Century of commercial airline flight to be marked with re-enactment of first fare-paying journey over Florida

  • St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat line made 23-minute flight in January 1914
  • Replica of first airboat will take off tomorrow and fly same route in Florida
  • The 18-mile flight safely transported 1,200 passengers across Tampa Bay

By Mark Duell

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One hundred years of commercial airline flight will be marked tomorrow with a re-enactment of the very first fare-paying journey.

On January 1, 1914 the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat line was able to make a 23-minute flight across Tampa Bay in Florida - and tomorrow, a replica of the first airboat will take off and fly the same route.

The 18-mile flight - which was 11 hours quicker than travelling between the two cities by train - safely transported 1,200 passengers across the Bay in a Benoist Model XIV aircraft with a 75HP engine.

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One century ago: A flying boat begins its takeoff run on Tampa Bay in Florida for history's first scheduled airline flight - on January 1, 1914

One century ago: A flying boat begins its takeoff run on Tampa Bay in Florida for history's first scheduled airline flight - on January 1, 1914

But it was forced to close at the end of March 1914 after just three months in operation because it did not have a continuing subsidy from St Petersburg or a steady income from tourist traffic.

The re-enactment starts a year of celebrations backed by the International Air Transport Association.

 

As preparations got under way for the replica flight, Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, hailed the success of commercial aviation’s first 100 years.

He said: ‘Aviation is a miracle. It’s truly wonderful. Everybody who lives finds it somehow touches their lives. Without question, aviation is a force for good.

‘There are issues we must address such as the environment where our performance must improve, but it’s a fantastic industry.’

Lift off: On January 1, 1914, the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat line was able to make a 23-minute flight across Tampa Bay in Florida

Lift off: On January 1, 1914, the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat line was able to make a 23-minute flight across Tampa Bay in Florida

Mr Walsh highlighted the rise of the low-cost airlines in recent years, saying ‘now everybody expects to be able to fly’.

'Aviation is a miracle. It’s truly wonderful. Everybody who lives finds it somehow touches their lives. Without question, aviation is a force for good'

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive

He went on: ‘I generally believe we are at an exciting stage in aviation where we can improve our environmental and financial performance.’

Iata director general and chief executive Tony Tyler said: ‘Over the last century, commercial aviation has transformed the world in ways unimaginable in 1914. The first flight provided a short-cut across Tampa Bay.

‘Today the aviation industry re-unites loved ones, connects cultures, expands minds, opens markets, and fosters development.

Days gone by: Tomorrow, a replica of the first airboat will take off from St Petersburg to fly to Tampa

Days gone by: Tomorrow, a replica of the first airboat will take off from St Petersburg to fly to Tampa

BENOIST MODEL XIV COULD ONLY CARRY ONE PASSENGER IN FLIGHT

Thomas Benoist

The Model XIV was purchased from aircraft manufacturer Thomas Benoist (right) of Missouri.

It could carry only one passenger, who sat next to the pilot in the open cockpit.

Former St Petersburg Mayor A.C. Phiel paid $400 (£240) to be the first passenger, and the first flight was conducted by pilot Tony Jannus.

The aircraft was powered by a Roberts 75HP, six-cylinder, water-cooled engine.

The plane had a 44ft 6in wingspan and a top speed of 64mph, weighing 1,299lbs (589kg).

Flights on the airboat cost $5 (£3) per trip and there were two journeys each way every day.

‘Aviation provides people around the globe with the freedom to make connections that can change their lives and the world.’

Iata today released statistics which showed that on average, every day more than eight million people fly.

In 2013 total passenger numbers were 3.1billion - surpassing the three billion mark for the first time.

That number is expected to grow to 3.3billion in 2014 (equivalent to 44 per cent of the world’s population).

Iata also said about 50 million tonnes of cargo is transported by air each year, which is around 140,000 tonnes daily.

And it added that aviation supports more than 57million jobs with the industry’s direct economic contribution being around £337billion.

Global airline industry turnover is expected to be around £464billion in 2014, with an average industry profit margin of 2.6 per cent.

'Fast service': The airline provided a travel route between St Petersburg and neighboring Tampa in Florida

'Fast service': The airline provided a travel route between St Petersburg and neighboring Tampa in Florida

HOW MANY PEOPLE BOARD A PLANE EACH MINUTE? KEY FACTS ON AVIATION

  • One hundred years on from the Tampa Bay flight, planes are now taking off at the rate of 52 every minute
  • Every 60 seconds a total of 5,700 passengers board aircraft around the world
  • About £7.5million worth of cargo is delivered by air every 60 seconds
  • Every minute, the global fleet of aircraft travel more than 44,000 miles
  • In 2013, more than three billion passengers travelled by air, with nearly half of those who travelled as tourists taking to flights
  • Air passenger numbers are set to rise by around 6 per cent in 2014
  • On New Year’s Day, an estimated eight million people will fly
  • Travellers have the choice of around 4,000 airports and 1,500 airlines worldwide and can fly on around 40,000 city-to-city routes
  • Airlines carry 50million tonnes of cargo a year and carry 35 per cent of world trade by value
  • Aviation accounts for 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions
  • Fifty-seven million jobs are supported by the commercial aviation industry worldwide

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

What was needed was Michael O¿Leary but back then he was yet to become a twinkle in the eye of his unborn dad.

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$10 in 1914? Wasn't that little expensive then? Today one gets from Tampa to St Pete over the Howard Frankland bridge and other bridges over the ocean.

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And 11 hours to get from St Pete to Tampa! If you were walking maybe! A lady in her late 80's told me that the Gandy Bridge from St Petersburg to Tampa cost a nickel to cross when it opened. In those days, she told me, you could get a good steak dinner for a nickel!

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The first of something tends to be exclusive and expensive.

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