The Republic’s air mail

Fernando Corsari

From war to peace

The history of Italian air postal transport since the end of the Second World War is closely linked to the reopening of civil air links, the rebirth of commercial airlines and the reorganization of postal services with the restoration of the air route for both domestic and foreign countries.
Article 8 of the long armistice of September 29, 1943 had imposed that “Italian airplanes of any kind will not take off from land, water or ships without prior orders from the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces”. The provision had blocked all Italian air activities, including civil ones, until the definition of the peace treaty, even if it was attenuated in its application by the same Allied Control Commission in operation since November 1943.
In the armistice period, after the arrival of the allied troops in Rome on June 4, 1944, the first American and British contacts began with the Italian government to set up joint air navigation companies, thanks to the launch of a debate on the problems in the allied countries of peace. The problems of world commercial aviation were dealt with in the conference held in Chicago from November 1st to December 7th, 1944 which concluded with the definition of the so-called “five freedoms” for international air traffic. These “freedoms” were partially accepted by the member states of ICAO, the UN-sponsored civil aviation organization, which preferred to adopt bilateral agreements after the intervention of IATA, the association of airlines favorable to traffic rights trading.
In Northern Italy under the RSI, the events by air of civil mail had taken place almost regularly from December 1944 until the end of the war operations on the Milan-Munich line, with branches for Berlin and Vienna and occasionally on the Venice-Trieste line. -River-Zara from July to October 1944. The concentration post office was that of Milan Ferrovia, the air surcharge was 1 lira every 20 grams.
In southern Italy, passenger air transport between the main cities was implemented in 1944 by the military air couriers, whose we have already spoken, who had resumed flying from 6 October 1943 between Brindisi and Sardinia to transport official correspondence, with a network then extended to Puglia and Calabria and by a Naples-Palermo courier. The air service of civil mail, limited to letters and postcards, was admitted from December 20th from Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto and from Cagliari, Sassari and Nuoro; from the first days of January 1944 civil air mail could be sent from the provinces of Calabria and Sicily and the postal service to foreign countries was opened for unoccupied allied or neutral countries. From May new routes were opened: Lecce-Catania-Palermo-Cagliari and Lecce-Bari-Salerno, then Lecce-Bari-Foggia-Naples. From March 1945 the planes flew on the Rome-Cagliari, Rome-Naples-Bari-Lecce, Rome- (Naples) -Palermo and Bracciano-Elmas routes. The allied Commission authorized the operation of two daily lines, for passengers and mail, from 1November 12th, 1945: the Rome-Milan-Turin and the Rome-Bologna-Treviso which completed the first, albeit thin and sparse, Italian public air network after the war.
A very visible sign of the end of the world conflict was the immediate and intense activity exercised by all countries in order to favor communications and transport in every way. If roads and railways were still to a large extent to be reopened and rebuilt – and this would have taken a long time – it was easier to rely on the air vehicle, using with few modifications the surplus of military transport aircraft, which suddenly became useless in their primary use. The companies that were able to be the first to secure transport rights, the availability of more profitable stopovers, routes and lines, would not only have rewarded the financiers, but also contributed to the economy of their country. Pending the peace treaty, in 1945 the italian government obtained thirty-two almost new Dakota C-47s from the United States, the Douglas DC-3 military version, twin-engine, became famous for the flying ability near 300 km/h with thirty passengers and only two crew members in stable and safety conditions.
While these aircraft were being transformed for civilian use, several European and American companies began to make a stopover on our territory carrying out test flights, special flights and finally the first regular scheduled flights. Of these experiments and inaugurations the only direct documentation that remains today is the mail transported, that is the flown correspondences – identifiable by date cancellations, special stamps, service labels, applied postage and other signs – consisting of letters private or official of the company, called aerograms in the collecting language of aerophilately.
In the last months of 1945 a Boeing B-17 of the Swedish ABA, which will form the SAS, arrived in Rome from Stockholm, via Paris, and from Amsterdam a DC-3 of the NGAT, then KLM, bound for Batavia.
The Italian postal administration ordered from 1 January 1946 the reactivation of the air mail service for European countries, with the exception of Albania, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland (where no airlines arrived or the service was still suspended) and fixed a single surcharge. From 1 March, air start-up began for a hundred non-European countries, via Marseille for West Africa and the Middle East, via Cairo for East Africa, Asia and Oceania, via Paris-New York for the Americas. There were many and different air surcharges, ranging from 5 lire for Tunisia to 63 for Venezuela.
The major foreign airlines that reached Italy with regular lines in 1946 and 1947 were the British BEA and BOAC, the Belgian SABENA, the Argentine FAMA, the Egyptian SAIDE and Air France. The airline that established itself in terms of length, regularity and frequency was the American one of the TWA which connected Washington and New York to Rome, via Shannon and Paris, from 31 March 1946, then extended to Cairo and with alternate stopovers in Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit, and in Lisbon, Madrid, Geneva and Athens. The freight and mail transport, together with the passenger transport, carried out across the Atlantic by the mighty Constellation quad-propeller made a great contribution to Italy’s economic recovery, facilitating diplomatic, commercial, political and cultural contacts between America and the Mediterranean countries.

