This Is What Commercial Flight Looked Like 101 Years Ago

Just over a century ago this month, 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.

It flew on January 1, 1914.

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.

Oh how far we have come! Flash forward ten decades: 52 commercial flights take off every minute.

Commercial aviation is a $US13 billion industry, carrying 3.1 billion passengers. By 2016, the International Air Transport Association predicts that number will rise to 3.6 billion.

Here’s a look at what the dawn of air travel was like. This is the aircraft taking off:

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

[An earlier version of this article was written by Alex Davies.]

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