A Brief History of Air Cargo

    The air freight industry is a vital part of the logistics sector and critical element of supply chain management for companies in all sectors across the globe.

    Pre-pandemic in 2018, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) forecasted that air cargo would carry an estimated 62.5 million tonnes, with the value of goods expected to be $6.2 trillion (USD), equivalent to 7.4% of the world’s GDP. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, IATA published a report in March 2022 that showed global demand for air cargo was up 2.7% from the same month in the previous year, and in December 2021, rose 9.3%.

    Many would imagine air cargo to be a relatively recent development within the transportation of goods. In fact, the developmental timeline is still significantly shorter than more traditional methods such as sea freight. However, air freight began sooner than most would predict, over 110 years ago in 1910!

    Aviation Begins

    On 17th December 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers considered pioneers in aviation, flew their first aircraft dubbed the “Wright Flyer I”, for the first time, which also marked the first powered flight with a passenger. After this journey, the Wright brothers made some alterations and invested in the design of the “Wright Model B”, also known as the first “freighter” aircraft.

    Less than 7 years later on 7th November 1910, the Wright brothers took to the skies with the first air freight flight recorded. The aircraft carried 200lbs of silk on a 65-mile interstate journey from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, for the grand opening of a department store. This first flight was no mere delivery either, it was also a race, pitting air freight against an express train. We’ll let you guess which won…

    Evidently, aircraft at this time were small and not powerful, large enough or sturdy enough to carry much cargo. The primary use initially was for airmail, carrying letters and small packages. By 1914, the United States was regularly using air freight to deliver mail, and by 1930, domestic airmail contracts accounted for 85% of US airline revenue. Airmail first entered Great Britain in 1911. However, it was halted after 16 flights due to severe delays from the weather.

    Between the Wars

    During World War I, aircraft were still new and were only marginally used due to a lack of technology. They saw the potential, however, and pilots and aviation enthusiasts sought to make aircraft commercially viable, and many nations convinced their military to fund the expansion of aircraft as a matter of urgency. By World War II, enormous advances had been made. Flight proved to be the fastest way of transporting troops, medical supplies and weaponry. Despite the advances already made, WWII drove further progress in aircraft technology and lead the way for jet engines to enter into mass production.

    Introduction of IATA

    The International Air Transport Association was established in Havana, Cuba in April 1945. It is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association founded in the Hague in 1919. IATA is the trade association for the worlds’ airlines. At its founding, there were 57 members from 31 nations. Today, they represent 290 airlines from 120 nations.

    The 1960s – 2000s

    A major advancement for aircraft and therefore, air freight, occurred in 1968 when Boeing brought the first widebody aircraft, a four-engine 747, to market. This marked the first aircraft that was able to transport full-sized pallets in the hold, which revolutionised the air cargo industry.

    Another revolutionary milestone occurred in the mid-1970s when Fred Smith founded Federal Express, or FedEx as we know it today. Smith convinced a number of investors that combining passenger air services with freight was inefficient, claiming it slowed down the movement of cargo. Federal Express was profitable within three years, and within 10 years of its founding, had revenues of over $1 billion USD.

    Express Delivery

    United Postal Service (UPS) has also had a dominant role in the air freight and airmail sectors. UPS traces back to bicycle-based delivery services, which began in 1907. They started an air freight service in 1929, but it wasn’t profitable until 1953. Following this, in 1988 UPS sought permission from the FAA to operate its own airline instead of always leasing aircraft. They named it UPS Airline. By 2001, UPS was the ninth-largest US airline.

    Because of the rise of companies such as FedEx, UPS, DHL and TNT offering express delivery, air freight grew significantly during the 1990s. Technological advances have meant increased air freight has generated greater traffic. In 1992, FedEx was the first company to provide parcel tracking services to their customers. This software increased air freight frequency. What fuelled the most growth of air cargo demand was global e-commerce, and the ability to move goods from one country to another.

    If you’re interested in learning more about CharterSync, get in touch! Our friendly, world-class sales and operations team are on hand 24/7 to offer round-the-clock support.

    Are electric planes the future of flight?