The resumption of air transport

The new Democratic ordinary series released on 1 October 1945 also included five values for air mail of 1, 2, 3 and 20 c., 5 and 10 lire. The amounts made it possible to pay the air surcharges of the mail entrusted to the few connections already operational. Two sketches illustrating the series, one of which showed an airplane without a propeller, identified with the Campini-Caproni reactor which in 1941 made the first postal jet flight in the world from Milan to Guidonia. The two hands clasping overlapping the plane symbolized the newfound peace. The series was integrated on July 13rd 1946 with the values of 25 and 50 lire, reissued in a different color on 21 April of the following year.

In the meantime, the countries reachable by air mail increased, as well as the tariffs. The value of 3.20 lire was increased to 6 lire with an overprint, while the ordinary air series was completed on February 16, 1948 with 100, 300 stamps. and 500 lire and on 10 September with the 1,000 lire one. The cartoon of these four high values reproduced one of the most popular airliners in the world, the Douglas DC-3, flying over the Capitol. The first celebratory air mail stamps were instead the six of September 1, 1947 for the fiftieth anniversary of the radio. In the values of 20 and 50 lire a small monoplane appeared enveloped by the protective waves of the radio.
After long and competitive international economic policy negotiations, in 1946 the company LAI, Lines Aeree Internazionali was born, on 11 February – with 40% of the capital of IRI and 40% of the American TWA – and the Aero Lines Italian International, then Alitalia, on June 8, with 40% of IRI and 40% of the British BOAC associated with the BEA. The two joint ventures were formally established on the following 16 September, both were guaranteed, under certain conditions, the exercise of internal and international lines after the signing of the peace treaty. In mid-April 1947 the allied authorization for the resumption of Italian flights within our country finally arrived. LAI started on 1 April with a DC-3 on the Rome-Milan, followed two days later on the same route by the ALI, Avio Lines Italiane with FIAT capital.
The small independent companies, however, had a short life, because they were unable to balance the income with the high maintenance cost of the aircraft or to cope with the inadequacy of minor airports, the scarcity of pilots, the lack of valid radio aids. The first to close were in 1948 Teseo and Salpanavi, Airone, SISA and Transadriatica reunited in 1949 in the “Riunite Fleets” and joined forces with ALI, but at the end of 1951 they merged into LAI. Private individuals were forced to give up air transport, which returned to a de facto public monopoly with almost all lines shared between only two state-funded companies.
At the end of 1947 the Italian companies opened many new routes also towards foreign countries. The ALI flew to Istanbul, in 1948 it arrived in Brussels, Paris and Zurich, in 1949 in Nice, and the SISA in Vienna. LAI – which now took particular care of its traffic in the name of “efficiency and profit” – reached Lydda-Tel Aviv and Munich in 1949. In 1950, with a bilateral agreement with the United States, he inaugurated the first Italian line on the North Atlantic, the Rome-New York, and in the following years he expanded his network to Tunis and Tehran. The sister company Alitalia, penalized by the contractual commitment of British equipment and materials, reached London, Cairo, Rio and Buenos Aires in 1948 and in 1950 the distant Mogadishu.
One of the major sources of income for the companies was that of the fees paid by the postal administrations for the transport of dispatches and, on this point, the rivalry with foreign companies was strong. The general situation of air traffic of the time did not ensure punctuality and certainty in the availability of flights, so that the use of them for postal transport generated situations that are unimaginable today. Each shipment directed abroad had to be entrusted to the first available device, of any nationality, departing for the requested destination. Foreign companies offered a greater number of flights and therefore destinations to Italian airports, and had the possibility of pocketing greater compensation from our post offices. The Italian companies defended themselves by delaying the departure of planes for hours,
Air fares in the late 1940s show some decreases, then undergo periodic and slight increases.
In 1952 two new postal tickets were put on sale: one for Europe with only the ordinary rate of 60 lire; the other, reserved for the United States and Canada, cost 120 (60 of ordinary tax plus 60 of the air tax) with the advantage of not paying the cost of the sheet.

