During the night of January 14-15 2000, all planes of the "Postale de Nuit", the night airmail, landed in Toulouse for the last time; this is the end of an extraordinary adventure whose main leader was Mr. Didier DAURAT.

October 26, 1945 : the first postal night flight service of postwar, Paris-Bordeaux-Toulouse-Pau, was the signal of the continuity of the big adventure of the pioneers of airmail transportation, and was the beginning of another adventure whose men, modest but discreetly proud of their elders, kept a human resonance.

Their rule has been : the mail must go on anyway. In 1947, new specific air regulations gave them the possibility to "go and see". They practiced the all-weather flying with fog, snow, wind, storm and even... clear sky.

This very particular kind of flying will certainly disappear with the "Postale".

Planes of that period : Junkers 52, DC3, DC4, F27, and Transall.


Some history...

May 15, 1918 : The industrialist, Mr. Latécoère, installed at Toulouse-Montaudran, reveals his project for a long distance postal aeronautical route including rigorous timetables : 7,000 NM in seven days and a half. On December 25, 1918, Latécoère takes-off with captain Henri Lemaître, in a Salmson aircraft, for a flight from Toulouse to Barcelona. He remarks: "we write mail every day, the postal plane doesn't have a sense except if it takes-off every day." The postal line begins.

1919 : Toulouse-Rabat. Daurat is back at Latécoère.

1925 : Toulouse-Casablanca-Dakar.

During this period, in South America, Mr.Vicente Almendoz of Almonacid, a man who served in the "Legion Etrangère" (the French Army Foreign Legion), was demobilized and is back in Buenos-Aires in 1919. A Farman fighter pilot during the war, Vicente Almendoz of Almonacid brings back with his luggage two airplanes, one of which was a Spad, an aircraft the French Armed Forces had offered to him. He flies all over South America and specializes in night flying. Vicente Almendoz of Almonacid will be the key man of all aeronautical adventures in South America.

1927 : Establishment of Aéropostale; Mr. Latécoère gives-up 93% of the shares of his society to Mr. Marcel Bouilloux-Laffont,  (Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont has been selected one of the "Top 100 Stars of Aerospace" by Aviation Week in 2003, honoring the most important, interesting and influential people during the last 100 years of manned, controlled, sustained, powered flight. 1912-1929, he was mayor of the city Etampes, one of the historic centers of the French aviation....  )  who put his promoter's talents to the extension of the airline on all of South America.

1931 : Discomfiture of Aéropostale. The French government withdraws his substantial postal subsidies. Any line should survive without subsidy. "Pioneers, as prophets, are never honored in own their country", states R.E.G. DAVIS * in 1981. He wants to know why and concludes, " The Aéropostale was a line model. It was led according to stern levels of security; it held nearly perfect timetables; it had considerably invested in runways, installation of support and radio communications, and it modernized its planes and its boats, as quickly as possible… The crews of the Aéropostale, ground people and the administration maintained a tradition imagined and achieved by Latécoère in 1918. The group spirit exercised in the Aéropostale was unequaled in any other aeronautical airlines of that time, and is even present in the rare surviving people of today. Such an ideal must have been reflected in the devotion and qualities of leadership of Mr. Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont. Men don't work for a bad leader and certainly not with the enthusiasm that was always opened out by the team of the Aéropostale "

1935 : Establishment of AIR BLEU. Daurat wants to establish a domestic postal aviation. The France-South America flights are made by train, nine months in a year, between Toulouse and Paris due to the bad weather. Daurat submitted his project to Air France who refused it. Georges Mandel is the Minister in charge of the Post office. With the help of Massimi, the AIR BLEU company is created in order to "apply to an interior network of postal transport that had been achieved on the international" network. Planes take-off and arrive to Paris daily. What we call now the IMC/IFR flying (flying without visibility) is studied and will be then normalized; the night flying is officially accepted.

May 10, 1939 : The crew Vanier (pilot) and Pauzies (radio operator), inaugurate the Paris-Bordeaux-Pau flight. The Pau-Bordeaux-Paris flight is flown by Libert (pilot).

October 26, 1945 : What is known as the "Postale de Nuit" restarts its activities with the inaugural
Paris-Bordeaux-Toulouse-Pau flight. Paul Graugnard wrote, " the Julie (Junkers 52) you know… the aeronautical beacons placed by Blue Air parade under our feet… it is the post-war... in the cockpit everything is calm… Captain Clément explains, take out the thermoses of coffee... restful flight. But the ambience changes, the radio operator, Roger Favier, has just showed Clement a meteorological message announcing the formation of fog in Bordeaux. Pilots get ready, a tablet of plywood fixed by a rubber band on the right knee, plenty of notes, plenty of hand-drawn plans held by a crowbar. The pocketsize lamps are within the reach of hand. Visibility 150 feet… Visibility 100 feet, the flight engineer reads the altimeter, visibility 30 feet and the QDM radial parade, the radio antenna is retracted. A light gleam, the landing gear touches the ground, a paved runway, brakes that heave a sigh loudly, the plane is stopped. The crew is waiting for the van to the hangar. A flight without any problems notes Clément… Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine the will that all participants, flight and ground crew, had to enliven, in order to surmount the human and material obstacles… For sure, the Postale people can be proud to have completed its duty…"

1947 : Agreement between Air France and the French Post Office in order to establish the Center of Metropolitan Postal operations, the Night Air Mail (Postale de Nuit). The manager is Didier Daurat, assisted by Raymond Vanier.

1948 : Introduction of the DC3

1962 : Introduction of the DC4

1967 : Introduction of the F27

1973 : Introduction of the C 160 - Transall.

1983 : Slight reduction of the "Postale" operations. The network begins decreasing. The assurance of a perfect regularity is not anymore of a great importance for the Post Office administration.

Commenced in Toulouse, the history of the "Postale" ceased during the night
of January 14-15, 2000 in Toulouse...

MERMOZ wrote in 1931 : "French know how to create, but know nothing about keeping."

Henri EISENBEIS, January 14, 2000, 23:35                   Jean-Loup CHRETIEN wrote January 14, 2000  (sorry in french!)   

* R.E.G. DAVIS is an Aeronautical History Professor at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, USA. 

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