Henri Pequet was a self-taught pilot and only the 88th to be licensed by France when he made his historic 5-mile flight, per United Press International. He became interested in flying after working in an airplane factory owned by Gabriel Voisen, an early French aviation pioneer, in 1908. But Pequet didn’t make his historic flight in one of Voisen’s planes, rather, he did it in an English-made Sommer biplane built by the Humber Motor Company, according to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Pequet was there as part of the Allahabad, India, Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition, which marked the first time in history that planes flew in India.
When he took off from a polo field he had to dodge water buffalo and as he flew above the Ganges river he began to become uncomfortable. “It wasn’t so much that I was frightened of getting wet,” he would later recall, “It was the crocodiles” (via “History of Air Cargo and Airmail from the 18th Century“). Among the pieces of mail he carried that day were letters to the king of England and various other heads of state, including the king of Belgium and the queen of Holland. Even so, there were no waiting crowds there to greet Pequet when he arrived, only a single postal worker to whom he handed the bag of mail.