The great Italian airlines

In the early 1950s, the life of our national companies was not an easy one, even if it coincided with the years of the “economic miracle” which saw gross product grow at an average of 5% per year and per capita income double in a decade. Most of the international traffic passed through Rome, and since the Urbe airport, formerly del Littorio, was not suitable for Atlantic four-engined planes, in 1950 all the companies moved to Ciampino, whose runway had been renovated and illuminated, eliminating from the ground the deteriorated metal grates of wartime. About 5 tons of mail passed through Ciampino every day.
Also for Milan the new Malpensa airport was inaugurated on 21 November 1948 in anticipation of a strong growth in intercontinental traffic. However, the looming fog in the area meant that flights were repeatedly interrupted in the bad season. On 6 December 1948 an ALI DC-3, taking off from Linate to Brussels, crashed on the embankment of the nearby seaplane base due to poor visibility.
On the eve of the Holy Year 1950, LAI managed to procure three new Douglas DC-6s for its fleet, the best long-distance aircraft of the time. It was pressurized and carried 60 passengers with three crewmen at approximately 500 km per hour. LAI, national and European by birth, also established itself in the Atlantic connections. Alitalia responded by purchasing the cheaper, but equally efficient, Douglas DC-4s which replaced the obsolete British Lancastrians and the old Italian S.95s on the lines to South America. On short and medium-haul routes, LAI included the twin-engined Convair 240 and Alitalia, shortly after, the more powerful and capable Convair 340s. The competition between the two companies for budgetary operational and economic supremacy continued unabated. The institution of the new tourist class contributed to it opening air transport usage to a wider passengers range.
On October 5th, 1954 Trieste returned to Italy. The letters departing on October 26 from the Julian city with the LAI line for Rome received a special company stamp to celebrate the event.
The year 1954 ended with this budget: LAI had flown for almost 15 million kilometers, while Alitalia for 6 million. However, the LAI situation worsened, also due to the disengagement announced by the associated TWA, while the debate on the convenience of creating a single Italian airline was heated. The succession of disasters that struck, often due to bad luck, some LAI devices had a great weight on the ongoing discussion. The memory of these accidents – in some cases without victims due to the skill of the captains – also remained in the mail recovered from the aircraft, an operation due to the provisions of the clauses adopted from the first steps of the airport transport, gradually updated and included in the acts of the conventions of the Universal Postal Union. There are therefore correspondences that often bear the signs of disaster. Among these, some that were on board the LAI aircraft, such as those of Malpensa (DC-6 of the New York-Milan flight of 23 December 1951), of Jamaica Bay of New York (DC-6B from Rome of 18 December 1954) of Orly of Paris (DC-6B from Rome to New York on December 23rd, 1956).

