People often ask the question, what is air freight and what types of goods move by air? World-wide air freight amounts to approx. 18% of all air traffic revenue generated .. Air freight accounts for approx. 2% of all cargo transported worldwide, yet more than 25% of total freight value generated.

Air freight was first uplifted on the 7th of November 1910, the air cargo was silk and it was carried between Daytona and Columbus Ohio. In 1911 mail was first transported as air cargo and air mail was transported officially in 1912 in the USA and Germany, by 1925 air mail was moved all over the USA. About this time the US postal service introduced contracts to carry mail by air cargo on certain US routes. In the early 1930’s 85% of airline revenue in the USA was generated by air mail contracts. It is said that if not for the US Postal Service and their airmail contracts US commercial aviation would have slowed drastically.

World WAR II was when air freight really started growing all sorts of commodities started to move , heavy air freight and bulky shipments were uplifted for the first time during World War II

The first door to door air express courier service was in the early 1970’s (in the USA) and was performed by Federal Express and its founder Fred Smith (DHL commenced in 1969,DHL was founded by founded by Hillblom and Lynn) the author of this article is unable to establish exactly when DHL commenced express courier and air freight operations. Federal Express grew rapidly through to 1970’under the guidance of Fred Smith who was known to be a dynamic leader and Entrepreneur, Federal Express to this day is known as a World-Wide leader in the international air courier market.

Early in 1972 Lufthansa flew the first Boeing 747 Freighter service between Frankfurt and New York carrying 80 tons of air cargo.


The first Australian consolidator and Air Express Company was Wards Express, founded by Sid Ward in approx 1968. Wards Express service started from a garage in Mascot, Sydney (Wards accounts department was based in Adelaide until approx 1975, when it was relocated to the HO in Sydney).

Back in the 1970’s Ansett and TAA were the two major air line-haul operators, Ansett Air Freight ( as they were called) was the largest and offered a freighter service east coast to west coast to east coast (via hub in Melbourne) and on into Queensland ,North Queensland and the Northern Territory (Darwin) . Ansett Air Freight offered an on ground fleet of delivery vehicles in all capital cities and most regional centres. Ansett Air Freight was a subsidiary of Ansett Airlines , owned 50/50 between TNT and News Corporation. TNT Air Freight was another major consolidator and enjoyed the benefits of the Ansett partnership by riding on Ansett Air Freight aircraft

In 1978 another air express consolidator entered the market. Skyroad Express was founded in Adelaide (quote “with $12,000.00 and two drums and an old door as a desk, I was incapable of handling debt”), by Peter Macor. Peter (with the help of other dedicated professionals) built Skyroad Express quickly, to eventually hold close to 20% of the Australian air express market. Skyroad Express was to become one of the Australia’s largest and most profitable transportation  companies.

Learn more about Skyroad Express:

Unusual Managment Peter Macors Skyroad Story.

Sid Ward sold Wards Express to Mayne Nickless not long after Skyroad was established.  Back in 1979 and onwards  there were other express air freight consolidators operating, including Jetspress Air Couriers, Kwikasair, Comet Air, Country Couriers, Security Express, Grace Air, Multi Group, Ipec Air, Fedex and DHL and as mentioned above, Wards Express, Skyroad Express, TNT Air and  Ansett Air Freight. Skyroad Express was sold to the Mayne Nickless Group in about 1983.

The 80’s saw many other express consolidators entere the market but they were mostly taken over by the major players (TNT and MAYNE NICKLESS).

The 1980’s was a dynamic, competitive and history making period for the Australian Air Express industry. All the major air express consolidators based in Australia were either owned by transportation giants, TNT or Mayne Nickless



Mayne Nickless was a public listed company and considered a transport giant, Mayne Nickless commenced operations in Melbourne with horse and cart in 1886, Mayne Nickless was founded by John Mayne and Enoch Nickless. Mayne Nickless also owned various other major transportation business’s which were acquired over a period of time not all in the 70’s

TNT (Thomas Nationwide Transport) 

TNT was founded in approx 1967 by Ken Thomas and Peter Abeles