Mail plane

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A biplane in the summer of 1910 , the first to be used as a mail plane.
Mail dropped in German South West Africa , 1914
Mail plane with post horn markings , February 1919
The Heinkel HE 12 on the catapult on board the Bremen, 1931
DHL mail plane, 2011
FedEx cargo plane, 2011

Mail aircraft is a collective term for aircraft, the content of which is based on the intended use, type of construction or operator. The development of mail planes began in the 1910s and is closely related to the advancement of technology and the general development of airmail traffic . In the middle of the 20th century, the operation of mail planes was most widespread. At the beginning of the 21st century, global restructuring made them largely meaningless. The use of logistics drones has been considered since the 2010s.

Development history of postal aircraft

Beginnings until the Second World War

The early 19th century air transport of mail was practiced by the Paris balloon mail . At the same time as the availability of airplanes, the beginnings of airmail developed . The first machine used as a mail plane was a summer 1910 double-decker , which was flown by Henri Pequet in India on February 18, 1911 and carried 6,500 letters. The first German mail delivery by plane was carried out on June 11, 1912 at 7:04 p.m. by Lieutenant von Hiddelsen with his Euler aircraft, Gelber Hund . In a bag sealed by the Reichspost, he carried 20,000 letters and postcards from Frankfurt am Main to Darmstadt. The first officially approved mail flight in Germany took place one day later on June 12, 1912. In German South West Africa from May 1914 attempts were made to improve the transport infrastructure with a mail plane as part of the "First airmail attempt in DSWA" measure . Because of the great difficulties, the operation could not be maintained permanently.

In the 1920s and 1930s, some aircraft such as the Focke-Wulf A 36 were built for the exclusive transport of mail. The fast steamer Bremen and Europe of the North German Lloyd sat down with the Heinkel HE 12 , Heinkel HE 58 and Junkers Ju 46 Catapult - Seaplanes for postal advance flights , which accelerated to 1935 postal traffic across the Atlantic from the 1930th

Advances in aircraft construction made it possible to use aircraft in transatlantic passenger traffic in the 1930s. A “post office” was operated on board the Dornier Do X. Pierre-Georges Latécoère built mail planes and in 1927 founded the “Compagnie générale aéropostale”, which transported mail for French colonies and South America. Other postal airlines were later founded and, at the time of the airmail scandal of 1934 , postal planes were in operation in significant numbers. At times, mail planes had to be marked with the identification marks of the national postal authorities.

Second World War

During the Second World War , the situation in civil airmail was mixed. In some cases, traffic was completely stopped, in some cases reduced, and in some cases continued unrestricted. Airmail transported by the military had a considerable expansion, although it was not operated with postal planes. In most of the warring countries, these machines had been confiscated for the military.

1950s to late 20th century

After 1945 there was initially hardly any civil air traffic. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal Agency for Air Traffic Control took over the implementation of civil air traffic control services from 1953 after the Allies had placed air traffic control under their control in German hands. With the increase in air traffic and the transport capacities of aircraft, postal traffic shifted to civil aviation in the post-war period. Nevertheless, special areas of airmail transport were preserved. On September 1, 1961, the construction of the German night air mail began. This reached its peak in the 1990s and was dismantled again at the beginning of the 21st century.

21st century

In the 21st century, a number of cargo airlines also transport mail, among other things. Among them, China Postal Airlines is the only company whose name still shows the connection to a country's state post office. A new generation of mail planes is being planned for the 2010s. These are unmanned logistics drones, which DHL also calls “Parcelcopter” or “Parcelcopter 3.0”.

Legal status

In historical aviation law , postal aircraft of the state postal authorities were treated separately as "state aircraft". In the Paris Air Transport Agreement of 1919, all aircraft were prohibited from throwing material other than ballast. Mail planes were expressly excluded from this. The legal status of logistics drones as mail aircraft developed in the 2010s. Up until 2017, only a few test operations took place in Germany.

Known types of mail aircraft

Some well-known types of aircraft whose use is known as postal aircraft are named below: Blériot 5190 , Couzinet 70 , Douglas M-1 , Junkers Ju 46 , Latécoère 300 , Short Mayo Composite

See also


  • Wolfgang Lehmacher: How logistics shapes our lives: The added value of logistics solutions for the economy and society . Springer-Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-8349-4296-8
  • Peter Kuckuk, Hartmut Pophanken, Klaus Schalipp: A century of air and space travel in Bremen: From the earliest flight attempts to the Airbus and the Ariane , BoD, 2015, ISBN 978-3-95494-071-4
  • Kurt Tucholsky : Traffic above the house , 1931 ( online at )

Web links

Commons : Mail Planes  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Postflugzeug  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Henry Pequet and the First Mail Plane.Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  2. W. Lehmacher, p. 23
  3. Sebastian Mantei: From the "sandbox" to the communication network: The history of the development of the post and telegraph system in the colony of German South West Africa , Magdeburg, dissertation, 2004. Accessed on February 12, 2018.
  4. Kuckuk, Pophanken, Schalipp p. 111
  5. Reinhard Hofrichter: A typification of the DO-X on-board postmarks and investigation of their respective use. , 2004, (Aspects within the aerophilia of German overseas flights) PDF file, accessed on February 12, 2018.
  6. verkehrsrundschau: Hamburg Airport: Airmail era comes to an end Message from March 28, 2008, accessed on February 11, 2018.
  7. a b FAZ: Fliegender Bote from DHL message from March 28, 2008, accessed on February 12, 2018.
  8. The Paris Air Transport Agreement of October 13, 1919 (“Convention portant Réglementation de la Navigation Aérienne en date du 13 October 1919 ”), p. 14 (state aircraft), p. 123 (ballast dump), accessed on February 12, 2018.