In 1956 Alitalia had extended – with a stopover in Khartoum – the line to Mogadishu as far as Nairobi, Salisbury (now Harare) and Johannesburg, and had inaugurated the line to Baghdad. In April 1957 the Naples-Milan connection continued alternately for Paris and Frankfurt. On 10 August 1957, as expected, the integration of LAI into Alitalia was announced and on the following 31 October the personnel, the fleet and the concessions of the respective lines were unified in the company “Alitalia-Lines Aeree Italiane”. Thus was born our national airline, 3,000 people with almost 300 pilots, equipped with 37 aircraft, in addition to 4 already ordered. The decisive contributions and decisions of IRI in the foundation and existence of Italian public companies cannot be ignored, as well as the annual postal administration disbursements in favour of italian commercial aviation, as fees for received services: from 2.800 millions of lira in 1951 to 2100 millions in 1957, equal today respectively to 35 and 22 millions of euro.32

The postal experiments with helicopter

The first two helicopters arrived in Italy in 1949 and were used for the anti-malarial campaign in Sardinia organized by the ministry of agriculture. It was the Fiera di Milano – which had the first heliport in Europe built on the roof of a pavilion – that encouraged studies on the use of the new vehicle by organizing an international exhibition and two congresses of experts. Theme of one of them was “the helicopter in the postal services”. The first postal flight in Italy was that of a Bell 47-D1, pilot Bellinvia, on 4 September 1950 on the Trieste-Riccione-San Marino route. In 1954 various experiments were carried out to concretely evaluate the usefulness of using the rotary wing in postal transport. The first took place on 21 April from Milan Linate to Malpensa to test the reduction in start-up times for air dispatches in South America formed in Milan Foreign Air Mail and to be loaded on the Alitalia plane taking off from the intercontinental airport. We know direct mail to Lisbon and Buenos Aires.
The second experiment on April 27, from Milano Fiera to Turin Valentino and back, proved a quick connection between the capitals of two neighboring regions. The helicopter, from SABENA, had arrived from Brussels at the Milan Fair where the 3rd International Vertical Flight Exhibition was held. The mechanical cancellation plate bears the wording “with postal peddler”, but in fact on the aircraft the postal employees limited themselves to the custody of correspondence, without carrying out the duties of peddlers. On April 24, a 25 lire stamp dedicated to the Milan-Turin experiment was issued: the trophy offered by the Milan Fair for the second international helicopter competition is reproduced. Winged statue of the trophy and postage stamp are the work of the sculptor Aurelio Mistruzzi.
The third experiment verified the sorting of correspondence between city districts difficult to connect, such as those of Venice. On 31 July a helicopter left with the mail from the field of San Nicolò al Lido, where the fourth international aeronautical exhibition was held, and made a launch in Piazza San Marco. He then stopped in Piazzale Roma for a second dispatch, on the mainland in Mestre for the third delivery, and finally to the Alberoni the fourth. Then he returned to the airport.
The fourth and last postal flight was that of the morning of 10 October with two helicopters, one on the Ligurian Riviera di Ponente and one on the Riviera di Levante. The test was to be used to evaluate the fast delivery of mail from Genoa to the important centers of the region, and from these the collection of dispatches to be sent to Genoa for subsequent forwarding. Few news were circulated before the transport, so that the correspondence carried was the very scarce one found in the mailing boxes on the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning of the flight. The mail loaded in Genoa received the special “Colombian Celebrations” cancellation – during which the International Communications Congress was held – the remaining only the ordinary cancellations of the localities concerned. San Remo, Imperia, Albenga and Savona to the west; Sestri Levante, Rapallo and Santa Margherita to the east. A large rubber stamp, with the precise indication of the connection made, was applied to the correspondences of each dispatch.
Other experiments were organized by the postal administration in early 1959, with a twin-engined Vertol helicopter that touched Genoa, Milan and Turin. In April, an “extraordinary helipostal connection” between Milan and Turin and back was repeated, which was little publicized. In July, the regular summer-only service of the Elivie between Naples and the islands of the Gulf began, intended mainly for tourists, including the transport of goods and mail. The activity of this company ended in 1971 due to the decrease in traffic and the lack of further subsidies.
In the end he found that the postal use of the helicopter is convenient and necessary only in exceptional and emergency cases because this machine, particularly complex, has high operating costs that exceed those of the plane.

