Wednesday 16 April 2014

Tribute to 100 years of commercial flight

Craftsman and engineers with the reproduction Benoit airport in Polk City, Florida.

Today marks 100 years since the world's first ever scheduled commercial aircraft service began, kick-starting an industry that would transform global society and economies.

On January 1, 1914, a flying boat made of wood and muslin, and powered by a 75-horsepower engine, took off from St Petersburg in Florida and started its nearly 30km trip to Tampa. It took only 23 minutes.

The aircraft was able to carry just one passenger. The former mayor of St Petersburg paid the equivalent€7,250 in today's money at an auction.

Funding for St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line service, piloted by Tony Jannus, was secured by Percival Fansler. It lasted for four months, carrying an estimated 1,200 people before it was pulled. They had each paid $5 for a one-way ticket, the equivalent of about $116 (€84) today.

Mr Jannus vanished over the Black Sea towards the end of World War 1.

Later today in Florida, the centenary of the commercial service will be commemorated as an experimental 34-year-old aircraft follows the route taken 100 years ago.

An aerobatic pilot from Florida, Kermit Weeks, has constructed a replica of the Benoist XIV aircraft that operated the service in 1914, but he was unable to get it airborne during testing. However, the aeroplane will be the guest of honour at today's ceremonies.

Irish Independent

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