On January 1, 1914, the world’s first airline started operating, flying one passenger at a time over Tampa Bay, Florida.
The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line flight covered 18.6 miles and lasted 23 minutes. The first customer was a former mayor of St. Petersburg, who paid $US400 for the ticket at auction. Pilot Tony Jannus kept the Benoist airboat just 15 feet above the water.
To mark the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) sponsored a recreation of that first flight, using a Hoffman X-4 “Mullet Skiff” airboat.
From the photos, you can see just how much aviation evolved in a century — today, 52 commercial flights take off every minute. The commercial aviation was a $US12.9 billion industry in 2013, carrying 3.1 billion passengers.
Kermit Weeks of Fantasy of Flight, a collection of vintage aircraft, also built a recreation of the Benoist airboat used on the 1914 flight:
Here’s a shot of the original flight:
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