The first transportation with jet planes

On May 2nd, 1952 the first jet airliner, a Comet 1 of the BPAC, landed in Rome Ciampino, which after the stop went on to Beirut, Karthoum, Entebbe, Livingstone, until reaching the terminus Johannesburg. It was the first regular flight of a jetliner, as it was called by the technicians. He covered the entire 10000 kilometers journey in 23 hours and 34 minutes, at around 800 km / h, carrying 36 passengers with five crewmen and a package of official envelopes prepared for the inauguration by the BOAC in the exact number booked by the collectors . The De Havilland construction company immediately began to receive orders from companies all over the world, while at Ciampino the commercial jet made daily stopovers on the outward and return lines to South Africa, and then on those open to Singapore, to Ceylon, and in 1953 for Tokyo.
During this period there were two accidents, one without casualties in October 1952 with the quadcopter destroyed on take off from Rome, attributed to a pilot error, and the other in 1953 with the aircraft crashing near Calcutta during a violent storm. However, when in 1954 two other Comets fell in the Tyrrhenian Sea after having recently left Ciampino, on 10 January in the stretch of sea between the islands of Elba and Montecristo and on 8 April near the island of Stromboli, all Comet of the fleet were withdrawn from service. Only the reconstruction of the plane that sank in Elba – the very same G-ALYP of the inaugural flight of 1952 – with a long and careful recovery of the wrecks at sea, allowed to discover that the explosions had occurred at high altitude due to the continuous and repeated variations in pressure suffered during flights from the pressurized cabin. The cause was determined by the “metal fatigue” used in the production, an aspect hitherto unknown in the field of aircraft construction. In the first searches in the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, our fishermen found, among other things, some postal bags bound for London and coming from Malaysia, Singapore and Pakistan. Correspondence whose address could be deciphered was either delivered to the recipient or returned to the sender.
Aviation history called the premature adventure of commercial jet flight a “false start”. De Havilland and the British industry in the sector modified designs and materials and re-entered the game in 1958 with the new Comet 4. Many companies, including Alitalia, had already ordered the series 43 DC-8 quadrigetto from the American Douglas for the long-haul network and to the French Sud Aviation the twin-jet Caravelle SE 210 for the short and medium-haul network.
On May 23, 1960, Alitalia was thus able to enter the jet age by connecting Rome to Paris and London, using the new Caravels – with a characteristic queue entry for the tourist class – and on June 2, creating the first jet flight in Italy- USA of an Italian company. A special cancellation was used in Rome on the dispatch mail of the three inaugural flights. He thus had a new flying technique in the civil transport sector that engaged pilots trained in Toulouse for the Caravels and in Long Beach, California for the DC-8s. The use of the jet aircraft basically depends on the concept of “thrust”, while the use of histone engines, from the very beginning, on that of “traction”, exerted by the propellers. The new machines not only renewed the fleet and reduced flight times but brought to personnel selection and to the birth of a new pilots generation.

In the same year, on April 5, two new airport tickets were issued, this time called aérogramme, as established by the UPU convention of 1957, at a price of 60 and 110 lire. The first was valid for Europe and the second for all non-European countries, near or far, without the application of other stamps, but with the prohibition of introducing sheets in the package. A way to encourage the use of air mail and reduce the weight of the shipment by standardizing the measures.

The night air postal network and Alitalia

The need to speed up postal transport in our territory, with the delivery of correspondence in the main cities from today to tomorrow, and the gradual elimination of costs for the rental of postal carriages and for staff, prompted our postal administration to propose to Alitalia the overnight transport of ordinary mail, without paying an additional fee, as an extension of the air travel abroad, and the daytime transport of internal correspondence by express, already implemented by the company. The proposal was well accepted by Alitalia and its subsidiaries ATI and Aermediterranea for many reasons, including the full use of unused aircraft during the night, the return of the crews to the capital avoiding the cost of accommodation outside Rome and above all the income for the service provided,
To celebrate the first year of operation of the night air mail network, a series of two stamps was issued on November 3, 1965.

