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The world' s first commercial airline | The greatest moments in flight 1 January 1914 saw the launch of the world's first regular air traffic between St Petersburg and Tampa, Fla. Tony Jannus, an expert test driver and wandering actor, was the first flying driver. Abram C. Pheil, former St. Petersburg burgomaster, was the first paid traveller.

Her 34 kilometre long trip over the cove to Tampa took 23-minute.

Their flight was in a "flying boat" created by Thomas Benoist (pronounced ben-wah), an airline operator from St. Louis. For Percival Elliott Fansler, a Florida based distributor for a marine engine company, Benoist was intrigued by the company's advances in developing airplanes that could take off and land underwater.

Both men began to correspond, and finally Fansler suggested "a true line of commerce from somewhere to somewhere else". "He suggested that the airline should operate between St. Petersburg and Tampa. By 1913, a journey between the two towns on opposite sides of Tampa Bay took two and a half hour by steamboat or four to twelve by train.

It would take about 20 min to fly. Fanseler tried to interest Tampa officers in the company, but they turned him down. In St. Petersburg he got a better welcome and attracted several investments. On 12 December 1913 in St Petersburg came his arrival in Beno, followed by his hand-picked Tony Jannus. Janus was already a beloved character in aeronautics.

Jannus took a risk in charity and warmongering, according to a Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society bio, "once known as a reckless go-getter and fan of females who run away from furious dads with pointy guns and dateers. "Jannus gave air shows, piloted airliners and flown long-range aircraft and aircrafts.

Benoist inflatable boat model 14 was transported by rail to St. Petersburg. This aircraft was designed to keep only one pilots and one passengers side by side on a solid wood seed. On New Year's Day 1914 the first take -off took place, with much ceremony and circumstances. Some 3,000 spectators moved from the city centre of St. Petersburg to the promenade to observe how the first tickets were auctions.

Pheil, then in the stock trade, won with a price of $400 (more than $8,500 in today's dollars). Shortly before the plane took off, Fansler gave a short address and said: "What was not possible last night is an achievement today, while the incredible will be announced tomorrow", the Tampa Bay Times said. Jannus and Pheil crowded into the small wood chair after further talks and many photos.

Jannus beckoned to the rejoicing audience as they drove off. His plane did not fly higher than 15.2 meters (50 feet) above the surface of the sea. Half way to Tampa the motor stopped and he ended up in the cove, made adaptations and started again. When the plane arrived at the entry of the Hillsborough River near Tampa city centre, Jannus and Pheil were overwhelmed by a jubilant, applauding and surging multitude of about 3,500 people.

Mr. Pheil set to work and placed an order for several thousand dollar for his wholesaler. Jannus and Pheil returned to St. Petersburg at 11 o'clock. Airline operated two departures a day, six nights a week. What's that? The tickets are booked out 16 months in advanced. Roger Tony Jannus' brothers were the second pilots.

This airline was in service for almost four month and carried a fleet of 1,205 people. Tony and Roger Jannus had their last plane ride on April 27 before they left Florida to do a show over Tampa Bay. Tony Jannus trained Soviet aviators on October 12, 1916, when his plane fell against the Black Sea.

And Roger Jannus was killed during the flight. 1964 the Chambers of Commerce of Tampa and St. Petersburg founded the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society in honour of Tony Jannus. Larger moments in flight: picture galleries:

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