 1,280 postcards. Didn't land, threw mailbag over the side, from 500 ft. Bag broke on impact, scattering the contents.

Mail stamped: AEROPLANE STATION No.1 - GARDEN CITY ESTATES, N.Y.

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