Viewing page 30 of 84

This transcription has been completed. Contact us with corrections.

First Scheduled Air Line

[[image - photograph]]
T. Jannus (white trousers) chief pilot St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line with P. E. Fansler who founded Pioneer Service.

For Three Months the Benoist Shuttled Between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Flying Its Way Into Air History's Hall of Fame.

By Richard Fay Warner
Reprinted from "Flying"

On December 17, 1913, exactly 10 years after the Wright Brothers' first flight, the contract was signed for the first heavier-than-air, regularly scheduled passenger and freight line—the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line that was to operate without injury or fatality to passengers and pilots for three months. There had previously been some scheduled flights in Germany in dirigibles, but these, of course, were lighter-than-air, and were essentially of a sight-seeing nature.

The plane, or "airboat" as it was termed, was a Benoist, manufactured by the Benoist Aircraft Company of St. Louis, and was of the tractor type. The engine was a six-cylinder aluminum Roberts, manufactured in Sandusky, Ohio. With pilot, the craft carried only one other passenger and its speed was a little better than 60 mph. Subsequently two larger Benoist airboats accommodating two passengers each were added. The price for the round trip was $10 and over 1,200 passengers were flown as the line added extra flights to the two originally scheduled.

A Salesman's Idea

To the late P. E. Fansler of Buffalo, a salesman interested in early aviation, belongs the credit for the line's establishment. Fansler — his hobby was speed motor boat racing—had read accounts of a 2,000-mile flight down the Mississippi River from Omaha to New Orleans in December, 1912. The flight, nationally reported, required about 10 days. The plane was a Benoist and the pilot Tony Jannus. Fansler began corresponding with the late Thomas W. Benoist.

Going to Florida on business, Fansler, after toying with the idea of operating a line in Jacksonville, noted that Tampa and St. Petersburg were only 21 miles apart, separated by Tampa Bay. It was a train ride of 165 miles, requiring 12 hours, between the two communities and the round trip up the bay by steamer was an all-day affair. Today, of course, a bridge spans the bay.

It is interesting now to read the contemporary newspaper accounts describing the birth of the Airboat Line. Benoist used such terms as "air ton passenger mile" and said a "subsidy" would be essential. He already had 


Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact