Canadian First Flight Covers

Canadian Aerophilately is best known for the attractive, numerous and generally affordable First Flight Covers, produced from 1928 to 1939 as the Post Office introduced new air mail services.

This was a time when interest in both aviation and stamp collecting was intense and First Flight Covers which combined the two interests were popular collectibles. - When a new service from Fort Chipewyan to Goldfields was opened in 1935, over 3,000 covers like the one below were carried in each direction:

The Post Office sent out notices of coming first flights to those on its mailing list, with instructions as to preparing covers for the flight(s). The flights were also announced in the press and stamp magazines.

Collectors were instructed to address covers to themselves with the address at the right to leave room for the cachet, mark it "Via Air Mail", put the route beneath it, enclose a filler (to receive a good impression of the cachet and postmarkings), prepay it at the air mail rate, and send it, (or them), under cover to the District Superintendent of Postal Service at the distributing city of that flight area. There the covers would receive the cachets and be forwarded to the flight base. They would go forward on the first flights, be backstamped at the receiving points, and forwarded to the address on the cover. However, while some people put their own addresses on the covers, as the notices said, many collectors liked them addressed to the end of the flight.

These covers are frequently sold today for between $2 and $5.- However, the price will often be higher if the cover has been franked with unusual stamps; is to a destination outside Canada or the United States; or was signed by the pilot.

The above cover has been signed by the pilot, Roy Brown. Don Amos, Canada's senior aerophilatelist, once recounted several methods by which autographs could be obtained:

I lived in Winnipeg at the time, so I could go out to the airfield, and walk into a Company's office. If the pilot was in, they would sign the cover. If the pilot was away on a flight, you could leave the cover with the Company, and the pilot signed it they got back. You could also mail your cover to a Comapny's office at another airfield, and they would get it signed for you. Another method was to mail your covers to M. Robertson Arlidge, who was a stamp dealer operating as "Bob of the Northland", and he would arrange to get them signed.