St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
The World's First Scheduled Airline
The St. Petersburg-Tampa
The World's First
Began regular flights
between St. Petersburg
and Tampa, January 1, 1914.
This plaque and site
dedicated December 4, 1953
City of St. Petersburg
to all the
Airlines of the World
on January 1st 1914
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. The marker is located west of the Pier, overlooking the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Saint Petersburg FL 33701, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within St. Petersburg Central Yacht Basin (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Peter Demens (approx. ¼ mile away); Stonewall Jackson Memorial Highway Terminus (was approx. ¼ mile away but has been reported permanently removed. ); 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). Touch for a list and map 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 site), I include its inscription below:
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
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
Pinellas County, Florida
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
All the Airlines of the World
Nearby signs include the airline's story:
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 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
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.
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 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;
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 & Space • Industry & Commerce •
More. Search the internet for The World's First Scheduled Airline.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 12, 2018. This page originally submitted on December 8, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. This page has been viewed 875 times since then and 26 times this year. Last updated on December 12, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on December 9, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.