    It’s no secret that air travel is not good for the environment, with aviation emissions being a significant contributor to climate change. Together with other gases and the water vapour trails produced by aircraft, the industry is responsible for around 5% of global warming. These days, electric and hybrid cars are becoming more popular each year.

    So, can we make aviation more sustainable via electric aircraft?

    The answer is yes, electric aircraft are in production. But, they have a long way to go before they are used widely and commercially.

    Smaller, battery-powered aircraft already exist and are used in training flights and two-person operations. Hybrid-electric aircraft to be used in commercial flights are currently being prototyped by the aviation industry.

    How would they work?

    Similarly to electric cars, electric planes use electricity to power their engines rather than traditional jet fuel. There are currently two options to power an electric aircraft; battery power and hydrogen power.

    Aircraft powered by batteries are currently facing the issue that current batteries are heavy and don’t hold enough power. In order to become more mainstream, they would need to become lighter, whilst also storing enough energy to fuel the plane.

    Hydrogen power is the alternative to battery-powered aircraft. California-based ZeroAvia is currently developing a hydrogen fuel system that can generate the electricity needed to power a six-seater aircraft. It will be fitted with tanks carrying compressed hydrogen gas, which the fuel cell uses to generate electrical energy by combining with oxygen. This powers the propellers, with only water vapour released from the aircraft. ZeroAvia is hoping to supply the system for zero-emissions flights to small (up to 20-seat) commercial airliners and aircraft manufacturers by 2022.

    When will fully electric aircraft become a commercial reality?

    These examples show the potential of electric aircraft, but fuelling commercial aircraft through batteries alone is still a way off. Short-term, it is likely that smaller electric aircraft will operate in smaller cities from around 2024. As battery technology develops, so will the size of aircraft that can be built and therefore, fly.

    Is anyone using electric planes currently?

    No major airlines are currently implementing electric aircraft into their fleet. However, there are lots of exciting developments in the near future:

    • In July 2021, United Airlines announced that it was buying 100 electric 19-seater, zero-emission planes from Swedish startup Heart Aerospace. They are set to take flight for short trips in the United States in 2026.

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    The Return of Supersonic Air Travel

    Starting in 1948, Farnborough International Airshow is a bi-annual trade exhibition for the aerospace and aviation industry, where aircraft from all divisions are displayed and demonstrated to potential customers and investors. The second-largest show of its kind, it has been the showground of many famous aircraft including; Airbus A380, Concorde and in 1958, the RAF’s Black Arrows.

    Four years since the last show due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s show featured an exciting announcement around the future of supersonic air travel. Supersonic transport (SST) is designed to transport passengers at speeds greater than the speed of sound (at an altitude of 60,000ft, which means flying faster than 660mph). 

    Boom Supersonic announced the conceptual designs of Overture, an aircraft that is the accumulation of 26 million core hours of simulated software designs, five wind tunnel tests, and the careful evaluation of 51 full design iterations.

    Flying passengers at twice the speed of todays’ commercial aircraft, Overture is estimated to carry around 80 passengers and run 100% on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), with a range of 4,250 nautical miles. Boom combines a number of engineering innovations in aerodynamics, noise reduction, and overall performance.

    Some of the key features of the newly-announced aircraft are;

    Four-engine design:

    Overture will be powered by four powerful wing-mounted engines. This will enable the aircraft to cruise at a speed of 1.7 Mach over water and just under 1 Mach over land.

    Net-zero carbon:

    To aid the aviation industry’s environmental and sustainability goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, Overture has been developed to be net zero carbon, flying on 100% SAF.

    Gull wings:

    The aircraft’s wings are sculpted to enhance supersonic performance as well as improve subsonic and transonic handling. Importantly, the wing shaping also helps ensure safety and stability at any speed.

    Quieter operation:

    On take-off, Overture will use the world’s first automated noise reduction system. The airliner will fly without afterburners, meeting the same strict regulatory noise levels as the latest subsonic aircraft. These noise reduction efforts will deliver a quieter experience both for passengers and airport communities.

