HISTORIC AIRPLANES: The Early
By 1911, airplanes had matured to a point that some began to consider them seriously as an exciting new way to carry the mail. Postmaster General Hitchcock was an enthusiastic supporter of airmail experiments. Under his encouragement, the potential for mail by air was demonstrated across the U.S. over the next few years.
The first post office-sanctioned airmail flight honors go to Fred Wiseman, who took off with mail from Petaluma to Santa Rosa on February 17, 1911. Wiseman's airplane was built from photographs taken of Wright, Farman and Curtiss airplanes, as well as from notes made as the builders observed aircraft at aviation meets. When asked to identify his machine, Wright said that it was a combination Curtiss-Wright-Farman aircraft because it had the best features of each of those airplanes.
The very next day, and half a world away, on
February 18, 1911, Henry Pequet flew mail during an exhibition
in Allahabad, India. Pequet carried over 6,000 cards and letters
in his Sommer biplane. On September 9, 1911, the first official
British airmail flight was under way when Gustav Hamel took
off in a Blériot monoplane and flew from London Hendon
Aerodrome to Windsor Castle, 20 miles away. Hamel carried
about 23 pounds of mail on his flight.
Back in the United States, Earle Ovington became
the first American to be officially designated an airmail
pilot on September 23, 1911. That day, he flew mail at an
aviation meet in New York in his own Blériot monoplane
that he had brought to America from France. Ovington named
his airplane "Dragonfly."