View Full Version : When Airmail Hazards Included Buffalo!

02-23-2011, 02:33 PM
Heh, pretty informative, I didn't know most of the facts and I am a fan of both Indian and early aviation history!


When Airmail Hazards Included Buffalo (http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2011/02/when-airmail-hazards-included-buffalo/)

http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/files/2011/02/Picture-1-300x240.png (http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2011/02/when-airmail-hazards-included-buffalo/picture-1-7/)Walter Windham drew the postmark: a "silhouette of a biplane in flight over the mountains of Asia." Courtesy of the National Postal Museum.

India is an air-minded nation. Philatelist Pradip Jain notes in his 2002 book Indian Airmails that the Ramayama, the ancient Sanskrit epic, includes references to King Nala and Princess Damayanti sending “amorous messages to each other through the medium of a flying, talking swan.” During the Mauryan dynasty (320-185 B.C.), rulers employed homing pigeons to communicate with the far reaches of their empire. “I am sure it would surprise many of my readers,” continues Jain, “to know that to this day, the police of Orissa employ pigeon-mail to communicate with remote, backward and inaccessible areas to the state.”
So it makes sense that India was home to one of the first airmail flights using an airplane. On February 18, 1911, French pilot Henri Péquet stuffed a sack of more than 6,000 postcards and letters into his Humber biplane, took off from a polo field in Allahabad, India, and headed for Naini, just five miles away. (The first recorded airmail flight using an airplane had taken place in Petaluma, California, just one day earlier.) (http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2011/02/whos-first/)
http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/files/2011/02/Henri_Pequet_France_Stamp31-300x181.jpg (http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2011/02/when-airmail-hazards-included-buffalo/henri_pequet_france_stamp3-2/)Philatelists rejoice: France will mark the centenary of Péquet's flight on February 18, 2011.

Péquet was in India at the request of Walter Windham, who had organized a series of demonstration flights. (Windham founded Great Britain’s Aeroplane Club in 1908, and, in 1909, presented the gold cup to Louis Blériot for making the first successful flight across the English Channel.) Péquet arrived in India with a pair of mechanics and a crated airplane; the three represented the Humber Motor Company of England. “Humber…had earlier manufactured single-winged airplanes based on a Blériot design [but] now produced what they called a Roger Sommer craft,” notes the National Postal Museum’s Web site (http://postalmuseumblog.si.edu/2011/01/india-and-the-worlds-first-official-air-mail-by-airplane.html). “The Sommer biplane, a modified Farman biplane…had a 50 horsepower, seven cylinder, Gnome rotary engine.”
http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/files/2011/02/6a01157147ecba970c0148c7fee71f970c-500wi-300x225.jpg (http://blogs.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/2011/02/when-airmail-hazards-included-buffalo/6a01157147ecba970c0148c7fee71f970c-500wi/)Courtesy of the National Postal Museum.

Jain writes that “the [Sommer-type] biplanes performed well at Allahabad, but the [Humber Blériot] monoplane, with lower engine output, did not seem to operate well in the heavy warm air.”
Péquet described his “instruments” to Edmond Petit of French Air Forces [date unknown]: “You would not believe it but our planes at this time were a sight. Before us was just space. I had a watch on my wrist and an altimeter on my left knee.” When asked if he had any special recollections of the flight, Péquet replied, “No, only the buffaloes. Before landing I flew over the Ganga and I was not quite sure that I would make it. [It was] about 3 or 400 metres [wide]. But it was not the unexpected bath but the crocodiles that I feared.”
Péquet went on to become a test pilot; by 1934 he was the chief pilot of the Aero Club of Vichy. He died at age 86, in 1974.
India Post staged a reenactment of Péquet’s flight on February 12, 2011 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/City-witnesses-historic-re-run-of-first-airmail-services/articleshow/7483753.cms)—using a Chetak helicopter, of all things—and has issued a set of stamps commemorating the historic flight.

04-21-2011, 10:20 PM
WoW love those stamps man!!!

04-22-2011, 05:44 AM
WoW love those stamps man!!!

Glad you like 'em bud, are you a philatelist btw? I used to collect them as a kid, might have an old scrapbook or two somewhere still.

05-11-2011, 07:14 PM
Yes, as you stated I to use to do them as a teen. Then Modeling took over. I'll look around through my stuff and take some photos of my collection. I know we can't be the only ones that have done this on this forum.

05-12-2011, 05:26 AM
Yes, as you stated I to use to do them as a teen. Then Modeling took over. I'll look around through my stuff and take some photos of my collection. I know we can't be the only ones that have done this on this forum.

Heh I doubt mine are valuable or anything, I was never serious at it. Used to collect some coins too, again none too collectible. I prefer my models to be female, brunette and slightly tipsy :biggrin:, truth is, I never had the sort of dedication required for collecting stuff or modeling etc., too fickle minded and all.

It'll be nice to see your collection though, do put it up when you have the time!

07-02-2011, 04:14 AM

Department of “What Were They Thinking?”

Did you want to send that regular or express? Delivering mail by Regulus cruise missile. Courtesy National Postal Museum.
Quick: What’s the strangest way to deliver mail that you can think of? By mule? On foot? By ship? By airplane? How about by missile? That’s right. More than one person thought delivering packages by rocket was an excellent idea.

Our neighbor, the National Postal Museum, notes that Austria and Germany were the first countries to try sending mail by rocket. The British Postal Museum & Archive—possibly not wanting to be left out—says that German inventor Gerhard Zucker launched his rocket mail in England in 1934. “The rocket, loaded with 4,800 letters, was launched from Scarp Island to Hushinish Point, on the Isle of Harris…. However, instead of shooting up and over the Sound of Scarp, there was a flash, a dull explosion and a cloud of smoke. The scorched letters fell like confetti onto the beach.”

A "rocketgram" from Sikkim, dated March 23, 1935. From the collection of Mohamed Nasr, from philatel2.com.

In 1935, Stephen Hector Taylor-Smith of Sikkim (a British Protectorate in the Himalayas between Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan) decided to deliver the mail using rockets from the Oriental Fireworks Company of Calcutta. (His lifelong interest in rocketry started with the airborne transportation of lizards over the St. Patrick’s School swimming pool.) In the name of science, Taylor-Smith fired a rooster and hen (named Adam and Eve) across the Damoodar River on June 29, 1935.

The Postal Museum is careful to note that “rocket enthusiasts” (not the Post Office Department) sent mail hurtling from Texas to Mexico (about 4,000 feet) in 1936.

But things really took off in 1958, when a U.S. naval officer casually tossed a letter into a Regulus II missile to be fired from the USS Greyback. The United States’ “first official missile mail” flight took place 52 years ago this month, when Postmaster Summerfield decided to cram 3,000 letters into a guided Regulus 1 missile from the submarine USS Barbero. (The missile was sent from the submarine to the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Mayport, Florida.)

Summerfield was an enthusiastic fellow who believed that “Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles.”

Regulus mail box. Courtesy National Postal Museum.
Not everyone felt the love. As the Postal Museum’s Web site notes, Summerfield’s successor, J. Edward Day, terminated the program. “We are not using ICBM’s to carry mail,” he stated. “Our predecessors in the Department actually shot some mail up in a missile here in Florida a few years ago. But the press releases about this incident moved much faster than the missile mail. I understand that the letters took eight days to get to their destination.”