Aeropostale: the hero pilots who linked the world by aircraft
(CNN) – What do two main nationwide airways, an American style model, a big publicly traded industrial firm, a Hollywood movie and several other award-winning literary works have in widespread?
They’re all linked to the extraordinary legacy of an airline that ceased to exist 90 years in the past this 12 months.
Regardless of its comparatively short-lived existence, from 1918 to 1931, the “Compagnie générale aéropostale”, generally recognized merely as Aéropostale, has left an indelible mark, each on the earth of civil aviation and within the public creativeness.
On the finish of the First World Warfare, the French aviation pioneer Pierre-Georges Latécoère realized his imaginative and prescient of creating an everyday air hyperlink transporting mail between Europe and Latin America.
The agency generally known as Aéropostale was based on the finish of 1918 below the official title of “Société des traces Latécoère”.
Within the decade that adopted, this firm wouldn’t solely contribute immensely to the consolidation of air transport as a vital service in several components of the world, but additionally turned synonymous with journey and fearlessness. The historical past of Aerópostale is probably the final nice epic of the period of exploration.
The lengthy journey of Aéropostale started in Toulouse, within the south of France. From there it crossed the Pyrenees to Barcelona, adopted the Spanish Mediterranean coast to Alicante, then to North Africa, which on the time was below Spanish and French rule.
The road continued south alongside the Atlantic coast of Morocco, with a number of waypoints alongside the best way: Casablanca, Agadir, Cape Juby / Tarfaya and the present cities of Dakhla, Nouadhibou and Saint-Louis, till reaching its African terminus in Dakar, Senegal. .
Given the restrictions of planes on the time, mail was then loaded onto ships that linked the South Atlantic at its narrowest level, between West Africa and northeastern Brazil.
From there, the Latin American department of Aéropostale took over. Its planes carried mail to Buenos Aires and past. Argentina’s capital acted as a hub from which a number of regional routes sprang up, carrying air mail throughout the Andes to Santiago de Chile, northern Paraguay and south to Patagonia.
A magnet for adventurers
This enterprise was not for the faint hearted. Along with the vagaries of flying within the Twenties, which was a quite harmful and uncomfortable job, Aéropostale pilots needed to cross huge areas in excessive weather conditions and devoid of any supporting infrastructure.
However which will even have been a part of the enchantment.
The peaks of the Andes, at a peak of 20,000 ft, represented a formidable impediment for the delicate plane of the time. In one of many passages of the e-book, Saint-Exupéry tells the story of his shut companion from Aéropostale Henri Guillaumet, who, after crashing his aircraft on an Andean glacier, spent a number of days on an epic trek within the snow and ice. He managed to succeed in an remoted Argentine colony as he was on the verge of succumbing to chilly and fatigue.
This sort of epic could be adopted by “Terre des Hommes” (translated into English as “Wind, Sand and Stars”), on Saint-Exupéry’s expertise of flying within the Sahara desert. Pilots needed to depend on primitive navigation and there was usually the danger of operating out of gas or encountering technical difficulties. Pilots making emergency landings within the desert risked being captured by native nomadic tribes who then tried to ransom them.
This e-book additionally consists of the near-death expertise of Saint-Exupéry, already in his post-Aéropostale interval, after a crash within the Egyptian desert. Saint-Exupéry and his co-pilot endured an exhausting journey within the desert throughout which they have been about to die of thirst earlier than being rescued by a Bedouin tribe.
French author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry photographed round 1935. His most well-known e-book is “Le Petit Prince”.
Hulton Archives / Getty Photos
This pioneering spirit was not unique to pilots.
The story of Raymond Galtié is an effective instance. Born in 1901 within the south of France, he joined the submarine arm of the French navy as an adolescent. After having served throughout the years of the First World Warfare, Galtié left the navy in 1922 to affix Aéropostale, the place he labored as a mechanic.
“The mechanics of the time usually flew with well-known pilots, like Mermoz or Saint-Exupéry. They developed shut friendships as a result of they spent many hours collectively in these fragile little planes, ”says Sònia Galtié, granddaughter of Raymond Galtié, who just lately got here by means of a mine of previous household pictures.
This led her to deepen her analysis on the lifetime of her grandfather and Aéropostale. She has come throughout a number of web sites and boards that remember the reminiscence of the airline and this tight-knit group of individuals devoted to the development of aviation.
Raymond Galtié’s engagement with Aéropostale had a cheerful ending. He traveled the world, working at a number of firm outposts in Latin America and Europe, earlier than pursuing a profitable profession with Air France.
However that was not the destiny of the agency’s best-known pilots.
Mermoz, Saint-Exupéry and Guillaumet all tragically finish their days on the helm of their plane within the years following the disappearance of Aéropostale.
The latter two disappeared whereas in service within the Mediterranean throughout World Warfare II, in 1944 and 1940 respectively, most likely as a consequence of enemy motion (a aircraft wreck discovered close to Marseille in 2003 has since been positively recognized as a Saint-Exupéry plane).
In the meantime, Mermoz was misplaced in December 1936, whereas crossing the South Atlantic, in an incident some have attributed to sabotage, though engine reliability points could have been a extra possible trigger.
In Could 1930, French aviator Jean Mermoz (heart) who was the primary pilot to fly from Rio de Janeiro to Santiago throughout the Andes.
STF / AFP through Getty Photos
An enduring legacy
If he remained inextricably linked to the aeronautics business all his life and continued to construct one of many largest aerospace corporations in France, the Latécoère Group, which nonetheless exists right this moment, Pierre-Georges Latécoère bought in 1927 the air mail exercise to Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont, a French financier and politician who gave it a brand new title: “Compagnie Générale Aéropostale”.
By 1930, Aéropostale had grow to be a large logistics operation, carrying 32 million letters per 12 months over 17,000 kilometers of air and sea routes (Aéropostale additionally operated a fleet of eight ships) that straddled three continents.
The identical 12 months, Jean Mermoz, one of many agency’s legendary pilots, would shut the Atlantic breach on the helm of a Latécoère 28 seaplane loaded with 122 kilos of mail. It took 19 hours and 35 minutes for Mermoz to fly between Senegal and Brazil. Though common ocean crossings proceed to be made by boat, Mermoz has proven that it’s doable for a letter from France to succeed in Santiago de Chile in as little as 4 days.
However quickly after reaching its peak, Aéropostale out of the blue retreated.
The monetary disaster of 1929 severely affected society, and political instability in Brazil and Argentina added to the woes. In 1931, the French authorities rejected an enchantment for monetary assist and Aéropostale was liquidated shortly after. Its property are absorbed by the group of corporations which can later grow to be Air France.
The Aéropostale model was nevertheless retained by Air France, which used it for a few of its mail and freight actions, operated collectively with the French Put up (La Poste), till 2000.
La Poste then obtained full possession of the corporate, renamed Europe Airpost, earlier than reselling it, this time to an Irish firm referred to as ASL Aviation Group, which so far operates passenger and cargo flights below the ASL Airways model.
The legacy of Aéropostale additionally lives on within the southern hemisphere.
The corporate’s Argentinian community, generally known as Aeroposta Argentina, continued to function lengthy after its European father or mother firm disappeared, because it supplied the nation’s solely scheduled civilian air service. It might finally be nationalized and merged with different airways to type Aerolineas Argentinas in 1946.
Moreover – maybe due to the dazzling personalities of the folks concerned in its operation and the extraordinary literary work they’ve left behind – the recognition of Aéropostale has transcended the boundaries of the aviation world to encourage the denomination of an American style retail chain (which, nevertheless, has no reference to the unique Aéropostale).
Nonetheless, nothing beats the actual factor.