TImeline: The evolution of the air freight industry

Business relies heavily on air freight to move goods quickly around the world. Unlike sea freight, air freight has a short, yet colourful, history

Airfreight timeline: 1910 - The first air shipment

The first air freight shipment took to the skies in 1910, when a US department store flew 200Ibs of silk 65 miles from Dayton to Columbus. The Model B plane, invented by the Wright Brothers, raced against an express train to see which transport mode would be quickest. The plane won easily, showing that air freight was a viable shipping option.

Airfreight timeline: 1911 -  Airmail

The potential of air for moving was further highlighted in 1911, when the UK ran a month-long trial to deliver mail by air as part of the Coronation celebrations for King George V. The flights flew 21 miles, from London to Windsor Castle. The experiment lasted for just 16 flights, due to constant severe bad weather. Early planes were ill-equipped to withstand such conditions, but the experiment showed what was possible.

Airfreight timeline: 1939-1945 - World War II

Huge strides in air freight were made during the war years, with planes playing an important strategic role as the quickest way to transport troops, weapons and supplies. During WWII, engineers in both the UK and Germany raced to develop the jet propulsion engine technology that would change air travel forever…

Airfreight timeline: 1968 - Boeing launches 747

The 747 was the first aircraft wide enough to transport full pallets in its cargo hold. Its final design was offered in three configurations: all passenger, all cargo, and a convertible passenger and freighter model. The freighter was loaded through a hinged nose cone.

Airfreight timeline: 1990s - Dawn of parcel carriers 

The idea of planes with the primary purpose of transporting cargo took off in the 90s. This was thanks to the growth of express parcel carriers such as FedEx, DHL and UPS, and also the rise of the internet, which made air freight a much more accessible and reliable prospect for importers and exporters.

Airfreight timeline: Present day -  A global marketplace

The Internet went on to open up a global marketplace. Air freight offers a quick and easy way of moving goods, but it comes at a price; shipping by sea is far cheaper. This is why retailers typically choose to fly high-value items (jewellery, for example) by air, and low-value items (toys and household items) by sea.


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