In addition to the main postal interchange in Rome, some peripheral ones were later added. By the end of 1967, the length of the 16 lines and sections that were traveled twice every night had reached a total of 7,992 kilometers. The longest was the direct Linate-Naples of 652 km and the shortest Turin-Linate of 130 km. The contract between the Post Office and Alitalia lasted nine years; in 1972 it was renewed for as many. while the aircraft used had been replaced with the Fokker F-27 turboprop and with the Caravelle and DC-9 jets. It was then renewed again in 1983 and 1992 with an increase in the number of flights and the tonnage transported, until the agreements of 1997 with the new Italian Post Office. On the service timetables, the number indicating the flights to be carried out was preceded by the initials AZP, i.e. Alitalia Postale, and the initials IHP, that is Itavia Postale. The latter was the private carrier which since 1967 had been entrusted with the connection with Rome to and from Bologna, Falconara / Ancona and Pescara. The night air transport of mail, regardless of the type of device, the affiliated company and the funds requested, was and has now become an ordinary transport system, completed by road and sea and, until recently, by rail.
By examining the correspondence carried in the first two years of the night service, we noticed the use of ordinary cancellations, departing or arriving, with aeronautical indications. We remember them. In Rome, the “Poste Roma … Aereoporto”, where a name appears (probably Ciampino, abandoned for Fiumicino) and the anomalous spelling “airport” instead of the correct “airport”, the “R. Fiumicino Airport Arrivals “and the” R. Airmail Railway “. In Milan, the “M. Transits Airport “and the” M. Ferr. Corr Air Mail Ord. “. In Turin, the “Poste T. Centro Corrisp. Air Mail ”and the“ Poste T. Aeroporto ”Trans. Ordin. ” In other cities, “Verona CP Air Mail”, “Genoa Ferrovia Air Mail”, “Rimini Post Office (FO) Airport Transits”, “psa Ferrovia Post Air Mail” and “Post Catania Airport Transits”.
At the end of the nineties, the nocturnal aeropostal network connected Rome with Turin, Genoa, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Pisa, Cagliari, Palermo, Catania, Lamezia, Naples, Bari-Brindisi, and Alghero with Pisa from Tuesday to Saturday. Sunday and Monday the network consisted of flights Rome-Milan-Turin, Rome-Naples-Bari, Rome-Palermo-Catania, Rome-Cagliari-Alghero. It was flanked by a daytime airport network that connected Rome with Turin, Genoa, Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Alghero, Cagliari, Naples, Bari, Lamezia, Palermo and Catania and was also composed of another thirty direct flights between the different cities.
Alitalia had upgraded the fleet with eleven DC-8 / 62s with greater capacity and range than the previous Douglas 40 series, had ordered thirty DC-9 / 30s and exercised the option for four Jumbo B- 747, in 1970 inaugurated the transpolar route to Tokyo, via Anchorage. The national airline had thus completed the world tour reaching the top positions for the number of passengers transported in the ranking of international companies.
In 1971, for the 25th anniversary of its foundation, the new tricolor symbol “A”, affixed to the drift of the Alitalia aircraft, all of them jet, was represented on three celebratory stamps issued on 16 September. The value of each one also represented a sector of activity of the company: that of 50 lire the tariff for the internal letter (the air surcharge had been abolished) with the national network; the 90 lire one the rate for a letter for our continent, also in this case without a surcharge, to start with the European network and the 150 lire one the full rate of a letter for the United States (I bring 90 lire plus 60 lire air surcharge) to be initiated with the intercontinental network.

On the surface, everything seemed to be proceeding in the best way, but unfortunately the consequences of world political instability began to be felt. The situation in the Middle East was worsening, the war in Vietnam continued, Nixon devalued the dollar, tourist currents decreased, strikes in our country increased, including those in air transport. Other events happened, and ultimately the cost of fuel skyrocketed.

