Percival Fansler, an engineer, organised the funding for the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line which provided the first scheduled air service across Tampa Bay in Florida (US).
Automotive businessman Thomas Benoist’s airboat conducted the first flight, piloted by Tony Jannus, while Abram Pheil, then mayor of St. Petersburg, paid USD 400 at an auction for the 23-minute flight on January one, 1914.
These pioneers could not have envisioned the transformational changes that would follow the first commercial flight with only one passenger on one route.
Today, an average of over eight million people fly daily. In 2013, total passenger numbers were 3.1 billion — surpassing three billion mark for the first time ever. That number is expected to grow to 3.3 billion in 2014, that is equivalent to 44 per cent of the world’s population, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which will observe the centenary of the first commercial flight through the year, said.
Aviation today supports an estimated 57 million jobs and generates USD 2.2 trillion in economic activity. The industry’s direct economic contribution of around USD 540 billion would, if translated into the GDP ranking of countries, place the industry in 19th position, IATA said.
Among the series of events to be organised would Flight 2014, sponsored by IATA and others, to re-enact the first commercial passenger flight using a replica of the original Benoist airboat, which would re-trace the exact path taken by Jannus and Pheil 100 years ago.