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Unusual and Experimental
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HISTORIC AIRPLANES: Unusual and Experimental

While official airmail usually traveled aboard airplanes, balloons, helicopters, autogiros and even missiles have carried mail for the U.S. Postal Service. Some experiments worked out better than others.

Did you know?While the U.S. never developed regularly-scheduled lighter than air airmail service, German Zeppelins criss-crossed the globe, carrying U.S. mail to and from foreign ports. In the U.S., mail was occasionally flown by balloons and blimps. Many of these trips were promotional stunts. Military blimps such as the U.S.S. Akron sometimes carried mail, but their reliability was dimmed by disasters such as the fatal crash of the Akron in 1933 and the Hindenburg in 1937. Helicopters played a small but steady role in mail transportation in the mid 20th century.

It didn't always take wings or hot air to get envelopes into U.S. airspace. The postal service, working with the U.S. Navy, used a missile to carry mail from ship to shore in 1959. Twenty-three years earlier, private citizens, with the assistance of their local postmaster had fired mail-carrying rockets from Texas into Mexico.

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