web-catalog        JET Air Mail First Flights 1946


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Page JET1940 (Revised 10/05/2007)

        The Lockheed (Pursuit) P-80 Shooting Star powered by a GE jet engine was the USA's first operational jet fighter. Its development started in 1943 and it first flew 143 days later on December 1944. The first production Shooting Star was handed over to USAAF in December 1945.
        The first transport of air mail in a jet plane occurred at General Electricís Air Research Laboratories in Schenectady NY on June 22, 1946, as an Army Air Force demonstration. Major Ken Chilstrom piloted a Shooting Star jet carrying small amounts of mail to Washington DC and Chicago IL and then returning to Schenectady. Most of the air mail was flown in and around the Schenectady area and canceled in Schenectady. Special cachets were provided for this first jet mail carrying flight.
        (Note: On June 25, 1950 the (Fighter) F-80C entered combat in Korea and on November 8, 1950 tangled with a Russian MIG-15 in the first jet-to-jet dogfight emerging victorious.)

Lockheed (Pursuit) P-80 Shooting Star

J-0001 460622 Schenectady NY US Army Air Force Lockheed P-80/Ken Chilstrom $4.50
J-0001a 460622 Washington DC-Schenectady NY US Army Air Force Lockheed P-80/Ken Chilstrom $37.50
J-0001b 460622 Chicago IL-Schenectady NY US Army Air Force Lockheed P-80/Ken Chilstrom $37.50

        Kenneth O "Ken" Chilstrom was a combat veteran of WW-II flying 80 missions in the North African campaign during 1943. Flying an A-36 with the 27th Fighter Bomber Group, he flew dive bomb and strafing missions winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and eight Air Medals.
         On his return to the US, Chilstrom was assigned to Wright Field Dayton OH as a test pilot. He flew flight test evaluations of the captured ME-109, FW-190 & ME-262. On February 17, 1945 he was the first US pilot to have a major accident in the Bell P-59 (America's first jet aircraft) when he lost power on takeoff.
         In June 1946 Chilstrom piloted a Shooting Star (P-80) carrying air mail to Washington DC and Chicago IL and then returned to Schenectady NY. Later that year in August/September, he participated in the first jet air race at the National Air Races in Cleveland OH. The following month he became chief pilot of the Fighter Test Division at Wright Field. In 1948 Chilstrom flew the Phase II tests of the XP-86 program at Muroc AFB CA. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1958 and that year was assigned as the project manager of the North American XF-108 Rapier at Wright Field. After 26 years of service, Colonel Chilstrom retired from the USAF in 1964. He continued working for civilian defense contractors finally retiring in 1986 to Palm Beach FL.

INDEX: JET First Flights by year.

1946 1950-59 1960-69 1970-79 1980-81

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