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St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

The World's First Scheduled Airline

 
 
The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
1. The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker
Front plaque
Inscription. (Front plaque)
From this site
The St. Petersburg-Tampa
Airboat Line

The World's First
Scheduled Airline


Began regular flights
between St. Petersburg
and Tampa, January 1, 1914.



This plaque and site
dedicated December 4, 1953
by the
City of St. Petersburg
to all the
Airlines of the World

(Rear plaque)
In commemoration
of the
World's First
Commericial
Airline Flight

by
Tony Jannus
on January 1st 1914
from
St. Petersburg to Tampa
Erected January 1st 1938

 
Erected 1938 by the City of St. Petersburg.
 
Location. 27° 46.395′ N, 82° 37.7′ W. Marker is in St. Petersburg, Florida, in Pinellas County. Marker is on 2nd Avenue Northeast east of Bayshore Drive Northeast, on the right when traveling east. Click for map. The marker is located west of the Pier, overlooking the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Marker is in this post office area: Saint Petersburg FL 33701, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. St. Petersburg Central Yacht Basin (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Peter Demens
The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
2. The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker
Rear plaque
(approx. mile away); Stonewall Jackson Memorial Highway Terminus (approx. 0.3 miles away); Demens Landing (approx. 0.3 miles away); Pioneer Park (approx. 0.3 miles away); Soreno Hotel (approx. 0.3 miles away); World Record (approx. half a mile away); World's First Regularly Scheduled Commercial Airline (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in St. Petersburg.
 
More about this marker. The two-sided marker consists of two plaques, erected on either side of an art-deco style concrete monument. The front side features the newer 1953 plaque, while the older plaque from 1938 is on the rear side.
 
Regarding The World's First Scheduled Airline. Several miles north of the city, inside the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, is a large display featuring a full-scale replica of the Benoist (pronounced "Ben-wah") airboat flown by the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, a plaque, and related information. Since that plaque is inside a building (and therefore ineligible as a historical marker on this
The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
3. The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker
Front side
site), I include its inscription below:

Birthplace of
Scheduled
Air Transportation


The great airline industry, which now
circles the earth, was born in Pinellas
County, Florida, January 1, 1914, when
the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line
began regularly scheduled passnger
and cargo service between these cities.

Here, in the county, Thomas W. Benoist,
pioneer airplane builder, first proved
to the world that the amazing new
invention, the flying machine, could be
put to work for the benefit of mankind.

Dedicated October 12, 1957
by
Pinellas County, Florida
to
The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line
Thomas W. Benoist, Airplane Builder
Percival E. Fansler. General Manager
Antony Jannus, Pilot
Jay Dee Smith, Chief Engineer
A. C. Pheil, First Passenger
and to
All the Airlines of the World

Nearby signs include the airline's story:

The First Scheduled Airline

Just 10 years after the Wright brothers made their first historic flight at Kitty Hawk, another milestone in aviation occurred; the first scheduled air service by a winged aircraft was inaugurated in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Known as the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, the idea was conceived by Percival Elliot Fansler, a Florida sales representative for Kahlenbergs
The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
4. The World's First Scheduled Airline Marker
Rear side
Brothers, a manufacturer of diesel boat engines. After following the success of the Benoist Airboat Company, Fansler brainstormed the idea of using Benoist airboats to begin scheduled service between St. Petersburg and Tampa. Fansler started correspondence with Tom Benoist, the airboat company's owner and the two soon worked out a plan with the City of St. Petersburg.

In exchange for subsidies from the city the Benoist Company would provide the planes, pilots and mechanics, and maintain two scheduled flights across Tampa Bay, six days a week for three months. Price of a one-way fare was fixed at $5 per person.

Inaugural Flight

On January 1, 1914, the "Benoist" air-boat was successfully piloted across Tampa Bay from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa carrying one paying passenger.

The inaugural trip was about 21 miles and took just 23 minutes to complete. While this may not be a significant time savings by today's standards, it took an average of 2 hours to reach Tampa by steamship, 6 hours by train and all day by automobile in 1914. The first passenger on the Benoist was the former mayor of St. Petersburg, A.C. Pheil, who bid $400 for the first flight. The air boat was piloted by Tony Jannus, a test pilot and instructor for the Benoist company.

Tony Jannus Award: Tony Jannus would later be honored by having the
Birthplace of Scheduled Transportation Plaque image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
5. Birthplace of Scheduled Transportation Plaque
This related plaque is inside the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
distinguished "Tony Jannus Award" named after him. This award in presented annually to an individual in the Airline industry who represents the same pioneering spirit that started the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. Previous recipients of this award have included George Mikelsons, founder of ATA Airlines; Angus Kinnear, founder of Canada 3000 Airlines; Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines; and Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines.

The Benoist Aircraft

Aircraft: Model 14 Benoist Airboat (No. 43)

Company: Benoist Aircraft Company, St. Louis, MO

Year Built: 1913

Specifications: Weight - 1,250 lbs. Wingspan - 44 feet. Length - 26 feet

Hull Material: Three layers of spruce with fabric in between each layer

Wing Material: Linen stretched over spruce parts

Engine: Roberts 6-cylinder, in-line, liquid-cooled, 75 hp

Top Speed: 64 mph

Cost: $4,250 (1913)
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Several nearby markers feature details about the airline and the people behind it.
 
Categories. Air & SpaceIndustry & Commerce
 
First Scheduled Airline Display image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
6. First Scheduled Airline Display
Located at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport
First Scheduled Airline Display image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
7. First Scheduled Airline Display
Located at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport
Replica Benoist model XIV Airboat image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
8. Replica Benoist model XIV Airboat
The Benoist replica that hangs inside the baggage claim facility at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is a full scale model of the original. The model weighs approximately 800 lbs and took more than 1 ½ years to construct (completed in February, 2001).
The St. Pete Pier and shore of Tampa Bay image. Click for full size.
By AGS Media, December 8, 2011
9. The St. Pete Pier and shore of Tampa Bay
The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line introduced scheduled passenger airline service to the world from near this location.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. This page has been viewed 762 times since then and 38 times this year. Last updated on , by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on , by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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