Jan 23, 2012



World's first airline to operate a scheduled service with heavier-than-air aircraft was the 5t Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, which had been formed on December 4, 1913 by Paul E Fansler. It was promised an operating subsidy by St Petersburg in Florida on December 13, and signed a contract with Thomas Benoist for the operation afthe airline on December 17,1913, tenures to the day after the Wright brothers made the world's first flight in a powered fully controllable heavier-than-air craft.

The whole operation was the brainchild of Fansler and Benoist. Benoist had made himself an extremely rich man in the automobile business, and was now somewhat obsessive in his belief that aircraft could become valuable instruments of civil transport. To this end he had set himself up as a manufacturer of aircraft in St Louis, Missouri; and in the St Petersburg to Tampa route he found an ideal opportunity for an airline. St Petersburg, a growing town, was separated from the nearest shopping centre by a 2-hour boat trip, 12-hour rail journey, or day-long car trip over very poor roads.
The aircraft used for the service, which operated over a route of 29km (18 miles) and cost 55 per single trip, was the Benoist Type XIV flying boat, a conventional pusher aircraft of slim and attractive lines based on the Curtiss formula. The first scheduled flight was made on January I, 1914, the passenger being A C Pheil and the pilot Tony
Jannus. The service consisted of two round trips per day, and the overall profitability of the service was soon no longer in doubt. Though the company had negotiated a subsidy 0f 550 per day during January and $25 per day during February and March, in January the airline was able to repay the city the sum of 5360, and operated at a profit during February and March. Indeed, so great was the demand for the service that late in January a larger Benoist flying boat was put into service, piloted by Roger Jannus.
The airline's contract with the city of St Petersburg ended on March 31, 1914, by which time 1204 passengers had been carried, and the service had lost only eight days to weather and mechanical problems. The airline continued independently during April, but with the end of the tourist season and the growing fears of war with Mexico demand declined and the service was ended.

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