Special Flighs

One of the most significant periods in Italian aeronautical history. What goes from the first to the second world war is certainly known to everyone for the special flights made by some of our great pilots, such as De Bernardi and Ferrarin, De Pinedo and Nobile, Balbo and Lombardi. The experiments, flights, raids, cruises, carried out individually or in groups by these men, are known not only by the general public, but remembered and investigated by researchers and scholars especially through the mail they transported during their businesses. . The historical and documentary value of these aerograms, “authenticated” by postage, stamps and postal signs, adds value and interest to their collectible rarity.
In the Republican period, special flights maintained their particular character, linked to technical or sporting, humanitarian or political, celebratory or military reasons. The Italian chronicle does not forget the feat of Leonardo Bonzi and Maner Lualdi who on January 19, 1949 managed to cross the Southern Atlantic from Dakar to Brazil with a difficult 17-hour flight, without radio, parachute and lifeboat.
The aircraft was a SAI 1001 Grifo monoplane, equipped with a 125 horsepower engine, with a maximum speed of 240 km / h. They had called it the Angel of the children because the purpose of the raid was to sensitize politicians and the general public to the problem of the re-education of the war-maimed, a work that Don Carlo Gnocchi had just started. The philatelists contributed to the collection of funds with the purchase of 500 envelopes which the small machine transported from Milan, canceled on 27.12.48, to Buenos Aires, stamped on 14.2.49. A red stamp, the pilots’ signatures, a celebratory letter seal complete these aerograms today. The protagonists have now disappeared and there is only a copy of the plane because the original was destroyed in Costa Rica.

In 1949 a race for airplanes began on the Palermo-Catania-Palermo route, known as the “International Air Tour of Sicily”, which in the short space of years became one of the most famous tourist aviation competitions. The handicap formula added further reason of interest, both for the participants and for the enthusiasts and the annual continuity ensured maximum involvement for half a century and created a tradition that is still alive today. The aerograms with Italian or foreign postage are sought, which in each edition are transported by a competing plane.
Again Maner Lualdi, famous for his impossible feats, in 1953 organized an Arctic raid with Max Peroli, well known in the aviation world for a dramatic return in 1941 from Addis Ababa to Rome, via Gedda, Bengasi and Tripoli. The two colleagues flew from Rome to Milan, via Paris and Oslo, with a tourist plane and a 158 horsepower engine, named Girofalco, to the northernmost point of Norway. The raid commemorated the 25th anniversary of Roald Amundsen and the shipwrecked shipwrecks of Nobile’s Italia dirigible. 500 aerograms on board the Girofalco bearing the postmark of departure in Milan on March 4th and arrival in Tromso on May 2nd.

In 1957 Lualdi again carried out the “Italians in the world” raid together with the pilot Ruggero Ruggeri, again with a small plane, this time a Fiat G.49 called Arcobaleno. Starting from Milan, he crossed Europe and the Atlantic from Iceland to Labrador, bound for the United States. The mail, only 25 stamped and stamped letters at each stop, ended its journey in Los Angeles on October 18 and the plane then reached Mexico City. In Milan, a mechanical cancellation was used, which recalls the aegis of CONI for the company dedicated to Italian emigration, and a large illustrated

In the following years, other special flights carried mail. The flight of the DC-6B left for Japan on May 21, 1970, with an Air Force mission led by gen. Cesare Graziani, for the 50th raid carried out by Arturo Ferrarin. The dispatches, directed at six Asian airports from Smyrna to Tokyo, marked the path of the raid. In 1971, Alitalia commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the Italy-Brazil cruise with a flight to Rio de Janeiro.

The presidential flights

The flights abroad of the presidents of the Republic are also special, but with different characteristics: the political and diplomatic significance predominates in them. For those of President Giovanni Gronchi to the Americas, celebratory stamps were issued, designed to frank the special despatches to be entrusted to the plane that would transport the official delegation.On February 24, 1956, an air stamp of the current type of 50 lire was issued, but in a different color, with the new value of 120 lire and the superimposed wording “1956 / Visit of the President of the Republic to the USA and Canada”. The amount of 120 lire included the ordinary port of 60 lire plus 60 for the air port of 5 grams for the United States. The letters with this stamp were loaded with the stock of the LAI DC-6 four-helix, initials I-LYKE, that on the evening of the following 26 left Ciampino for Washington. The Roma Ferrovia mechanical departure cancellation included a plate illustrated with an airplane, the outline of Italy and the American coast and the wording identical to that of the postage stamp.
Two years later the preparation of a dispatch was repeated on the occasion of the trip to Brazil. On 23 August 1958, a stamp was issued for the Italian-Brazilian friendship. Its value of 175 lire included the port of 60 lire and the air port for Brazil of 115 lire. The Rome Ferrovia Air Mail office applied a special circular cancellation to all mail that arrived in Rome with the wording “special flight of 3.9.1958”. At 17.30 that day, an Alitalia DC-6B left for Rio de Janeiro with the official party. The dispatch bore a large special red or violet company stamp. The return flight from Porto Alegre on 14 September also transferred a small courier to Italy, franked with the 7 Cr Brazil postage stamp. With the effigy of Gronchi.
The history of the presidential flight to South America in 1961 is more complex due to the case of the Gronchi rosa, the postage stamp replaced due to an error in the drawing of the borders of Peru: I refer to the chapter of this volume that deals with the subject. The entire mail load of the presidential four-wheeler DC-8 included mail for Lima, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and weighed a total of 325 kilos, including container bags. A special mechanical cancellation was used in Roma Ferrovia for the dispatch, or the ordinary stamp of the Air Mail Department was used with a plate, applied separately, identical to that of the mechanic but slightly smaller in width. In Lima there are two arrival stamps, one mechanical and one manual round.