    Contoured fuselage:

    According to the principle of area-ruling, Overture’s fuselage has a larger diameter toward the front of the aircraft and a smaller diameter toward the rear. Boom has applied this design technique to minimize drag and maximize fuel efficiency at supersonic speeds.

    Carbon composite construction:

    Overture will incorporate carbon composite materials into the majority of the build that are lighter, stronger, and more thermally stable than traditional metal construction. Carbon composites can also be manufactured with highly complex curvature, contributing to the aircraft’s aerodynamic efficiency.

    It will go into production in 2024, with United Airlines already ordering 15 aircraft, with an estimated date to be in the skies of 2029.

    Not only that, but in a collaborative effort, Boom Supersonic and Northrop Grumman will soon offer a new supersonic aircraft tailored for the US military and its allies. The supersonic aircraft could offer capabilities in the rapid movement of personnel and/or cargo over long distances, as it would offer a significant increase against aircraft speed, meaning it could speed up the delivery of medical supplies, essential items and aid medical evacuations.


    If you’re interested in learning more about how CharterSync can help you, get in touch! Our friendly, world-class sales and operations team are on hand 24/7 to offer round-the-clock support.

    The time for sustainable aviation fuel is NOW.

    Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a biofuel used to power aircraft, that is chemically almost identical to conventional fuel but with a significantly lower carbon footprint. It can be produced through a variety of feedstocks and combined with fossil jet fuels to help lower emissions. This includes used cooking oils, food waste, forestry and agricultural waste, algae and direct captured air.

    Depending on the feedstock used, SAF can reduce the amount of emissions drastically compared to conventional jet fuel. Therefore, it has a critical role in meeting the aviation industry’s environmental and sustainability goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.


    The aviation industry currently produces more than 2% of the world’s emissions, with forecasts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicting air passenger levels will almost double by 2036, combined with air cargo volumes set to almost double pre-pandemic levels by 2025.

    What are the other advantages of using SAF?

    Economic Benefits:

    Sustainable aviation fuels may provide a number of benefits to both the local and wider communities.

    Developing nations that have land unsuitable for food crop could use it for feedstock growth, as well as farmers across the globe that could profit from selling biomass crop when food crop is out of season. Not only that, but an increased growth of feedstock would equate to additional jobs being generated. It is estimated that around 14 million jobs could be created from this increased production level.

    Environmental Benefits:

    The aviation industry has a huge opportunity to reduce its environmental impact due to sustainable aviation fuels. In comparison to fossil fuels, SAF can cut carbon emissions by up to 80%. Ongoing studies also suggest that there is a possibility that they absorb more CO2 than they emit into the atmosphere.

    Biomass crops can aid in reducing erosion and enhancing both the quality and amount of water. Additionally, they can assist farmers all throughout the world by boosting biodiversity and storing carbon in the soil. SAF is created from wet wastes like sewage and manure. This helps lessen the pollution burden on watersheds and prevents dangerous methane gas – a key contributor in climate change – from entering the atmosphere.

    Improved Aircraft Performance:

    Many SAFs contain far fewer components than conventional fuel, which allows them to burn cleaner and more efficiently within an aircraft engine. This equates to fewer emissions surrounding the airports during takeoff and landing.


    If you’re interested in learning more about how CharterSync can help you, get in touch!

    Our friendly, world-class sales and operations team are on hand 24/7 to offer round-the-clock support.

    The top 5 key learnings from Air Cargo Tech Summit, Miami

    Simon Watson, co-founder and director of CharterSync, recently attended the inaugural Air Cargo Tech Summit hosted by Air Cargo World in Miami, Florida. The event covered the latest developments in digital transformation and the technology and innovative processes affecting the airfreight sector, including topics such as geo-location technology, the future of digital booking systems, sustainability and drones to name a few.

    Here are the top 5 key learnings from the summit:

    1. Geo-location technology

    Geo-location is the process of determining a user’s or device’s geographic location via a number of data collection technologies. Because the infrastructure for active devices is far more complex, many airlines are beginning to migrate away from active to non-active devices, which was highlighted in the session ‘Taking advantage of geo-location technologies’, on day two of the summit.

