Airlines started carrying airfreight in 1911. Aircrafts at this time were not primarily designed for cargo and at the time carried only “air mail”, which consisted of mail and small packages. As time advanced, the benefits of airfreight began to be realised, aircraft manufacturers began designing and building vessels dedicated to cargo. During World War I and World War II, various governments saw the necessity of dedicated air cargo vessels to transport troops and materials to war zones. Postwar Europe fuelled major developments in the air cargo industry.
During this “Cold War” period, a mass mobilisation of air vessels was undertaken by Europe to supply food and supplies to the citizens of West Berlin due to the blockades created by the Soviet Union.
The demand for airfreight having grown exponentially from 1911 spurred many aircraft manufacturers to experiment with custom built cargo aircraft. Today, although a market exists for custom made cargo aircraft, the majority of cargo transported via air is transported on containerized passenger planes. Additionally, it is more practical for airlines to modify and convert passenger planes that are no longer deemed competitive in the airline industry, to dedicated cargo vessels.