The supersonic flights

Human flight broke the sound barrier in 1947. It was several years before the post was involved with this record. The first Italian postal transport at supersonic speed was carried out by Aviano in Trapani Birgi on 26 June 1976 by the F-104 S Pluto 22 reactor, under the command of cap. Aldo Rossi of the 51st Wing of the Air Force based in Istrana. The figured cancellation is labeled “supersonic airmail experiments.” The distance of 911 kilometers was covered in 43 minutes at an average of 1,268 km / h, mach 1.19.
Supersonic transport with a civilian aircraft was achieved when a British Concorde arrived in Italy on 12 September 1982, connecting London to Rome and back. On 23 October the first French Concorde arrived in Turin, coming from Paris. The two charter flights are remembered by official envelopes prepared and flown by their respective companies.

From air mail to priority mail

The unification and transparency of postal rates and the provisions agreed in the UPU congresses have now led the post offices to order the partial abolition of the air surcharge for the letters and postcards category. For Italy the surcharge was abolished from 1 January 1954 to 31 August 1961; from 1 September 1961, and until 30 March 1974 it was reinstated “if expressly requested by the users”, even if the post office still reserved the right to transport mail by air even without a surcharge, if it were more convenient. Then it was definitively abolished. . For Europe it was abolished from 1 January 1954 to 31 August 1961; from 1 September 1961 to 31 July 1970 it was reinstated, under the same conditions as the internal service. It was definitively abolished before the internal service. to “simplify the work of postal operators as much as possible”. From 25 March 1975 the air surcharges that remained in force for non-European countries, and still different for each destination, were divided into only 5 continental bands.
The trend towards the abolition of the air tariff led Italy to issue the last air mail stamp on March 28, 1973, as other states had done for years. It was a value of 150 lire dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the Italian Air Force, which occurred on that very day, illustrated by an aerial view of the Air Force Academy of Pozzuoli flown over by an F-104 S reactor. All air mail values still valid remained in progress, after several tariff increases, until May 13, 1992.
The surcharge for letters and postcards for non-European countries is no longer required from February 15, 2000, the day of the entry into force of the international priority courier. In fact, the sender who opts for the priority courier gets the shipment by air for the whole world, logically excluding those connections, partial or total, which allow to reach the destination by surface in a shorter time. Airport transport has not been abolished, but only the air fare, absorbed by the cost increase of the priority courier. For example, some countries have included the words “par avion” or “air mail” or the profile of an airplane in the mandatory priority start-up label. However, the air surcharge for non-European countries for other objects remains in force,
The CAI-POST service, an international expedited courier. Established in 1983 and now extended to all countries, it obviously uses air transport.
The research, study and collection of each aerogram – which represents the main element of aerophilately, whatever the chosen historical, geographical, technical, or other approach – requires a broad knowledge of general philately and specialist, as well as a particular interest in the history of the conquest of the air. The aerofilatelic documentation of the presented panorama has allowed us to investigate and discover, in the past half century of the Italian Republic, the most significant aspects of aeronautical history and aeropostal history, connected with economic and commercial development, with technical and industrial progress, with the evolution and expansion of cultural and social relations.