The success of the aeroplane led quickly to the introduction of airmail. United States in the vanguard and on 17 February 1911, Fred Wiseman made the first official airmail flight. He was carrying three letters between Petaluma and Santa Rosa California. However on the next day, the French pilot Henri Pequet carried 6,500 letters a distance of 13 km from Allahbad to Naini in India. That same year, on September 9, the first scheduled airmail postal service was inaugurated between Hendon, North London and Windsor.
British Troops stationed in Germany after the First World War received mail by air. In the 1920’s the RAF was responsible for developing routes for airmail to the Middle East. The French airmail service Aerpostale was inaugurated in 1918 at the instigation of Pierre Latecoere, a military aircraft manufacture who had ambitions to expand into commercial aviation.
In September 1919, he launched a regular service, called simply ”La Ligne”, (The Line), between Toulouse and Morocco, which he gradually extended to Dakar in Senegal (then known as French West Africa). Among its early pilots was Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who later became famous for books such as Night Flight and Southern Mail, recounting his flying exploits, and his children’s Novella the Little Prince?
Conditions for long distance mail pilots were grueling they had to contend with engine failures, appalling weather and even attacks by hostile tribesmen. Some downed airmen were captured and held to ransom. The heroes of “The Line” endured such hardships guided by the service motto: the mail must get through!
One of famous pilot Antoine de Saint Exupery and Henri Guillaumet posed with an Aeropostale Latecoere-28 monoplane, mainstay of the French airmail service.
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