First cargo flight to be celebrated

September 23, 2010

A re-enactment of the nation’s first air cargo flight is planned in Ohio on Oct. 2 from Dayton to Columbus.

In 1910, using one of their airplanes assigned to the Wright Exhibition team, and with one of their newly trained pilots, the Wright brothers accepted an order from an Ohio businessman and carried 200 pounds of silk cloth along the route.

The National Aviation Heritage Alliance, in partnership with Wright B Flyer, Inc. will celebrate the 100th anniversary of air cargo with a flight that retraces the original route in a lookalike of the original airplane, a Wright Model B.

Mitch Cary, president of Wright B Flyer Inc. and the expected pilot of the upcoming flight, said the event celebrates the flight of pilot Phil Parmelee. “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. He was responsible for a number of firsts and endurance flights in those early days of aviation. And unlike our planned flight, where we will have two pilots to share flying duties, Phil flew his flight alone,” Cary said.

The Wrights, recognizing the value of their invention, charged the businessman $5,000 to deliver the cloth. Today’s equivalent value of the freight charge would exceed $120,000.

Philip McKeatchie of St. Johns, Mich., and his sister Lecia Lamphere of Scotts, Mich., 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 takeoff, ‘Watch the map and do your best.’”

Plans call for piece of ceramic composite cloth and a micro unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to be delivered to Columbus serving as a symbol of the Dayton region’s connection to aviation and aerospace innovations. Just as the Wright brothers were responsible for the technology that made flying possible, Daytonians working in places like the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing the technology associated with 21st century aviation and aerospace activities.

“I believe that in another hundred years, we will see a headline that speaks to the unmanned air vehicle industry and its roots in Dayton just as we see today with the air cargo industry,” said Tony Perfilio, the incoming chair of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | "AOPA Pilot" Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.