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Jay D. Smith

Early Benoist Pilot

    Jay D. Smith was born at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, May 30, 1889, where he attened local schools. He developed an early interest in mechanical things which later turned to aviation.
    He worked for the Benoist Aeroplane Company as a mechanic to some extent for Tony Jannus in exhibition work for the company. When Benoist arranged to start the airline from Tampa to St. Petersburg, Florida, in December, 1913, Smith was taken along as a member of the crew and helped with the preparations for this service which was started officially on January 1. 1914, with one Benoist flying boat, powered by a 75 hp Roberts engine.
     This was the first scheduled airline in the United States, and Smith was made traffic manager, ticket agent, chief of maintenance, and mechanic. Tony and Roger Jannus and Weldon B Cooke were Pilots. Their schedule called for one flight each way every day to carry resort passengers and light express. 
     Benoist also soon started a flying school at St. Petersburg, where Smith, along with Harry Railsback, Lloyd and Glenn Smith, Heinrich Evers and Byrd Latham, started to take instruction. Tony and Roger Jannus were instructors. A second plane was added in February, and the airline and school operations continued until April 27th after having maintained the regular scheduled airline flights on all but four days, carrying over 1,200 passengers and flying more than 11,000 miles without an accident, a very fine record for equipment of that era. During that period Smith was flying well and was put on the Benoist staff of pilots. When the crew and equipment returned to St. Louis, Smith continued on with Benoist on flight test and mechanical work.
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