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   Vol. 17 No. 86
Monday December 17, 2018

First Cargo Flight Was Wright Stuff
The Wright Flyer

Orville and Wilbur WrightToday, December 17, 2018, marks 115 years since the Wright brothers flew their epoch first flight.
     But does anybody know who piloted the first air cargo shipment?
     The idea that an airplane might carry cargo was initially sparked seven years later in 1910, when a Columbus, Ohio merchant by the name of Max Morehouse recognized the public interest in “flying machines.” He struck a deal with the brothers, Orville (left) and Wilbur Wright (right) to transport 200 pounds of silk from Dayton, Ohio USA to his dry goods store in Columbus, Ohio.

Money On The Line

     The Wright brothers, also recognizing the value of their invention, charged Morehouse $5,000 to deliver the cloth.
     Today’s equivalent value of the air cargo charge would exceed $120,000. Morehouse, more than recovered his money for the flight. He did it by selling small pieces of the legendary silk attached to a postcard, celebrating the world’s first cargo delivered by airplane.

Phil & Up

Phil Parmelee     A young man named Phil Parmelee (left) piloted the Wright B. Flyer on November 7, 1910.
     He made the historic, 62-mile flight in 62 minutes, flying from Dayton to Columbus, his speedy arrival exceeding the expectations of all those who waited for him. As a result, only about 1,000 people saw him land.
     Shortly thereafter, as word spread, the crowd grew to around 4,000.
     Those 200 pounds of silk cloth, traveling less than 100 miles, launched an industry that spans the globe, moving millions of tons of air freight each year.

First Flight Remembered

     For the record Mitch Cary, President of Wright B. Flyer Inc., piloted a replica Wright B. Flyer in 2010 retracing that epic first air cargo journey.
     “We celebrated the significant accomplishments of the world’s first air cargo pilot Phil Parmelee, in addition to the start of the air cargo business.
     “Phil Parmelee flew this historic flight with little experience and training, having flown for the first time just two months prior to making the flight,” explained Cary.
     “He was responsible for a number of firsts and endurance flights in those early days of aviation.
     And unlike our planned flight, where we had two pilots to share flying duties, Phil flew his flight alone.”

Recalling Uncle’s Rising

     A descendant of the Wright brothers, Amanda Wright Lane recalls that historic remembrance.
     “The flight was just one part of Uncles Orv and Wilbur’s effort to promote aviation,” she recalled.
     “While they recognized their airplane might not be able to carry heavy loads, they knew the speed of flying was important in delivering certain types of cargo.”
     Parmelee family members Philip McKeatchie and his sister Lecia Lamphere have preserved the story of their great uncle’s famous flight.
     “Uncle Phil was told by Orville Wright, as he tacked a map to the wing strut just prior to take-off, ‘watch the map and do your best.
     “In spite of cold temperatures and flying solo, he did his best, and made history with what was not just the first air cargo flight, but also the first commercial flight in the world of aviation,” Lecia said.

The Wright Stuff

     Orville Wright lived from 1871 until 1948 and his brother, Wilbur Wright lived from 1867 to 1912.
     The brothers, it should be said were without question the world’s first successful airplane engineers.
     The first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was on December 17th, 1903.
     Even though there had been a number of airplanes in the world that had gone aloft in powered flight before the Wright Brothers, none of them were controllable.
     So the Wright Brothers rightfully take credit for the first controllable, powered, heavier than air flight.
     The reason they got the credit, and 115 years later the world celebrates their success, is because the Wright Brothers kept complete written and photographic records of everything that they did.
     Also the Wright Brothers documentation is arranged in a manner that is easy to read and understand.
     For example, the Wright’s left us exact specs so that almost anyone handy with tools can build their own DIY airplane and fly it!
     In an age of instant everything, including living in doubt, that simple truth is good to know.

Wright & Paul Garber

Paul Garber     The late Paul Garber (right) who found the National Air & Space Museum told me how NASM got started.
     “Orville was a friend,” Mr. Garber recalled.
     “We both agreed that the first airplane, the exact one that flew above Kitty Hawk should be donated to the Smithsonian.
     “So we arranged for the donation, and placed the aircraft in the original Smithsonian Building in Washington.
     “For years it hung above a display of aircraft models.”
     What happened next is pure fact. Smithsonian realized that more than 3 million people a year were visiting a rather smallish display, that included the Wright Flyer & Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”. Both aircraft hung above a display case of aircraft models.
     Today, both the aforementioned and dozens of other historic aircraft reside at NASM and an affiliate Paul Garber Facility at Dulles Airport in Virginia.
     The aircraft model display case, last time we checked, is now situate at the entrance to the NASM research library upstairs at the main downtown facility.

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