Wednesday, February 28, 2024

1911 World’s First Official Aerial Post.


M. Henri Pequet flew into aviation history from the U.P. exhibition grounds at Allahabad in a Humber-Sommer biplane on 18th February 1911 to Naini, 6 miles across the Jamuna,  He carried a bag of around 6500 pieces of mail, which he delivered to postal officials on landing.  So the distinction of staging the world’s first Official Aerial Post goes to India. It is reported that the flight was witnessed by over a million people, including the Governor, Sir John Hewitt.

This was not the first time mail was transported by air.  In September 1870- January 1871 sixty-six hot air balloons left Paris, carrying correspondence (and carrier pigeons) from besieged Parisians. 

But this was indeed the first official airplane mail delivery in the world.


During the decade after the Wright Bros first manned airplane flight in Dec 1903, pilots barnstormed around world flying planes and even carrying some mail. But the mail carried was unofficial in that it was not sanctioned by postal authorities.. Covers were carried by the pilots and usually mailed in the normal course after landing. Some notations were made, sometimes some special mark was affixed to show that the it was flown.  These pilots were the pioneers of airmail.

Background of the 1st Aerial Post in India:

Walter Windham a British aviation pioneer, organized aerial demonstration flights for the United Provinces Exhibition in Allahabad during the Maha Kumbh 1911. He had brought Pequet to India with 6 biplanes. The event marked the first time airplanes flew in India. An appeal from Rev. W.E.S. Holland, a chaplain of the Holy Trinity Church, Allahabad, spurred the event. He had appealed to Windham for help in fundraising for a new youth hostel. Windham conceived the aerial post and obtained approval from the post office for officially sanctioned mail. Postal officials asked Windham to design the cancel. All the mail flown was cancelled with the large circular cancellor, most were in magenta but a few examples exist with black ink. An additional surcharge to the regular postage rate was required as a donation for the Church Hostel Building.

The news of the proposed flight received a lot of publicity and around 6500 letters & postcards were received to be flown on the first flight. Also flown were 40 postcards which depicted the pilot and machine and were autographed by him.


The flight generated so much of interest so that even those who had no interest in philately felt they had to  have a souvenir of this flight for them or friends.

I have a flown cover in my collection with the sender’s letter.



This flight demonstrated the potential of aviation in faster mail delivery but it was only after 2 decades that regular airmail services were started in India.


I am going to revive the blog after a long break in response to  several requests.  I will attempt to relate Indian airmail postal history.  

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

1935. 1st Tuesday dispatch. London-Calcutta. 

 1927. RAF Display Flight. Flown Risalpur-Delhi and then to Calcutta. Cover has a special " By Aeroplane" label.  Delhi RAF delivery stamp & Calcutta delivery stamp.

This cover could be an unique cover - a non-philatelic first flight cover.  Cover mailed from Poona addressed to England would have gone to Bombay then to Karachi to catch the Imperial Airway flight to London. It went to Karachi from Bombay on the return Madras-Karachi first flight.  The cachet was applied at Bombay.

Monday, September 25, 2017

 India International Balloon Mela '85

 Showing scans of balloon flight covers flown during India International Balloon Mela 1985.  Only 100 of each were flown and numbered.  Name of the balloon, balloon pilot and landing site were stamped on the reverse.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A long time has passed since my last post.  I'm posting some more Concorde covers.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Concorde flight covers.

Posting scans of some Concorde flight covers from my collection.