Thursday, May 15, 2008

First Flight Covers (FFCs)

First Flight Covers (FFCs) are covers flown on a first flight from one place to another. In the early days of airmail development a first flight was a special event and commemorated with souvenir covers flown on the first time mail was transported on that route. Those were the days when airports were just airstrips, there was no radar, no flight controllers nothing that modern flying takes for granted.

A weekly airmail service was started between Karachi & Bombay on 23rd January, 1920. The return flight was on 24th January, 1920. DH 10 planes of the No.97 Sqdn. RAF were used. A surcharge of 8as was charged for each letter.

A cover flown on the first return flight Bombay to Karachi. A special postmark was used for all mails carried on the Airpost.

FFCs may have special markings, hand stamps, postmarks, labels etc. The one important feature of a FFC is that they are always back stamped at the place of arrival proving that they were actually flown. FFCs are usually collected in pairs i.e. on both the outward and inward flight. Early FFCs were sometimes signed by the pilots. In the US postmasters sometimes signed such covers too.

Reverse of the above cover showing the Karachi arrival stamp of 25 JAN 20.

As first flight covers became popular both airlines and postal administrations started issuing special covers and special postmarks etc. Airlines started issuing first flight covers when new aircraft were introduced even though the routes were ones on which they flew earlier.

Sometimes postal administrations issued special stamps for a first flight which were valid only on the first flight and withdrawn after that. India issued a 12as stamp to commemorate the first Air India flight to London on 8th June 1948. The stamp was valid for postage only on covers flown on the first flight. The Air India aircraft named the Rajput Princess from Bombay flew to London with stops at Cairo & Geneva reaching London on 9th June, 1948. Covers were flown on all the stages i.e. Bombay to Cairo, Geneva, London, Cairo to Geneva & London & Geneva to London.

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