The Humble Beginnings of Air Freight

Today (Nov 7th) on Facebook,  the National Museum of the United States Air Force posted:

“Today in 1910: Phillip O. Parmelee delivered a bolt of silk from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, to complete the world’s first air cargo mission.”

Well, that’s enough to get anyone interested. I know how much powered flight means to my friends in the Buckeye State so I had to have a further look.   One thing they used to tell us back in Library School was go with the name.   Philip Orin Parmelee.

The Smithsonian/NASM website adds the detail that the aircraft was a Wright Model B,  and that the shipment was “sponsored by the Morehouse-Martens Department Store as a publicity event.” It’s 65 miles  from Dayton to Columbus, according to Parmelee’s route which took him by way of South Charleston and London, following the old National Road. The Wright brothers told the press Parmelee covered the distance in 66 minutes, but the flight was officially recorded at 57 minutes, a world speed record at the time.

The first commercial transport flight with an airplane took place on November 7, 1910, when Phil O. Parmelee carried two bolts of silk on his Wright Model B from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio. Smithsonian Institution. Image Number: WEB13578-2013

Parmelee was very much a pioneer and among his achievements are the first commercial flight of an airplane, establishing a world cross-country speed record, holding the world flying endurance record, piloting the first aircraft to drop a bomb, conducting the first military reconnaissance flight and piloting the first aircraft involved in the world’s first parachute jump.

Born in 1887, Parmelee was killed in 1912 while piloting an aeroplane at an exhibition in Yakima, Washington, when turbulence flipped the aircraft upside down. Had he lived, i’m certain he would be one of the major names of early aviation.