MIAMI — As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, the aviation community has something special to celebrate as well. One hundred years ago today, St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line launched the very first scheduled fixed wing airline service with a Benoist Type XIV.
The flight, as the name of the airline suggests, was a short hop between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. The flight lasted a grand total of 23 minutes at a whopping altitude of five feet and speed of 60MPH. While the flight may have been low and slow, it cut the travel time between the two cities significantly, which was then two hours.
The first flight was piloted by Antony H. Jannus. For $400, the former mayor of St. Petersburg, Abram C. Pheil, secured a seat on the very first flight. After the initial flight, tickets sold for $5 each way.
Today at 10am, exactly 100 years after the first flight, the Cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa and Fantasy of Flight have teamed up to reenact the first flight. A replica Benoist Airboat built by Kerman Weeks’ Fantasy of Flight Museum team was initially planned to be used, but is not airworthy yet. It was on hand, however.
While the Benoist Airboat may not have made it off the water like it did in 1904, the reenactment flight went on as planned with a substituted aircraft.