100 Years of Flight

District Seven Secretary Paul Steinman spoke at an event in St. Petersburg on January 1, 2014 to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the world’s first scheduled airline flight. The pioneering flight that took place on January 1, 1914, launched the birth of the global airline industry. On the 100th anniversary of the first scheduled commercial flight in history, pilot Eddie Hoffman Jr. on Wednesday fired up a replica aircraft, circled over the Pier in St. Petersburg and flew to Tampa’s Peter O. Knight Airport.

On January 1st, 1914, Washington native Tony Jannus made aviation history by flying the Benoist #43 on the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg Tampa Airboat Line, the world’s first scheduled commercial airline. This 23-minute flight was the start of an international industry that today represents $3.3 trillion annually.

Overall, it was “more about the human spirit,” said Kermit Weeks, the aviation entrepreneur who is bankrolling a painstakingly crafted reproduction of the Benoist airboat that made the original flight. Weeks and other organizers of the commemoration had hoped to fly that reproduction on the century anniversary, but the aircraft wasn’t ready Wednesday. Still, it was on hand beside the St. Petersburg Museum of History so people could peer into the cockpit and admire the construction.

The plane that did fly Wednesday was a different aircraft, a seaplane called the Hoffman X-4 mullet skiff that has been used in previous reenactments.

The aviation industry has an economic impact of over $100 billion in Florida and in the United States of more than $1.3 trillion. Florida is fortunate to be served by one of the most comprehensive and progressive airport systems in the country. As Governor Scott focuses on making Florida the best state to live, work and play, the aviation industry will continue to play an important role towards achieving this goal.