Bitter Grounds Magazine

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A brief history of aviation and airmail firsts

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

Aeroplanes pre-1920

Early aircraft - pre 1920

Slow growing list of early aircrafts, designers, pilots & dates.
Not all aeroplanes were successful. This list is to document all designs, regardless their relative success.

Details and photos culled from contemporary newspaper and magazine articles unless noted otherwise.

Aerial Experiment Association AEASeptember 30, 1907 to March 1909Canada - USACasey Baldwin,
Tom Selfridge,
Glenn Curtiss,
Alexander Graham Bell
JAD McCurdy
Developed 4 aeroplanes including Silver Dart & a number of experimental tetrahedral kites
Aerial Experiment Association 1March 12 1908
Casey Baldwin
Piloted by Baldwin
Red Wing Airplane
Aerial Experiment Association 21908
Tom Selfridge
Piloted by Selfridge
Baldwin's white wing
Aerial Experiment Association 31908
Glenn Curtiss
Piloted by Curtiss
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZ62-59026)
Aerial Experiment Association 4Feb. 23, 1909
Silver Dart
JAD McCurdy
Piloted by McCurdy
Silver Dart 1909

Silver Dart 1909 in flight over the lak

1959 Silver Dart

Silver Dart tobacco card
Variety of models
1904 - 1921
Puteaux (near Paris) France
La Société Antoinette
Began designing V8 and V16 engines and moved onto aircraft.
Founders Léon Levavasseur and Jules Gastambide (1846-1944) (financial backer and designer)

Antoinette engine was named after Gastambide's daughter
Designer: Léon Levavasseur

Main pilot Hubert LathamLatham&Levevasseur

Lavavasseur developed "The Antoinette Barrel", an early flight simulator.

Photo of Antoinette airplane engine

55/60 HP Antoinette Engine - Le Salon de l'Aéronautique : moteur Antoinette 55/60 HP : [photographie de presse] / Agence Meurisse - image courtesy BNF/Gallica

Antoinette IV

Antoinette IV

Page from 1909 La Revue aérienne newspaper with photo of Latham flying an Antoinette

Hubert Latham 1909 Airshow -
La Revue aérienne / directeur Emile Mousset Author : Ligue nationale aérienne, Paris. Auteur du texte Publisher : [s.n.] (Paris) Publication date : 1909-09-10 Contributor : Mousset, Émile. Éditeur scientifique - image courtesy BNF/Gallica

Page from a 1909 French aeronatic magazine showing 4 airplanes ready for the English Channel crossing

3rd aeroplane - Antoinette Flyer ready to try the Channel crossing - Image courtesty BNF/Galacia - Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Philosophie, histoire, sciences de l'homme, FOL-LC6-87 - image courtesy BNF/Gallica

Antoinette I
alternate name Gastambide-Mengin I
February 8-14, 1908

4 flights in total flown by one of the company's mechanics (Boyer)

Achieved a height of 150 m

Only one plane built
FranceDesigner: Léon Levavasseur

50 hp Antoinette engine

A mid-wing monoplane design
Antoinette II
also known as Gastambide-Mengin II
February to August 1908
The II was the Antoinette I rebuilt with modifications
Antoinette III
alternate name Ferber IX
1908Designer Ferdinand Ferber
Antoinette IV1908 Designer Léon Levavasseur

Antoinette 8V engine

high-wing monoplane design
Record setting flights achieved in this model.

This was the aircraft Latham flew in his attempt to cross the English Channel

Antoinette VDec 20,1908Designer Léon Levavasseur

Basically the IV but with wing warping technology
Antoinette VI1909
Antoinette VII1909
Antoinette VIII1909
Antoinette military monoplane
nicknamed Monobloc
1911Designers: Léon Levavasseur and Jules Gastambide

Antoinette 8V V-8 water-cooled
3 crew spaces for pilot, observer and mechanic
Avis Monoplane1910Howard Wright
Avroplane1910TriplaneA.V. Roe
Baldwin Biplane1910 Capt. T. S. Baldwin at Mineola
Barnwell monoplane1910ScotlandR. H. Barnwell
Bernard Aeroplane1909Marginy, FranceBernard
Blackburn Monoplane
Bland MayflyDec 1910 IrelandLillian E. Bland

Designed only one aircraft
December 17 1910 Mayfly

Lilian Bland, Aviatrix Irish stamp 2020
BleroitFrance many models
Blondeau-Hewlett School1910Biplane
Clement-Bayard Monoplane No 5November 1912 French
Gnôme 70 HP engine

Clement Bayard monoplane1912

Clement Bayard monoplane schematics1912
Coal City Biplane1911Illinois, USAMr. William E. Sommerville
(also mayor of Coal City
Comisetti'Guignet AeroplaneJan 1909Geneva, SwitzerlandMM. C. Comisetti and A. Guigne
De Caters' Aeroplane1909Belgium? Possibly built to compete in the Belgian Aero Club prizeBaron De CaterManaged to fly 100 metres in length at Brecht on December 20. Trials canceled due to fog
De Dion biplane1911
Delagrange 1909Delegrange
Deperdussin Monoplanes
Dixon monoplane1911
Dunne monoplane
Faccielli Aeroplane
1909ItalyAristide Faccielli (1848-1920)
Società Piemontese Automobili (SPA) built the craft.
S.P.A. Faccioli TriplaneJan 1909

ItalyAristide Faccielli (1848-1920)
Società Piemontese Automobili (SPA) built the craft.

