22 June 1946 – A USAF P-80 Shooting Star carries the first airmail flown by jet.

“Airmail service developed after the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kill Devil Hill in 1903, as aviators began to anticipate airplanes’ practical uses, such as carrying mail. The first official airmail was flown from North Carolina on 2 Jan. 1911.

P-80 flies the airmail.

“The flight was planned as part of the 1946 General Electric Air Show.  The air show had been staged to dedicate GE’s new Flight Test Center at the Schenectady County Airport in Glenville, New York.

“One of the main goals of the air show was to show Americans how they benefitted from the products GE had built during World War II, and how these aviation products would continue to positively impact their lives in the future.  They also wanted to show how GE was investing in the local community…

“The show opened on June 21.  GE’s president as well as the Assistant Secretary of War and head of the Army’s Air Material Command all gave speeches, as did World War II aviator Jimmy Doolittle.  All of these speeches stressed the importance of air power during peacetime, so that America would always be prepared…

photo from https://thisdayintechhistory.com/06/22/jet-mail/

“To help create even more public interest in the event, GE worked with the US Post Office to arrange for the first Airmail delivery by jet-powered aircraft.  A small number of letters would be carried to other cities, while some would be carried aboard a quick jet flight over Schenectady.  After announcing the plans for the flight on June 11, they received such an overwhelming response (over 1,000 letters per day), they increased the total number of letters to be flown over Schenectady to 20,000.

“On June 22, two Lockheed P-80 Shooting Stars departed the air show carrying 750 Airmail letters each. ” Army Air Corps pilots Kenneth Chilstrom and Robert Baird transport mail in a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, thus making the first delivery of mail by jet aircraft.” (2) “One of the planes went to Washington, DC, while the other went to Dayton, Ohio, and then Chicago, Illinois.  Some of the letters they carried were addressed to President Harry Truman, Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly, and Orville Wright.  Letters to be flown over Schenectady were franked with an 8¢ Airmail stamp and processed at a temporary post office set up at the airport.

“At the time of the event, the Post Office didn’t have immediate plans to offer regular jet Airmail service – rather, it was a display of what was possible.  It would be several more years before jet Airmail delivery became a regular occurrence.” (3)

Sources:

  1. Wikipedia/Portal Aviation
  2. Jet Mail
  3. Mystic Stamp Company article
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