St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
World's First Regularly Scheduled Commercial Airline
Erected 1976 by the City of St. Petersburg, in cooperation with the Florida Department of State. (Marker Number
Location. 27° 45.961′ N, 82° 37.782′ W. Marker is in St. Petersburg, Florida, in Pinellas County. Marker is on Bayshore Drive SE east of Dali Boulevard, on the left. Touch for map. The marker is located on the grounds of Albert Whitted Park, which is immediately north of Albert Whitted Airport, along the South Yacht Basin of 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. World Record (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Peter Demens (approx. ¼ mile away); Demens Landing (approx. 0.3 miles away); Pioneer Park (approx. 0.4 miles away); Stonewall Jackson Memorial Highway Terminus (approx. 0.4 miles away); Soreno Hotel (approx. half a mile away); The World's First Scheduled Airline (approx. half a mile away); St. Mary, Our Lady of Grace Church (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Petersburg.
More about this marker. The marker is capped with the Great Seal of the State of Florida.
The marker is found along St. Petersburg's waterfront in Albert Whitted Park, a municipal park opened by the city in 2008. The park overlooks the city's yacht basin, and beyond it, the
Named for a city native who became one of the U.S. Navy's first pilots, the airport was established in 1928. The airport gained two distinctions in the 1930's, serving as one of the first bases for the Goodyear Blimp, as well as the first headquarters for National Airlines (which merged with Pan Am in 1980). Today, Albert Whitted Airport primarily serves as a general aviation facility.
Regarding World's First Regularly Scheduled Commercial Airline. Prior to 1914, travel between the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa was a day's journey achieved either by a slow boat, or a very indirect land route (64 miles by train). The first bridge to span Tampa Bay would not be built for another ten years, so land travel required going up and around Old Tampa Bay and trekking most of the peninsular length of Pinellas County.
Early aircraft builder Tom Benoist (pronounced "Ben-wah") had designed his Benoist XIV "flying boat" in 1913, with the hopes that passengers could be carried in the extra seat. Hearing of the plane, Florida businessman Percival E. Fansler was so impressed by the concept that he wrote Benoist, asking about the possibility of starting a scheduled,
Two of the Benoist XIV airboats were shipped (disassembled) to St. Pete by train, along with their 6-cylinder, 75-hp, propeller engines. Once assembled, the wood and fabric aircraft each weighed 1,250 pounds, stretching 26 feet in length with a 44 feet wingspan. The task of flying the planes would fall to the new airline's pilot, Antony Habersack "Tony" Jannus, who had been working for Benoist as a test pilot since 1911. The 25 year-old Jannus would become the first federally licensed pilot in the United States.
Thousands of onlookers gathered at the city's waterfront on New Year's Day in 1914 to witness the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. At the marina they found a band playing and the first round-trip ticket being auctioned off. The $400 winning bid from Abram C. Pheil was quite a bit more than the regular published fare of $10. As final preparations
When all was ready and the airboat was in the water, both passenger and pilot boarded the plane and took their seats. Once the engine was cranked, Jannus bid farewell to the cheering crowds, taxied out, and took off towards Tampa.
Flying at about 50 feet, the flight took twenty-three minutes to cross the bay. They ran into some engine trouble on the way, but Jannus simply landed in the bay, fixed the problem, and took back off. Upon their arrival at the entrance to the Hillsborough River in downtown Tampa (where today a park is named for Tony Jannus), they were again greeted by thousands of cheering spectators. While in Tampa, Pheil spoke with reporters and conducted some financial business before boarding the airboat once again for his return trip. Jannus safely delivered plane and passenger back to St. Petersburg after a twenty minute flight.
The next day, the new airline transported its first female passenger, Mae Peabody, who was visiting from Dubuque, Iowa.
The airline operated two round-trip flights daily, six days a week, and later
Jannus' role as the world's first airline pilot is commemorated with the Tony Jannus Award, which is awarded annually for outstanding achievements in commercial aviation. A replica of the Benoist XIV airboat flown by the airline is displayed at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. Tony Jannus and the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. Detailed history and photos from Tampapix.com (Submitted on November 9, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida.)
2. The Tony Jannus Award. See an interesting video presented by the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society (Submitted on November 10, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida.)
3. Jannus' navigational aid: First United Methodist Church, Tampa. To plot his flight path, Jannus relied on the tallest landmark (Submitted on November 10, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida.)
Categories. • Air & Space • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 9, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. This page has been viewed 1,417 times since then and 56 times this year. Last updated on December 12, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on November 9, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. 9. submitted on December 12, 2011, by Glenn Sheffield of Tampa, Florida. 10, 11. submitted on December 9, 2012, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. 12. submitted on March 25, 2013, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.