Pilot Mario Faccielli (1885-1915)

Mario Faccioli

Faccielli died in an air accident some time in 1915
Flight experiments occured in Venaria Reale or Turin in January 13 1909.

The triplane was suspended 20 m in the air.

Faccielli flew 100 metres at altitude of 7 metres before crashing.

Rudder and elevator supports gave out causing airplane to "capsize" and plummet to ground.

Flew by designers son who was uninjured in the crash .
S.P.A. Faccioli
Faccielli Aeroplane - Faccioli n ° 4October 15, 1910
Cameri (Novara)
Italy Aristide Faccielli

Received first patent for wholly designed Italian aeroplane design

Pilot Mario Faccielli (1885-1915)
Piloted by Mario Faccielli who gained pilot's license number 21 (Italian) on it.

Spa Faccioli biplane
Farman, HenryFrance
Farman, MauriceFrance
Ferguson Monoplane 1910
Fritz Monoplane1911Mr. Fritz Goetze
Gasnier Aeroplane November 21st, 1909FranceRene GASNIER9'5" biplane running a 50 hp Antoinette engine.
Givaudan AeroplaneJan 1909 Givaudanbuilt at Vermorel works tractor-
screw 2"4 meires in diameter driven by a 40-h.p. 8-cyl.
Vermorel air-cooled motor of the " V " type, the bore and
stroke of the motor being 90 x 120 mm
Goupy biplane
Groos FlyerJan 1909Pen-en-Toul Lieutenant Groos
Humphrey AeroplaneJan 1909Tested Colne at WyvenhoeJack Humphrey
Jatho "Two Wing"August 18, 1903Hanover, Germany
Vahrenwalder Heide military training
Designer: Karl Jatho

Hannoversche Flugzeugwerke GmbH 1913 - 1914

Pusher biplane with a single-cylinder 9 h.p. Buchet engine.
Gained about 60 m in height and achieved short hop. Jatho flyer
JAP-Harding monoplane1910UK

Founder John Alfred Prestwich (JAP)

J A.P. Harding monoplane (Bleriot) using a JAP engine

Flew twice @ June or July 1910
First flight flew 5 km, second flight flew 15 km.

Reached altitude of 10 metres.

4 cylinder engine
La Fregate1910 30-h.p. 3-cyl. Anzani motor, and piloted by M. Robert De Lesseps
Laminne FlyerJuly 1909Liege,
L. de Laminne
weighing 500 kilogs. and fitted with a 60-h.p. Vivinus
Lepouse Aeroplane1909Brussels, Belgium called the aero-torpillLepouse5 metres in length and has a span of only
3 metres. It is said to be equipped with a gas turbine,
and that the whole apparatus only weighs 75 kilogs
Long Monoplane 1910 J. B . D . Longengine.
Macfie Biplane1910
Montgolfier1910pilot Lieut. Bier
Mulliner Monoplane 1910
Orbe AeroplaneJan 1909Orbe
Ornis Monoplane1910
P. F. DEG.\. Flying machines1908
Patterson Biplane1910
Piggott Monoplane
Pitner Flyer1910US first monoplane designA. L. Pfitzner,
Portobello M o n o p l a n eCharles Hubbard
R.E.P. monoplaneJan 1909
Resnault-PelteiueJuly 1909
Robart BiplaneJan 1909used Antoinette engine
Roe Triplane1910
Sanders Aeroplane 1910Captain Sanders
Sanders Biplane
Seddon Airplane1910Lieut. J. W. Seddon and Mr. A G. Hackett
Seller's Qudruplane1911
Short BrothersUK /North IrelandShort Bros Belfast, North Ireland & workshop at Battersea.
Oswald (1883-1969), Horace (1872-1917), and Eustace Short (1875-1932)

Company founded 1908
Short biplane No 1 Nov 1909Designed and built for Francis McClean
Short biplane No 21909
Short biplane No 3
Thezenas AeroplaneJan 1909biplaneMM. Thezenas and Renaud
Vandenberg Flapping Wing MachineJan 1909Issy les Moulineaux on Monday, January 18th M. Vandenberg Bruxelles/Antwerp
Vermorel Aeroplane1909FranceVERMOREL, an engineer at Villefranche-sur-
48-h.p. and weighs
78 kilo
W a r c h a l o n s k i 1910AustriaW a r c h a l o n s k i
Weiss Monoplane1911
Welsh Monoplane1910Mr. W . Ellis Williams, assistant lecturer in
physics at the University Colllge of North Wales, Bangor
Zatopp Aeroplane1909RussiaZatopp, Russian civil engineer"achieved a flight of 32 metres at Saint Martin de
Crau, in an aeroplane which is equipped with an engine
that is said to use a form of glycerine as a fuel"
Zsélyi Aeroplane1910HungaryZsélyi Aladár (1883-1914)
Zsélyi I. monoplane1910Aero Club HungaryZsélyi Aladár (1883-1914)
Zsélyi II1910

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