    2. Digitisation

    A sector paralysed by fear of change, the first session of the summit, ‘The Future of Digital Booking,’ found that the industry as a whole, and more specifically airlines, are steadily becoming more receptive to change, but that we are only at the beginning of a long path to make this industry digital.

    3. Drones: The positives

    Dnata mentioned that they use drones in their internal warehouses to optimise operations in a variety of ways, including checking temperatures (for perishable or temperature-sensitive goods) and dimensionalizing boxes and pallets (so humans don’t have to go around the warehouse and measure cargo), during the session ‘No Man’s Land: Drones and autonomous flight in air cargo logistics.’ By using them to check the dimensions of the cargo in the warehouses, airlines are able to sell more space in their aircraft as they are able to better optimise space onboard.

    4. Drones: The negatives

    Drones are well-known for causing serious GDPR difficulties for users. When they fly, they can see people through the built-in camera, which means people are being observed and filmed without their agreement, especially in densely populated places, presenting legislative concerns.

    5. Emissions: We’re just getting started

    It was previously assumed, around 5 or 6 years ago, that the issue of aircraft emissions would be resolved, or at the least, that we would be on our way to a meaningful solution, but, in fact, it has only recently begun to become a common agenda point 10 years later, and the topic of emissions is only now starting to come to peoples’ attention.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how CharterSync can help you, or your company, get in touch! Our friendly, world-class sales and operations team are on hand 24/7 to offer round-the-clock support.

    5 Emerging Trends in Air Cargo in 2022

    Like global supply chains, the air cargo industry is evolving. The post-pandemic industry will resemble nothing like the pre-pandemic sector in many ways.

    Compared to ground and ocean transport, air freight serves as an important piece of global supply chains, albeit a smaller one. In the future, air freight’s footprint promises to comprise a larger percentage. It will also grow in importance of the overall mix of cargo transport.

    Here are five emerging trends transforming tomorrow’s air freight industry:

    1. The Rise of E-commerce

    Fueled by the pandemic, e-commerce is a growing and irreversible trend. Fostered by ever-developing technologies and changing consumer shopping habits, e-commerce brings both speed and convenience to consumers. As a result, traditional delivery methods have been overwhelmed, and according to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), air cargo demand in 2021 exceeded that of 2020, and this trend is expected to continue into 2022. This is one of the logistical concerns that will shape the future of air freight in a post-COVID-19 economic environment.

    2. Rising Shipping Rates

    Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, shipping costs have been anything but stable, and they don’t appear to be going down anytime soon as demand for air cargo capacity surpasses availability.

    According to the IATA, there are more air cargo aircraft flying today than there were pre-pandemic. There are 1,100 air cargo planes in operation, which is 240 more than in January 2020. Despite this, there is still a 39% capacity shortage in the industry. For the time being, rates are elusive and as vaccine distribution turns to international deliveries, rate volatility is expected to persist.

    3. Scarce Air Cargo Capacity

    Tight capacity has been looming since the onset of the pandemic. Capacity for ground and ocean cargo were swamped, and that demand spilled over into air cargo.

    Besides consumers’ change in shopping habits, manufacturing of goods is also at record levels.

    Many companies are building new cargo jets and renovating passenger planes to address capacity constraints. To meet demand for the next 20 years, Boeing is building 930 new planes and converting 1,500 existing 737s. Boeing’s anticipated production capacity, however, is still insufficient to meet demand.

    E-Commerce expansion and a general economic recovery are anticipated to be long-term trends. We can expect long-term growth fueled by new technologies and business processes. As a result, the trend of limited aviation cargo capacity will be exacerbated.

    4. Air Freight as an Omni-Channel

    A rising trend toward an omni-channel strategy is afoot, fueled by consumer demand. Airlines are recognising the need to expand their operations beyond traditional airport-to-airport routes, and airlines and other stakeholders are already seeing the benefits of delivering end-to-end services.

    Partnerships between airlines and shippers are likely to grow as this trend continues. Shippers and airlines may also strengthen their relationships with integrators/3PLs.

    Air freight will most likely adopt an omni-channel strategy in the future, making it easier to compete for limited cargo capacity and reasonable pricing.

