The day it began

By | Category: Travel news

One hundred years ago today, the very first commercial flight took off from the water at St Petersburg in Florida. The twenty minute flight across to Tampa took a local mayor as its very first passenger. He had paid $400 in an auction to be the world’s very first passenger. Today, that would be the equivalent of over $9,100 which is about £5,500. The standard fare was $5, nearly $115 in today’s money.

Passenger flight was born.

As a result, all of us have reason to be grateful to someone called Percival E. Fansler, a Jacksonville based electrical engineer and surely one of the most significant entrepreneurs in tourism, whose dream it was to start this first airline. The pilot of the St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line – Tony Jannus – was a fascinating figure who taught himself to fly and, once, downed two cases of beer to relieve stomach pains that had forced him to land. He then resumed the flight. Imagine what the CAA or the FAA would do today to any pilot who had alcohol on his breath! Today the Jannus Award is given to distinguished people in aviation. Past winners have included Freddy Laker, Frank Whittle and Richard Branson from the UK, Herb Kelleher, the founder of the longest lived no-frills airline – Southwest, Donald Douglas who founded the airline company that bore his name and Eddie Rickenbacker, the legendary US flyer.

A hundred years ago, 3,000 people watched this first flight; today many more will assemble to watch the anniversary flight. Unfortunately the reproduction of the first airline, a Benoist 2014, will not be ready for today’s flight so a Hoffman X-4 “Mullet Skiff,” will be used to carry-out the re-enactment instead. But you can watch the event on your computer as coverage will be screened live at 2pm our time. Just click here or go to How many times will you have the opportunity to see a replica pre WWI plane fly? For the background to the first passenger flight and the celebration events,click here.

Who remembers Fansler today? Where would tourism be today without him?

Images © Flight 2014

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