The Very First Commercial Flight Took Off 100 Years Ago Today -- It Cost $US400 And Lasted 23 Minutes

Just a few weeks after marking the 110th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the aviation world has another historical moment to celebrate.

A century ago today, commercial aviation was born. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line operated the first scheduled airline flight, a 23-minute hop across Tampa Bay that covered 18.6 miles.

The first customer was the former mayor of St. Petersburg, Abram Pheil, who paid $US400 at auction for the ticket. He wore a raincoat.

Tony Jannus piloted an airboat built by Thomas Benoist, flying just 15 feet above the water, according to an account by the Florida Aviation Historical Society.

Today, 52 commercial flights take off every minute. The commercial aviation was a $US12.9 billion industry in 2013, carrying 3.1 billion passengers. By 2016, the International Air Transport Association predicts that number will rise to 3.6 billion.

St. Petersburg will mark the anniversary of the birth of commercial aviation by recreating that first flight, using a reproduction of the original plane, built by Kermit Weeks of Fantasy of Flight, a collection of vintage aircraft.

Here’s the plane as it takes off:

From left to right: Percival Elliott Fansler, who organised the funding for the airline; passenger Abram Pheil; pilot Tony Jannus.

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