    5. Supply Chain Diversification

    Supply chain diversification is growing more popular as the global economy improves. Companies are increasingly relying on air freight to move their goods, and we are already witnessing the beginnings of regional air cargo becoming well-established. Air freight has already established itself as a vital mode of cargo transportation in the medium and near future. We may conclude from all of this that supply chain diversification is a developing trend that will become increasingly significant in the future. The tendency is clearly established across the board, however modest its progress may be.


    If you’re interested in learning more about how CharterSync can help you, get in touch! Our friendly, world-class sales and operations team are on hand 24/7 to offer round the clock support.

    Helping Freight Forwarders Beat Fuel Price Hikes

    Seven ways CharterSync can help clients maximise flexibility to lower costs

    It’s no secret that rising fuel prices are an ever-growing headache for freight forwarders. Fuel costs account for approximately a quarter of operating costs and the potential for surcharges in the coming months has been compounded by recent global macroeconomic pressures. These include changes in airspace restrictions and imbalances in aircraft supply.

    As freight operators know, routes over Russia between Asia and Europe have historically been the most optimal for flight time. Therefore, improving fuel consumption. With the current need to adapt to more southerly routes, flight times could increase by up to one hour. This additional time en route creates significant fuel burn and cost implications for air cargo customers.

    What’s more, the ultra-low fuel prices of the past two years helped airlines market their passenger aircraft as auxiliary freighters. Even though passenger aircraft hold fewer goods by volume than pure freighters, employing “preighters” [passenger freighters] allowed the industry to alleviate belly capacity shortages significantly. Sadly, the increase in fuel prices, makes the economics of running preighters more challenging – with substantial consequences for aircraft supply. This imbalance in supply and demand will serve as another contributor to increasing rates for freight forwarders.

    The good news is that freight forwarders can minimise inefficiencies in their operations through digitalisation.

    As an air cargo charter innovator, CharterSync is focused on helping freight forwarders beat fuel price hikes. Here are some of the ways we assist customers:

    1. Smart use of airports in proximity to cargo location

    Our intelligent digital charter platform automatically uses geolocation data to match the closest aircraft to the cargo’s point of origin. This minimises the added fuel burn and costs that occur when an aircraft for a charter must be ‘positioned’ from its current location to the cargo’s departure airport.

    2. Choosing the best aircraft for the mission

    By comparing the speed, price and capacity of multiple aircraft types, our platform enables freight forwarders to choose the ideal option. For example, an aircraft such as the Pilatus PC-12 offers significantly lower fuel burn per hour compared to its nearest rivals, and with an average fuel burn of 180kgs per hour, this equates to almost 10 x lower CO2 than a large jet.

    3. Prioritising end-to-end routing

    With all the benefits of air cargo charter at our fingertips, CharterSync pinpoints routes to airports closest to the end destination. This expands options for forwarders without having to rely on flying to key carrier hubs. This allows our customers to choose more direct routes and avoid multiple scheduled connections for optimum fuel and cost savings.

    4. Maximising operational efficiency on the ground and in the air

    Thanks to our pioneering technology, our dedicated team of air charter experts can help forwarders make swifter, better-informed decisions, boosting supply chain reliability and operational efficiency, while providing much-needed reassurance in the speed of turnaround, precise flight schedules and ETAs.

    5. Shipment consolidation

    By using CharterSync, freight forwarders can keep their costs low by consolidating multiple cargo shipments onto one flight, rather than scheduling multiple flights as is often the case with manual booking processes.

    6. Transparent pricing

    CharterSync provides complete transparency for clients to ensure they are never surprised by hidden costs. Freight Forwarders should always be given a thorough understanding of what is included or excluded from the cost of a charter booking.

    7. Fuel-saving airline operations techniques

    By encouraging fuel-saving airline operations techniques such as constant descent approaches and single-engine taxiing while on the ground, we can help forwarders find ways to further reduce their operating costs from within the cockpit.

    To learn more about how CharterSync can help you, get in touch! Our friendly, world-class sales and operations team are on hand 24/7 to offer round the clock support.