Airborne Express

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Airborne Express
Cargo airline, express delivery
Industry Logistics
Successor DHL
Founded 1946
Defunct 2003
Headquarters Seattle, Washington
Airborne Express
Airborne Express' logo
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 1946
Ceased operations 2003
Headquarters Seattle, Washington
Airborne Express 767

Airborne Express was an express delivery company and cargo airline. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, its hub was at Wilmington, Ohio.

Airborne was founded as the Airborne Flower Traffic Association of California in 1946 to fly flowers from Hawaii to the US Mainland.

Airborne Express developed special narrow containers which allowed the use of passenger jet aircraft without needing a large cargo door modification.

It was acquired by DHL in 2003. Prior to the acquisition, it was the third largest private express delivery company in the United States.


Growth during Airborne's first 22 years was slow. Progress came slowly and competition was stiff. But in 1968, the airline started going through some changes. To begin with, Airborne of California merged with Pacific Air Freight of Seattle. The airline moved its headquarters there and changed its name to Airborne Freight Corporation.

  • 1980: The airline changed its name to Airborne Express. After buying Midwest Air Charter, Airborne Express made history by buying the Clinton County Air Force Base in Wilmington and became the first airline in history to own and operate an airport. A number of NAMC YS-11 twin-engined turboprop freight conversions were purchased.
  • 1988: Airborne started offering same day delivery after buying Sky Courier (now DHL SameDay).
  • 1991: Airborne received awards from three major companies, including Volvo, and in 1992, the airline introduced Flight-Ready SM, a prepaid express letters and packs system.
  • 1993: Airborne introduced the Airborne Logistics System (ALS), which provided Airborne with warehousing and distribution services.
  • 1994: Airborne opened the Ocean Services Division, and ALS established the first new film distribution program for Hollywood since 1944. In addition, relations were established with Vietnam.
  • 1995: Airborne opened a second runway at Wilmington, and Boeing 767 jets were added to the fleet. The Airborne Alliance Group took care of many departments for the company.
  • 1996: Airborne's stock tripled, which would later lead into a two for one stock split in February 1998. Formed that year was Airborne Brokerage Services.
  • 1998: Airborne entered the Fortune 500 list for the first time. Airborne's first of 30 total Boeing 767s arrived at Wilmington, and the airline won an award by The Business Consumer Guide.
  • 1999: Airborne@Home, an alliance with the United States Postal Service, was formed.
  • 2000: Carl Donaway became the company's new president, which led to many managerial changes. Also that year, Airborne started a ground service for the first time in its history.
  • 2001: Airborne Express launched Ground Delivery Service and 10:30 AM Delivery Service. launched some services of its own, including the Small Business Center and Airborne eCourier.
  • August 14, 2003: Airborne shareholders approved the acquisition of Airborne, Inc. by DHL of Brussels, Belgium. DHL is 100% owned by Deutsche Post World Net. The acquisition became effective the next day. DHL retained ownership of Airborne's ground operations and spun off its air operations as ABX Air, Inc.
  • November 10, 2008: Global delivery company DHL announced that it is cutting 9,500 jobs as it discontinues air and ground operations within the United States. DHL said its DHL Express will continue to operate between the United States and other nations. But the company said it was dropping "domestic-only" air and ground services within the United States by Jan. 30 "to minimize future uncertainties". DHL's 9,500 job cuts are on top of 5,400 job reductions announced earlier this year. After these job losses, between 3,000 and 4,000 employees will remain at DHL's U.S. operations, the company said. The company also said it was shutting down all ground hubs and reducing its number of stations to 103 from 412.